Politicians, religious leaders confer on world's problems

Religious leaders and parliamentarians from five continents are taking a fresh look at global problems as they meet this week in Oxford. Representatives of the world's major religious faiths and from at least 60 countries including the communist bloc are attending this Global Survival Conference. Problems under discussion include nuclear war, environmental pollution, human rights, and economic development issues.

Britain's Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie, told the group Monday this was a rare opportunity to confront the urgent questions of mankind's ``historical predicament.''

``In spiritual terms, these are times which challenge all those who believe that there is a transcendent dimension to life and who believe in the ultimate sovereignty of the Good,'' Archbishop Runcie said.

Other religious leaders have emphasized the importance of not surrendering to pessimism in the face of collective threats such as international terrorism and AIDS. Inamullah Khan of Syria, an honorary sponsor of the meeting on behalf of Islam, said mankind's thinking must constantly be revised. ``A more open approach has to be developed in our thinking and in our action,'' Dr. Khan said.

British scientist James Lovelock called for a ``reintegration of science and religion'' that would restore what he called the ``soul'' of science, that close relationship with the environment and people which has been lost in the modern dogmas of advanced technologies and the never-ending ``soap-opera'' of modern urban life.

The presence of the Dalai Lama, leader of the Tibetan Buddhists, at Tuesday's meeting caused China to withdraw its participation in the conference. He stressed the need to develop a sense of ``universal responsibility'' in improving our individual human relationships. Other speakers at the meeting have included the US astronomer Carl Sagan, Vice-president of the Soviet Academy of Sciences, Dr. Evguenij Velikhov, and nature conservationist Wangari Maaphai of Kenya.

Conference organizers say they have brought together elected parliamentarians and religious leaders to help bridge the gap between church and state.

Sponsored by the New York-based Global Forum of Spiritual and Parliamentary Leaders on Human Survival, the meeting is funded by independent, individual sponsors from various religious traditions.

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