Tony Blair and Miroslav Volf: Faith and Globalization



well as you as you all see we have with us the main teacher of this course and we're all delighted mr. blade that you're here with us what I propose that we will do this session is I'll offer some summary remarks about our previous session and then introduce briefly the session today and then mr. Blair is going to give about 20 minutes or so comments followed by Q&A then we'll take a break and reconvene and then broaden the conversation to involve readings but as well as your experiences that you bring to this course into the question of what are the stakes where the globalization and relationship between globalization and faith today so let me just offer a few summary first remarks about our session first session we affirmed of course the significance of faith is a factor in many events faith plays a significant role positive as well as negative we also noted that it virtually never is the sole factor and suggested that all mana causal explanations of complex events ought to be suspect and therefore also all monarch mana causal explanations in terms of religious role but nonetheless religion remains significant and interesting thing also that came up in our case study or presentation about case study by Joan Kelsey is that he underscored the significance of religion but not just as motivating acts of violence in this case and not simply legitimizing at the bottom what are at the bottom political or other goals but in a sense providing a larger framework in which to understand human life and as such motivating actions which of course with such courage of horse had such charondas consequences that is there was a idea of the human flourishing behind bin Laden's in London's initiative we know that also ambivalence of concrete faiths various kinds of ambivalences both from the external perspective they appear both positive and negative but also from internal perspective they do so as well and there's this long debate within faiths themselves about what constitutes the proper employment of faith proper understanding of a faith proper action in the world on the basis of faith and now in our session too we asked the question well how is this significant as well as ambivalent phenomenon called faith how is that phenomenon related to globalization processes and more specifically what is at stake when we talk about faith in relationship to globalization processes I will start and I'll start by briefly defining our terms and by sketching forms of impact the faith can have on globalization and then mr. Blair will take it from there and talk more specifically to the heart of our issue that is what is at stake when we raise this question and examine it so first terminology I don't intend here we don't intend here to offer kind of definitions that will give us essence of faith or essence of globalization we want to specify what we mean for the purposes of our conversation by faith by globalization by highlighting certain features of these two phenomena and it's also a flexible definition open to be changed as we go along so what is globalization globalization I think we understand by the planetary process which was historically driven primarily by interest in and here I am drawing on iron chandus work trade learning about and spreading religion conquest and adventure and probably in today's world is most important driving force if it is capitalism connected with trade but it's a planetary process leading to and here I'll be drawing on some of readings that we had leading to a world with high levels of interconnectivity in which communication of goods and services flow freely a world of second interdependence that is planetary in scope with only relatively few and diminishing independent local localities and the world in which space has contracted in which the world itself has become new locality and people are increasingly D moored from a specific territory some people talk about this embedded cosmopolitanism as a feature of globalization and then fourthly that there is a widespread consciousness of the world as a global whole those are the four features of globalization now what is faith faith by faith we don't mean we've discussed this right quite a bit and in our readings it's complicated the discussions which will be now reduced to relatively as simple saying faith is not abstract religiosity of which concrete faiths are specific instantiations no such abstract religiosity actually exists there may be generic brands of products there are many of those but there's no generic believers they're all specific branded so to speak believers faith faith come in concrete shaped and believers believe concrete faiths so what are some of the features of those faiths great faith traditions what are some of the features of faith as we use it in this course first they have at least so they have that lists following features provide an overarching interpretation of reality with some claim to ultimately provide an overarching interpretation of reality with some claim to altima see now situate second situate account of human flourishing within that interpretation of reality and then thirdly provide guidance to people how they should live and motivation to live in this way now you'll notice probably that something like Marxism or humanism or even neoliberalism a function as quasi religion given this definition will keep in mind also a relatively recent phenomenon when they speak about religions and that is smorgasbord religiosity which is neither religious tradition nor some vague religiosity but it is a concrete religious stance that people take in contemporary world and it's a corporate religious stance that is kind of created by individuals to satisfy their own religious needs and content is kind of drawn in our coke fashion from variety of sources and often without being inserted in any overarching perspective on life that too I think is a consequence of globalization on the shape which fate is taking today so that's roughly what we mean by faith faith should traditions with these specified features and this very relatively vague smorgasbord board religiosity now faith in globalization my next point is a kind of complex relationship and it is a very complex relationship one way to look at this relationship is to ask what is the impact but what are the impacts of globalization processes on faith will sketch that impact probably more in greater detail in our next session and today I am will be more concerned about faiths engagement in globalization processes I just want to note that the influence goes both ways it's not just from trade to globalization but in very significant ways from globalization to faith that the very shape of faith the very modes of communication or faith are all shaped by the situation in which we find ourselves today in the globalized world so feints engagement with globalization processes now obviously the first question is the possibility of influence on part of faiths of the globalization processes and the assumption of the course that such influence is possible the fates are significant in the world today and that they're