Blair working towards inter-faith foundation to tackle conflict

By staff writers
October 24, 2007

Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair is meeting religious leaders confidentially to establish plans for an international inter-faith foundation to promote greater cooperation between the faiths and to work against violence and extremism practiced in the name of religion.

It appears that the body will operate more as a think tank and discussion forum for senior figures, rather than a formal network of religious organisations.

Mr Blair, who is now a special envoy to the Middle East, is due to meet some of the United States’s leading Roman Catholic bishops in New York this week.

He declared recently: “The tragedy is that Christians, Jews and Muslims are all Abrahamic religions. We regard ourselves as children of Abraham but we have fought for so long.

There will be a focus on regions of conflict throughout the world, and on the role faith communities can play in lessening tension and moving towards conflict transformation - as well as on examining and tackling the causes of extremism.

The relationship between Islam and Christianity in various global flash points is especially important.

There has been scepticism over whether Tony Blair, as an ally of President George W. Bush and a leading protagonist of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, is really in a good position to be a religious and political peace-builder.

"At one level it does stretch credibility", and international relations analyst told Ekklesia. "But strange things have happened. No one would have predicted Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness ending up in government together. But the key is the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Without progress on that, all other Middle East hopes flounder."

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