Sir Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, gave a lecture Thursday to a packed Reynolds Theater titled "The Dignity of Difference: How to Avoid the Clash of Civilizations."

Sacks, whose lecture was sponsored by the Kenan Institute for Ethics, spoke about the historical progression of interfaith dialogue and the pressing need to approach contemporary religious issues from a biblical perspective.

"We are living at quite an extraordinary juncture of history," Sacks said. "We have no idea where the world is going, except that it is going there very fast."

Sacks went on to highlight several examples of the rapidly changing world, including globalization, the fight against terrorism and the divide between the United States and Europe. He added that religion is at the bottom of these issues.

"Every suicide bomber, every terror attack, the language of al-Qaida, the president of Iran and the leaders of Hamas and Hezbollah are accompanied by messages... each one of which is profoundly religious, unmistakably so," Sacks said. "And that means that we have to stop and take stock. Why has it happened and what is its consequence?"

Sacks added that these religious messages are being supplemented by what he calls the "fourth key moment in the history of literacy"-the Internet revolution. As the second revolution of the alphabet affected Judaism and the third of the printing press has affected Christianity, so will the fourth predictably affect Islam, he said.

"So by one of the great ironies of history, we are back where we began, in Mesopotamia, in Egypt, between the Tigris and the Euphrates and by the banks of the Nile," Sacks said.

With this revival of religious sentiment coming in an age of globalization, Sacks said it is necessary to examine sacred texts in order to find the answers. He added that the stories of sibling rivalry in the Bible can be an insightful analogy into the relationship between Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

"There is a progression [in Genesis] that sibling rivalry, which began in fratricide, ends in forgiveness," Sacks said. "Sibling rivalry is not written into the script. Conflict is not endemic to the human situation. Don't think that brothers must fight, it isn't so."

This analysis of modern religious tensions in a biblical framework goes a long way in helping people understand each other and stopping conflict, Sacks said. He added that the biblical narratives underscore how important it is to see the world through someone else's eyes.

"It is when we do role reversal that we become human and we can no longer deny the humanity of those unlike us," Sacks said. "Only when we do that, will we know that we cannot, we may not, kill in the name of the God of life."

Sacks added that clashes between civilizations can, in the long run, be ended only through ideas. He said empathy via the biblical narrative will bring people to understand each other and appreciate the differences between Jews, Christians and Muslims.

"One who is different still bears the trace of God who created difference," Sacks said. "And if we knew that, then we would know that anyone who kills in the name of God blasphemes the name of God."

Audience members responded favorably to the Rabbi's lecture.

"I really liked it, it was really good and very forwarding," said Raleigh resident Ira Botvinick. "It was thought-provoking, and I particularly liked that the message was a response that all of us can do."