Friday, 4 April 2008

Guardian: Save religion and help it become a force for good, urges Blair

Religion must be rescued from extremism and irrelevance, Tony Blair said last night, in his first big speech in Britain since stepping down as prime minister last year.

Blair, a Catholic convert, made the remarks during a lecture on faith and globalisation at Westminster Cathedral, where he used to attend mass while in office. He used the 45-minute speech to highlight the work of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation which has its official launch next month and aims to help different faith organisations work together.

He said last night: "For religion to be a force for good, it must be rescued not simply from extremism, faith as a means of exclusion; but also from irrelevance, an interesting part of our history but not of our future." Too many people saw religious faith as stark dogmatism and empty ritual, he added.

"Faith is reduced to a system of strange convictions and actions that, to some, can appear far removed from the necessities and anxieties of ordinary life," Blair said. "It is this face that gives militant secularism an easy target."

He went on to argue that religion could help to advance humanity and end global poverty. One of his foundation's aims is to bring people of faith together in pursuit of the UN's millennium development goals, which include the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, promoting gender equality and combating diseases. Read more
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