Reconciliation in the Name of Faith, Tony Blair



we're talking about reconciliation silly ation and faith today there are two examples one is from South Africa and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission where the issue was not specifically religious but where the religious people that have been involved in the process of reconciliation and and Desmond Tutu actually headed up the Commission and and obviously that was very important in coloring if you like the sentiment with which the Commission went about its business that was really the importance of religion in that and faith in that context then the second is specifically from Nigeria where there has been violence between Christian and Muslim it's basically a country whose population is pretty much 5050 Christian and Muslim and there it is about how two people who were both engaged in religious violence came to reconciliation with each other and between between their face and it's those are worth just studying and looking at and you can do that but please leave without me taking you through each slide now I'd like to build on what Varys love has just been talking about first proposition is that religion is a major factor in most of the complex in the world today now I know you're going to do complex next week but just to give you an appetizer that's not the wrong thing to say in the context conflict for for next week and religion there's no point in disputing this religion is a major part of most of the conflicts that are going on in the world today now it can be intra religion Protestant Catholics and easier but it is also I think right to say that sometimes we describe an internal conflict which may be for example let's say in Afghanistan today when you analyze it yes it is internal between different groups but it also has an external dimension importance and in many ways the internal dispute within the religion is a symbol of an external issue about that religions interaction with with the Western world and with other face if you think of Yemen today for example where you've got a government you've got an al-qaida dimension you've got an iranian-backed dimension you could describe that as an internal dispute but actually it's just got massive external consequences and in many ways the internal dispute is a surrogate for for that external question the simple point of course to make is that there are political factors in all these disputes that may exhibit or express themselves in religious terms but nonetheless there are political factors and you can think of the Mindanao dispute in the Philippines you can think of what is happening in Thailand today so my proposition to you is not that religion is the factor in these conflicts but it is a significant dimension of them and what is more it's usually but not always usually a fight that has a or a conflict that has a an air to it that is about people being worried that their I their identity is under threat their way of life is under threat from the other often from modernity or globalization and they are trying to prevent it so if you look at the Middle East as a whole today in many ways the clash that's going on there expressed in different forms is a clash between those who believes that the Middle East should modernize and engage with the world and the process of globalization and those who believe that that is actually a threat their way of life that it's undermining their essential cultural and religious identity and if you go straight to the israel-palestine question and some settlers on the west bank our people are there for an economic reason but others are there for a very specifically religious reason and their belief is that there is no such thing as an occupation but they're actually they have a historic right and to settle in in this in this country on the west bank and that is very much linked to their religious view of Judaism indeed some of those people will actually oppose the concept of the State of Israel because they believe that that is inconsistent in fact with their essential religious belief if you look at the position of Christians on the palace in the Palestinian territory there has been a very steady and clear diminution in the numbers of Christians able to stay in places like Bethlehem it's quite a serious issue actually but it's it's planar that's there and that is for many reasons to do with the overall conflict but also in part to do with the feeling that they are under pressure because of their religious belief and if you take the situation in Jerusalem which is a place of holy worship for for Jews for Christians and the Muslims yes of course there are many political factors that go to make up this dispute but it would be absurd I would suggest to eliminate the religious dimension from from the issue I would say even in Northern Ireland where in a way you could say that and most obviously it is about the United Kingdom versus united Ireland you could say it's about land you could say it's about class actually to a certain degree certainly economic opportunity nonetheless the fact is it divided on Catholic Protestant lines and there were many indirect cultural consequences of that that were very important so my first proposition is is is this and I think it is pretty clear which is that religion and religious faith is a major dimension of most conflicts in the world today not the only but a major dimension the second proposition is which may seem obvious when you've stated the first proposition but I think doesn't often appear obvious to people is that therefore faith is relevant to reconciliation in other words if if it is a major of dimension in the conflict let me put it it is minimal reconciliation may not happen even if it has the support of the faith community but I would suggest it is highly unlikely to happen in circumstances where reconciliation does not have the support of the faith community and if we take the situation in Northern Ireland there would have been no peace in Northern Ireland if the faith community is indeed i think scott i will be and is doing smiler thinking in their their works indicate the faith community hadn't got on side with it in significant degree not all parts of it but into in a significant degree if the faith community be irreconcilable to be would have been pretty much I don't think you could have contemplated the prospect of a peace process that succeeded so that is the second proposition which raises the third which is that if religion is a major factor in most conflicts and if faith in the support of the faith community is a significant part of the process