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Copenhagen summit ends with Iraq fatwa on sectarian violence

by Staff Writers
Copenhagen (AFP) Jan 14, 2011
A summit gathering some of Iraq's top religious leaders ended Friday with an agreement on a joint decree condemning violence against Christians and other religious minorities, organisers said.

"This fatwa ... condemns all atrocities against the Christians ... and also said this is totally against the Koran," Andrew White, head of the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East (FRRME) and vicar of St. George's Church in Baghdad, told AFP.

Participants at the three-day closed-door meeting listed 13 recommendations calling among other things for "the criminalisation of sectarian and religious incitement and the spreading of a culture of hatred", according to the declaration obtained by AFP.

The eight religious dignitaries called on the government in Baghdad to "put the issue on the agenda of the next Arab Summit" to be held in the Iraqi capital in March.

The emergency summit at a guarded Copenhagen hotel, organised by FRRME and the Danish foreign ministry, comes on the heels of a string of attacks on Christians in Iraq, as well as in neighbouring countries.

In the worst such attack, militants stormed a church in central Baghdad on October 31, leaving 44 worshippers, two priests and seven security force personnel dead. Al-Qaeda's local affiliate, the Islamic State of Iraq, claimed responsibility for the assault.

Danish Foreign Minister Lene Espersen, who took the initiative for the meeting, hailed "the religious leaders' will to reach reconciliation", calling on the Sunni, Shiite and Christian representatives to "translate their commitments into actions".

"These leaders have taken a great moral responsibility and have shown that religious groups are united and working together to fight religious violence," she said in a statement.

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