significant in an ambivalent way as we noted in our last session this is a contested assumption but nonetheless I think it's it's a reasonable one now let me indicate briefly forms of impact our faith on globalization processes obviously there are such things as negative impacts ambiguity of religion we emphasize them dividends of religion and these are often kind of identical maybe with that kind of generally negative aspects of faith I want to highlight to some people think of faith as simply being irrational right opposing important scientific and technological developments or opposing significant social advances so there's a possible negative impact as irrationality of faith it's important note that from the perspective of the believers themselves they wouldn't describe that as irrational they wouldn't see that as a position between faith and reason they would see that as from particular perspective sketching a reasonable understanding of how to orient oneself in the world that too is part and parcel of the ambiguity of faith second negative aspect is violence generating potential of faith creates strong and exclusivist loyalties and legitimizes struggle against others and this negative impact of impact of faith is magnified in an highly interdependent world given that major disruptions in one part have repercussions in just about all other parts of the globe again from the perspective of people of faith faith that is deemed Island often is not seen as simply engaging in blind violence but rather sometimes is perceived as being engaged in struggle to live a way of live life deemed good now we may not agree either with way how people of faith some people have a describe but it's the in rational behavior we may not agree with an how they describe their violent behavior but it's important for us to understand that they're not outs outbursts of irrationality outbursts of violence that they have internal reasons and only if we understand those internal reasons we'll be be able to engage in I think creative and constructive ways with such traditions now fates obviously have also positive impact one to latch on to the idea of of connection between faith and violence fostering authentic reconciliation we read in our texts about militants for peace motivating second motivating and energizing people for more effective participation in variety of settings there is a in the Christian tradition in Jewish tradition tradition of divine blessing where God blesses wide varieties of efforts that's – that that is – how people of faith draw on their faith also helping people in misfortune oppression or failure there is in those traditions also kind of deliverance tradition of faith faith helps when things break down helping people to live meaningful lives notwithstanding failure oppression misfortune or and energizing people to help others but I think if the function of faith in the context of globalization or in general were to be reduced to this blessing delivering and reconciling I think that suspicion could arise that faith is simply a clutch in globalization processes in interface with globalization faith is then made possibly suspicions would be that faith is made subservient to the ends of globalization take the question of blessing blessing if that's what faith does simply blesses the endeavors well faith can be deemed as maybe in negative terms as a performance-enhancing drug right or if faith is only about deliverance right it would be kind of religious band-aid or if faith is involved just in reconciling processes well it might be as simply social lubricant right which is in all these three ways faith would be instrumentalized and background assumption is that people afraid worried for something that is ultimate to them to being instrumentalized in what they deem to be pinout penultimate where ends faith then would be betrayed to retain their own integrity as faiths faiths must I think seek to shape globalization processes in accordance with a vision of human flourishing formulated within the overarching vision of reality the shape globalization processes in accordance with a vision of human flourishing and provide ultimate framework I think of meaning within which globalization processes make sense so for faith I think that's probably true to say maybe it's controversial and we can discuss it for faiths globalization processes are instrument and instrument they're not an end right what does that mean for globalization processes what does it that mean for faith tradition traditions as their interface with globalization processes I think those are very important issues for us to grapple and to understand that as a inherent feature of what faiths are about so just briefly let me make a foray into what might be at stake with globalization processes I think in many ways it's not too much to say that the future of our globalized world is at stake a world in which people of different cultures have been brought into proximity with one another a world in which people of different cultures are increasingly dependent on one another and increasingly see themselves and citizens of one world and maybe what is at stake can be expressed in the following questions will all citizens of that one world live in genuine and just peace with one another or will there be mired in irresolvable conflicts too will globalization processes be harnessed to help them to better pursue authentic human flourishing in the context of well-being of all creation all will those processes seduce them to pursue unreachable goal of finding satisfaction in pursuit of pleasure power or whatever that might be I think those are some of the central questions formulated at least from the perspective of the people of faith what is at stake in engagement of faith with globalization I shall end here and see this place to mr. Blair thank you very much very loving I hope you don't mind if I just begin by thanking Yael for giving me the opportunity to to meet you and to to take this course and thank all of you for coming along and participating in it because I want you to do a lot more for me than the thing and listening to Miroslav there reminded me of I was never clever enough to be a professor that's why they put me into politics now what I'd like to try and do is explain to you how I see this linkage between faith and globalization and how I think we can we can make our our work yield some some good and important benefits and as you probably know it's in part linked to my um my foundation which is about the whole area of interfaith and how we get people of different religious faiths to work and live together I also this causes some surprise to people particularly in my old calling in in politics because I genuinely believe that the issue to do with faith and globalization religious belief and global change is the single most important and determining issue of the 21st century which is a big claim to make faith is important because it motivates so many people and because as we known as you were exploring last week of its potential to do harm but it's also important because of its potential to do good and I believe there is a way