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British rabbi wins Grawemeyer award for book on religious tolerance

Posted: Friday, December 05, 2003

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) A British rabbi who wrote a book meant as a voice of hope after the Sept. 11 terror attacks was named Tuesday as the winner of the 2004 Louisville Grawemeyer Award in Religion.

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks was honored for his book ''The Dignity of Difference: How to Avoid the Clash of Civilizations.''

Sacks, the chief rabbi for Great Britain, says to prevent violence like that of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, religious believers must see diversity as a mandate from their most ancient Scriptures not just a sentimental goal.

''For too long, the pages of history have been stained by blood shed in the name of God,'' Sacks wrote in his book, published last year. ''In our interconnected world, we must learn to feel enlarged, not threatened, by difference.''

The annual $200,000 religion award is presented jointly by Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary and the University of Louisville.

''It's a wonderful honor in itself, but for me it was so important that the message of this particular work had got through,'' Sacks said. ''I tried to make 'The Dignity of Difference' a kind of voice of hope in a difficult post-9/11 world. The fact that it has been recognized in America is particularly meaningful to me.''

The book challenges the view that if one religion is true, all others must be false. Sacks cited the biblical book of Genesis, in which God made a general covenant for all humankind with Noah and a specific covenant for Jews with Abraham.

Christianity and Islam, he acknowledged, both have historically claimed to be universal religions. But he noted that all three religions Christianity, Islam and Judaism trace their roots to Noah, Abraham and other key figures in the Genesis account.



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