FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - When the Archbishop of Canterbury and Prime Minister Tony Blair convene a meeting of the world’s leading Muslim and Christian scholars next week at Lambeth Palace, among them will be Vincent Cornell, director of the King Fahd Center for Middle East and Islamic Studies in Fulbright College at the University of Arkansas.

Cornell is among an elite group of 30 prominent Muslim and Christian scholars from around the world who will gather January 17-19 to share insights and understanding about the development of two great religions and their place in the modern world.

In his invitation to Professor Cornell, Prime Minister Blair said that the idea for this seminar "grew out of discussions between the Archbishop, myself and others, as a way of truly deepening the dialogue between Islam and Christianity."

Blair will welcome participants to London during a special opening session, after which the scholars will gather in private to discuss several issues, including the relationship between the theological convictions underlying the two faiths, the lessons history teaches of Christian-Muslim relations, Muslim and Christian conceptions of social order, and the ongoing need for Muslim-Christian dialogue.

Archbishop George Carey believes the gathering "will make a significant contribution to the further development of respectful yet realistic dialogue between Christians and Muslims."

Cornell said the seminar represents an important step toward redefining Muslim-Christian relations in the world.

"This is the first time a political figure with the stature of Tony Blair has emerged to try to lead us beyond divisions, into dialogue," said Cornell. "We will discuss issues of central concern to the two great missionary religions of the world. I firmly believe that the period of sectarian division has passed, and that all faiths must unite as partners in a common spiritual quest."

In the past, Cornell said, limitations of military technology allowed religious groups to indulge in polemical disputes and to erect barriers of ignorance and prejudice. "The events of September 11 remind us that the world is now too dangerous to indulge in such childish pastimes," said Cornell.

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Vincent Cornell, director, King Fahd Center for Middle East and Islamic Studies, 479-575-4157,

Lynn Fisher, communications, Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, (479) 575-7272,



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