in which faith can be the humanizing and civilizing influence on the process of globalization in another part of my life I'm the the quartet which is international community representative for the Middle East peace process and one of the interesting things for someone of my religious background so you go around the Holy Land and you see all these very famous sights from the from the Bible and I was in Jericho not so long ago and my Palestinian guide who is showing me around turned to me and said at one point as he looked out over the Jordan Valley and then Jerusalem in the distance and so on and he said them Moses Jesus Mohammed why do they all have to come here and it was his way of saying that in his situation here he was in this quite small geographical space which of course is the source of such conflict and difficulty at the moment knowing that he and his children would have to live and work together with their neighbors but with this enormous difference cultural and religious keeping them apart from their neighbors so my point about this really is very simple globalization and defined as Miroslav is just so excellently done globalization pushes people together it pushes them together economically and socially it produces waves of migration the communication of what is happening the world now crosses frontiers with instant bees and accessibility and the effect of this is that globalization is something that is seen as very modern but its impact is at every point to push people into the same space and with that of course comes tremendous opportunities I mean if I look around the class I mean you are a representation of that people from many many different parts of the world and come to this great institution of learning and that is really a normal part of what we expect to happen now but if you go back some generations that would have been somewhat unusual so globalization in my view by breaking down some of the barriers and pushing people together actually is a very positive aspect to it it provides opportunity for people who otherwise wouldn't get opportunity it expands our horizons our our ability to know more about world in which we live but it also of course brings with it risks and dangers and tensions because what happens when traditional frontiers of community or nation hood break down is that people also feel under threat they feel under threat about their own way of life their own way of thinking if you study in my country and of course in this country too the waves of migration and how they have been assimilated that process of assimilation has been tough and it's been tough because those global forces have changed do open up these new horizons for people but sometimes people don't want those horizons opened up they find them threatening and disturbing but the thing about globalization which is why it a lot of the political debate about it is often servant redundant is that it's a fact it's not going to stop it's only going to intensify and it's also powerful and you only have to look at what's happening to the financial sector of the world economy at the moment to realize that the moment something happens here it's linked translates right across the world and that's not just because it's the United States it's because of the integration of the world economy now with faith that a low global ization is seen as a modern phenomenon faith is often seen as something somewhat more old old-fashioned and certainly in the Western world sometimes people see faith very much as something from the past not in all parts of the West but in many parts but it is also a fact and it is also powerful when we look at the most recent polling that's been undertaken in this and we asked the question you know is religion an important or very important part of your life the figures in Europe hover around the 30 percent mark here in the US it's over 60 percent in many parts of the world particularly Islamic parts of the world it's well over 90% and the fact is there are billions of people in our world today for whom faith matters I think it matters hello it's one of the things that I think we should explore during the course of of of our endeavor I think I would identify three aspects to faith when we talk about it as an objective force in our society in our world one is that faith can become a means of self-identity it it can become means as saying that this defines my culture this defines my political attitude it's it's about identity I think a second aspect of faith is that it's just part of my tradition and that's a little different from identity identity is something living in present the tradition is something that comes from the past but people will say well I I grew up in a certain type of society that was defined by my faith that doesn't mean to say that they personally necessarily are people of faith but they would recognize that that is the tradition from which they come and then I think there's a third way in which faith to to to people Madison can be expressed and that is faith as what I would call as a spiritual awakening in other words faith as it defines my values and beliefs not in a cultural sense are much but in a personal sense and so if you ask people and to describe religion there are some people who will describe it in terms of identity there are some people who will simply say well this is part of my tradition but then there are other people for whom this is the most important thing in their life because it's about how they live like their life in what they do to be a good way so it's it's it's spiritual and I think when we examine the impact of faith in those different ways we can see as you saw last week the good which is the Jubilee campaign and and the bad which is faith leading to extremism leading to violence leading to the loss of innocent innocent life but the one thing is for sure is that faith in our world can be an immensely strong justification for your action it can be the motive act motivating and galvanizing force behind what you do and why you do it and the reason I say this is so important for the 21st century the 20th century in my view is the century of political ideology and a low as you can see very well from what's going on in your country at the moment we produce great political turmoil and debate and division and dissension over who should be elected the President or who should win an election in Britain nonetheless actually the era of the great dominating political ideology that was the answer to everything communism totalitarianism is over that's not to say there aren't political differences but they form they form up in a quite different way in the 21st century than the 20th with in Arab more narrow parameters within a far larger pool of consensus but religious ideology has the possibility of supplanting that political ideology for good or for bad because when people ask well why is it that you link faith to globalization it is precisely because if globalization as Miroslav was saying is a force that pushes people together if religion becomes a force that pulls people apart if in other words it is not about your spirituality but becomes a