Christianity and Europe: Tony Blair’s View at Yale University – Part II
What all this activity amounts to is an initial giving voice to a belief that faith can and in fact should have a role in public decisions. This, in a country mind you, and in a culture—modern Western culture—which keeps religion and politics separate and tends toward a secularism which loudly and contemptuously proclaims the exclusion of that voice from the public square to relegate it to the purely private in a church on Sunday, a synagogue on Saturday or a mosque on Friday. It is a controversial proposition, to say the least. Nevertheless, Eboo Patel, executive director of the Interfaith Youth Core, an non-profit organization based in Chicago has lauded the Blair enterprise:
I think this movement needed a world leader, and Tony Blair is a world leader. He is one of the type of people who can take the interfaith movement to the next level. There is a new category emerging of interfaith activists, along the lines of human rights or environmental activists. I am now consistently speaking to several hundred or several thousand people, when just five years ago I was talking to seven people in a church basement. And Tony Blair is the first leader of this stature to take this issue this seriously.
Gustav Niebhur, director of the Religion and Society Program at Syracuse University and author of Beyond Tolerance: Searching for Interfaith Understanding in America chimes in “This is a testing time for him, when he has to move from one stage to another and show people he is sincere and committed and can achieve something real.” Reverend Rick Warren, senior pastor of Saddleback Church in California and author of the best-selling book The Purpose Driven Life, who delivered the benediction at Barrack Obama’s inauguration, and serves on the group’s advisory council, has revealed that the foundation has already “raised several million dollars” for its projects and this was largely due to Blair’s contacts and stature.
One of the insights that Blair has brought to the course on Faith and Globalization at Yale is that while Globalization obliterates borders and frontiers, faith often becomes a reaction to it and pulls people apart and that is unfortunate. Blair points out that he saw such a phenomenon when he was a prime minister, before and after 9/11 and he adds that “even if you are of no religious faith and don’t even like religion, you should be interested in this. But specifically, if you are a person of faith, the question is, what role does faith have in the future? My view is globalization needs strong values to guide it make it equitable and just.”
It should be stressed at this point that the Faith Foundation of Tony Blair is not dedicated to mere theoretical and abstract projects but has placed on the table concrete active projects such as Malaria No More, with the aim of providing insecticide-treated mosquito nets to people in sub-Saharan Africa. Another is that of selecting 30 men and women of various faiths, aged 18 to 25, from the United States, Britain and Canada to work for African countries combating malaria and then return home to raise money for an awareness about the disease. Moreover, the Faith foundation has also asked Harry Stout, chairman of the Yale’s religious studies department, to develop a secondary school curriculum for the foundation’s use in fostering interfaith discussion among teenagers.