of reconciliation what are the conditions for faith to be an advantage or support to reconciliation what are the circumstances in which it is likely that religious faith is supporting that process of reconciliation or perhaps another way putting what are the characteristics that we would look for in the faith community when that process of reconciliation is underway and i would suggest there are four really number one em or a bigger boat since I've got three mobile got a still lawyers training their key faith groups must not see reconciliation as contrary to their faith now let me seem an odd thing to say but let me explain what I mean there a faith group may say this is not a just solution and therefore we're not in favor of it so the absence of justice it may be a reason why a key faith group says well we don't support this process of reconciliation or for example there may be a dispute about the holy places associated with that faith in other words there may be a geographical that mirror stuff and I were discussing this morning is that that sometimes there is a geographical very specific geographical data dimension to faith which means that a process of reconciliation that may be about compromise becomes impossible because people say we cannot compromise on this so for example if there were to be not there would be but if for the sake of the hypothesis there were to be an agreement that say excluded Islam from Jerusalem that would not be supported by the world of Islam by by Muslims it wouldn't matter what other aspects of it but that would be considered as something that was being considerate as unjust but they would also consider this contrary to their religion and therefore this proposition that is that for the context for faith to play a positive role in reconciliation the key faith groups must not see reconciliation as contrary to their faith and 3b if you like I think forgiveness and the concept of forgiveness is an important precondition for faith groups to play a positive or advantageous role in reconciliation and I think this question of forgiveness is treated differently in different religious faiths for sure but it is a very vital part of people of faith coming to the point at which they can say despite what has happened we done that nonetheless can reach out to the person that was our enemy and is now either not our enemy or even our friend and what are the most difficult issues in respect of Northern Ireland for example but this is true in respect of Israel Palestine is that you have to be prepared as someone of of of faith not necessarily someone of faith you could be without faith and still forgive but it's important that forgiveness when you're dealing with a conflict in which faith is such an important part from forgiveness to be vital part of the religion your religious belief because otherwise when you're then confronted with the person who let us say is responsible for having killed your your son or your daughter or your friends or members of your community you have to be prepared in those circumstances to put the past behind you now that is an incredibly difficult thing and but forgiveness as a part of the belief of that faith community is an important part of faith playing a positive role and reconciliation the third characteristic that I think has to be present is that if you have an exclusive view of your religious faith in other words mine is the true faith you you have to carry within that faith exclusive though it is and this is the point that mirrors lap was making earlier if you like and the antidote to your own poisoners and sometimes called in other words you may believe that yours is the only true faith but nonetheless your faith is able to encompass the view that either God's love is universal or there is a there is a universal application of the principles of human dignity and so even if you believe I get salvation the person who's not on my face doesn't get salvation nonetheless your your view of religion has to be sufficiently open to some fundamental values that encompass more than the people of your faith in order for reconciliation to work and the fourth and I think I'm stolen 3d actually is faith can play a strong part in reconciliation if of course your faith is non-exclusive right so if you take a spectrum where where you regard people of other faiths right you start with tolerance you tolerate them you may not agree with in you and I like them but you tolerate them the next stage area saves acceptance did you accept them you're more than tolerate them you accept them but the father said to the spectrum you can actually respect them they are of a different faith but nonetheless you respect that face doesn't mean to say you you're not diminished in support of your own paper you take a non-exclusive view of your faith so you say is I think I would say you know someone's brought up a Hindu in a remote part of India and they live their entire life and they do good work and they they die they never you they're not a Christian they've been a Hindu or their life to me I I i would i would have I would have issues with with the goblet declared this is such a person as destined for hell rather than rather than heaven on that basis so I think undoubtedly the easiest way that faith plays its part in in reconciliation is if there is that that ability to respect those of a different face so to summarize it for faith to be of advantage or support for reconciliation the conditions of characteristics are a faith groups must not see reconciliation as contrary to faith be there is a concept of forgiveness that is integral to that faith see if exclusive in the view of religion it nonetheless has within that concept of religion a fundamental belief in University universality of God's level human dignity and D that actually where its most advantageous will be where there is a non exclusion the exclusive view of your own religion the fourth point is therefore this and it follows from the argument and the rest of the point so if it is the case that religion is a major factor and if it is the case that for the faith therefore can be a major part of reconciliation and if it is the case that the easiest way that faith can play that part is if it is has that concept of respect for others then the fourth proposition is that interfaith dialogue and action improve the prospects of reconciliation and are actually an important dimension to that reconciliation and I think where it is a natural part of the reconciliation process then reconciliations more likely to succeed and conflict is less likely to recur one of the things that was