Archbishop Desmond Tutu called on the media on Wednesday to be more careful in their choice of words when reporting on religious conflict.
Tutu, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984, said that broad understanding of trouble spots was often complicated by the language used to describe the activities of people or religions involved in them.
He was speaking at a Reuters Newsmaker event in London to mark the launch of the Tutu Foundation UK, an organization intended to bring the experience of truth and reconciliation in South Africa to inner city communities in Britain.
Addressing journalists in the audience, Tutu called for tolerance and understanding of religions.
“I would hope that you in the media would be passionate about letting people judge for themselves, that you would be careful about some of the language that you do actually use,” he said.
“‘Muslim terrorism’ — have you ever read anywhere ’Christian terrorism?’ — as if Islam propagates violence, but you have never spoken about what happened in Northern Ireland as Christian terrorism,” he said.
“Fundamentally there is no faith that I know that propagates violence, that says it’s a good thing to oppress anybody.”
Tutu said he recognized the media could be a force for good but that it had responsibilities.
“You have a very powerful media. I know because you helped us very much in our struggle to tell our story. You did it for us and we benefited enormously.”
Tutu added, however, that understanding different religions required peoples of all faiths to understand different perspectives.
“We Christians ought to get off our high horse and learn to be a great deal more humble, when you look at our history, the bloody things that we did in the name of religion,” he said.
Tutu, 75, is the former Anglican archbishop of Cape Town and won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work against apartheid.