The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Chief Rabbi have launched a programme encouraging priests and rabbis to “build bridges” at a local level.

As the two religious leaders met at Lambeth Palace on Monday, a spokesman said the initiative, called ‘In Good Faith,’ was “modelled on their own well-rooted friendship”.

Christian and Jewish clerics working in close geographical proximity are now being encouraged to “explore mutual concerns and opportunities for shared action,” with topics including religious extremism and the Holy Land, with “its implications for inter-faith relations”.

The two leaders hope rabbis and priests will develop relationships and continue conversations on a local level in the coming weeks and months.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby warned against “world-weary cynicism, pessimism, defeatism and even despair,” and said that the conference was planned as a “catalyst for positive dialogue”.

He added: “It is in the everyday conversations, the grassroots initiatives and the building of local bridges between Christians and Jews, our synagogues and churches, that we will see real change.”

Justin Welby addressing an audience at Lambeth Palace

Justin Welby addressing an audience at Lambeth Palace

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said it was important “to guarantee that the outstanding relationships that we have at leadership level trickle down to the grassroots within our communities, so that… we will make a change in this challenging world of ours”.

He spoke about the book of Genesis, and why God first created one man, Adam. “God created only one person in order that for all time, every human being should know that we are part of the same family,” he said. “We come from the same parent… God wanted to prevent a ‘them’ and ‘us’ scenario for society and that is why the world started with one single person.”

Chief Rabbi Mirvis speaking at the interfaith gathering

Chief Rabbi Mirvis speaking at the interfaith gathering