absolutely bizarre to me about the Northern Ireland situation and I think I may have said this G last time we met so forgive me for repeating it but it's relevant to this is is is how Protestants could tell Catholics and Catholics can tell Protestants and walking down the street without actually talking to each other ever told you about this but no one of the most of curious things because sometimes I used to say to either side you'd hear a story of a a Catholic who would go into the Shankill Road which is the most violent Protestant part of the time and they would literally come out let's say they came out of a fish and chip shop right not talking to anybody and they kicked the devil on the street right nobody and I just said it but how can anybody tell this young guy comes out you know we're we're living in I mean okay its northern islands in the United Kingdom in the late 20th century on earth can somebody tell me and that each side would say to me know a way we can spot it immediately and the fascinating thing is when I put the same point to Muslim friends about Sunni and Shiah for example Iraqis that I asked about this again we can tell straight away I said why do you mean you can tell I mean it's a that's that mean obviously when they speak you can tell but surely before you cannot you know we can tell is that right yeah so they go and it's an extraordinary it's an extraordinary thing so it's it's an instantaneous recognition of difference and it's relevant the point I'm making for this reason that because that difference has become part and a major part of the conflict sometimes of the conflict itself and because that difference is engendered a whole set of fears and anxieties about the other person right they are going somehow their their aim is to take over my life the reason why interfaith dialogue in action is so important to reconciliation is that it requires people to talk and through talking they are more likely to understand it requires people to learn and in learning they're more likely to fear and here's the other thing that happens hello miroslav and I were having an interesting debate about this this morning it I think that and points C and D of the last bit in other words an exclusionary view of religion but with certain fundamental Universal concepts and a non exclusion review become more likely in other words that that what actually happens is that the exclusivity around you through the process of interfaith dialog phrase somewhat it just it becomes somewhat melted or printable at the the at the at either side of of the religious divide and so what is interesting to me about the common word is the common wed the dialogue between Christians and Muslims but it could perfectly easily incorporate Judaism and probably will hopefully and soon too is that each person who goes into this dialogue says and says very clearly my face remains my faith but I accept that there are certain things that we have in common and the interesting thing is the things they say they have in common which is love your God love your neighbor as yourself which all three Abrahamic faiths have and actually if you study Buddhism or Hinduism very much the same concepts as she Sikhism very directly the fact is if you share those things in common and they are fundamental to your faith you are certainly already on the road to respect rather than acceptance or tolerance I would suggest what is more you are more likely to see and religious faith as something that is developing and am including rather than something that is exclusionary and stepping so what is interesting to me about this process of reconciliation in the name of faith and let's go back to the whole title of our course which is faith in globalization's of what globalization about is it's very much a modern force that is pushing people together and you may agree with it you may disagree with it but when we look at the place of faith in situations of conflict then it's very obvious to me that in the conditions that have to exist in the characteristics for faith to be positive and reconciliation the closer you are getting away from an exclusion review the better and the more that you are prepared to engage in dialogue with the other the more likely that process of other more inclusionary notion of religious faith is to take root now what this actually means in which is why it's interesting to me in sort of geopolitical terms is that if you look at for example Afghanistan today for example Israel Palestine for example actually any of the conflicts that are now taking place not just in the in the Middle East but more broadly then putting the concept of an interfaith dialogue at the center of resolving those disputes is actually a very very important part of creating a different context in which people can reconcile and that what is a fundamental mistake is to believe that you can separate a political process of compromise from a religious process of reconciliation and the implications of policy terms in fact are very very profound because it means that a dimension of your policy in dealing with this not Millie it because it's a nice thing to think about is a good idea to do but actually an essential prerequisite of an effective policy is that we engage in this process of faith as part of reconciliation and what that does of course is it challenges enormously those who are engaged within those fades to come out and be part of this and what is more to provide if not the theological justification at least the theological defense of such a process in other words the reason why the common word is interesting is that it is clerics that have come together to say my religious faith does prevent me from having this dialogue with you because the argument in many parts of the world is actually you're diminishing your religion or you're devaluing at or in some may even be betraying it by having this religious dialogue but actually the clerics are providing a theological justification as to why that isn't so and therefore it poses massively important questions to policymakers but it also means that you have to mobilize feel those engaged in theology and those engage in the teaching of religion to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem so and that's why I think this is right at the heart of the way that faith and globalization interact with one another and why I certainly came to the view that without these the debate about faith being at the center of the debate about policy and the geopolitical challenges we face we were unlikely to be able to resolve them

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