means of identifying yourself in opposition in exclusion to others then religion becomes a force that can be immensely destructive so what I summarized say to people about globalization and about politics today is that you know distinctions between left and right matter but actually as important as anything else today's the distinction between what I would call open versus closed because globalization is a is an opening up process the question is is your attitude to that yes that's good now how do we make it work or your attitude to that is that's bad that's taking away something of my identity of something of what defines me and I want to stop it now religion and those circumstances therefore in religious faith that can be a means either of saying well let us open up to one another and reach out across our different faiths respecting our our own faith in identity but being prepared to reach out to the faith and identity of others or it can be a means of saying this is how I'm going to define myself and in distinction to you because you're coming into the space that I'm in inhabiting is actually threatening my religious belief and my faith so that is one major aspect of the whole issue to do with with faith and globalization is it if globalization pushes people together is religious faith a part of making that work or is it does it become part of pulling people apart but I actually have a bigger ambition for for what we want to do here which is also to explore the possibility not that we prevent faith from doing harm but that we try and show and see how faith can do good because thing about globalization is that it is a fact it is powerful and it does provide opportunity but as again we can see it is and can be highly impersonal it can lead to a materialism that is actually value free it can lead to injustice with people who are left behind and I think in the future it can do something else it can lead to a competition for resources particularly as China and India industrialize errs it does and there is a a developing of the world economy increases in population pressure on food as a commodity which you can see already that process of globalization which will create these types of challenges the environment and climate change will be another if it is value free the danger is it is essentially a competitive process decided by power so those people that have the power and will get the resources those people who do not have the power will not and so that very thing that globalization should be which is an open up of opportunity actually becomes a means of creating a fundamental divide between those who succeed in this world of globalization and those who fail now the question I would pose as this is it possible for religious faith to be a part not an exclusive part but a part of providing a value system that brings notions of equity and justice fairness into this otherwise strong but often impersonal process of globalization can it in other words develop and shape the value system of globalization so what I'd like to do in the in the course of our discussions over the semester and a time to come it's read trying to explore these types of issues explore things like why don't why do people still have such strong religious faith why are people still willing to come forward and stand up and say that they have religious belief when certainly at one time it was assumed that as there was economic and political and social development faith would be relegated to an interesting part of our history how do we remove the ignorance that breeds the fear that breeds the conflict in relation to faith I I think for the Abrahamic faiths certainly but more widely than that there's huge ignorance I say this is someone of faith about about other faiths the more I learned the more I'm fascinated to learn you know the more I see for example when I study the Quran the more I see why we call them the Abrahamic faiths and why actually an understanding of Islam and how it is developed is not merely important for me to understand another culture or another group of people but actually is potentially a very enriching source of knowledge for my own faith how do we describe what our relationship would be in the future with civilizations Hindu or Buddhist that are going to be immensely governed by how those faiths came about the value system underpinning them what the impact of those phases been on the sociological development of what a vast and growing important parts of the world how do we educate people about this how do we make sure that the faith act in a way together to deal with some of the the critical issues in the world today one of the things my foundation does is try to get the face to act and pursuit of the Millennium Development Goals for example in the malaria campaign and then how do we make sure that for this work that we're engaged in we can start identifying those things that maybe we need to probe further in terms of research or in terms of information what are the case studies that would be really interesting for us to look at in terms of seeing the tensions between faith and globalization and how they can be improved and I hope finally also that we are able to do something else which is to to have an interfaith encounter in other words sometimes you know when people talk about interfaith dialogue there are lots and lots I go to a lot of interface sessions and there's an immense amount of dialogue that a lot of dialogue and what would be nice is to get some product at the end of it you know and I think one of the things that we can look at is what would be the right way for the face to encounter each other and to learn from each other and finally to end where I where I began I think when I'm out in the in the Middle East and I see the good and the bad side of faith and I see the conflict that it is part of and I see the work that has been done by people of faith to overcome his historic divisions that of course the death of so many people over the years and I think if we were able to find a way of reconciling people to each other in that region what a symbol it would be for peaceful coexistence for the future so for me this is a very practical thing I mean I am fascinated in the theology of it actually and I'm fascinated by the different doctrinal aspects of it but most of all I'm motivated by wanting to make the 21st century work for people work for people because as we open up we offer opportunity to people and work for people because in getting and in spending we do not wait lay waste our lives that in other words we have some spiritual core to the lives that we lead because I think in the end that is really the only thing that makes life properly fulfilling so these are these are bold ambitions for our for our course here at Yale but I am immensely excited at the prospect of working with you I'm sure I shall learn a lot from you and I think that this is just the beginning of something that will be really in important for the future and sometimes as I've learned in my life out of the very small things grow the very big things thank you

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