Tony Blair at Saddleback Church
“Where there is ignorance there is often fear, and where there is knowledge there is more often understanding” said Tony Blair at Saddleback Church.
Tony Blair was hosted by Saddleback Church’s Civil Forum 6th March 2011 (Sunday) in Lake Forest, California. In a conversation with Pastor Rick Warren Mr. Blair discussed peace, leadership and importance of faith in a rapidly changing world.
About the role of faith in the 21st century, Mr. Blair said:
“As the world comes closer together how people view their religion in respect of others becomes a core question...If you don’t understand religions, if you are not religiously literate it is as bad and as devastating as not knowing about gender and race issues. Faith is not diminishing today. Spirituality in today’s world is something people are searching for not something people want to disguise.”
Blair and Warren discussed the changing nature of North Africa and the place of faith in the transformation of societies in the region.
“All over the region as their societies become more open they will have people of different faiths. It is essential to begin that dialogue. If we can also establish a faith dialogue and partnership, that in itself will be of major importance. It is far more likely that democratic systems will take root and will deliver prosperity and opportunity if there is an open and respectful attitude, according dignity to those of another faith. Whilst being completely true to their tradition and religion, people can be open also to others of a different religion.”
Blair and Warren confronted the misconception that engaging with those of other faiths means diluting your own religious beliefs.
Warren stated: “Interfaith dialogue doesn’t mean compromising your faith, it means understanding somebody else’s and not watering it down. We’re not trying to find the lowest common denominator we’re saying ‘but how can we get along’. “
Blair and Warren stressed the importance of people from different religious traditions taking practical action to build bridges of understanding.
Warren said: “You don’t have to compromise your faith to love people. And you don’t have to compromise your faith to work together for the common good. You start with the hands and when you work with someone of a different faith or a different nationality, then you start being bound together in the heart.”
Hannah Wallace, manager of the Faith Foundation’s multifaith action programs, said:
“It was great to hear Tony Blair and Rick Warren discussing the crucial role of ordinary people of faith transforming societies from the ground up and not just relying on governments to make a difference. They each support initiatives across Africa where grassroots action led by Faith communities is changing and saving lives. Pastor Warren spoke about the work of the PEACE plan in Rwanda, Tony Blair spoke about the Foundation’s work in Sierra Leone where Muslims and Christians are working together to combat preventable diseases like malaria.”
Wallace continued: “You don’t have to be in Africa to be part of this life saving work. For example the Foundation’s Faiths Act for World Malaria Day campaign launched this week is mobilizing ordinary people of faith in over 100 countries to hold multifaith fundraisers to buy lifesaving bed nets. It’s a really simple action that will save lives and build understanding between people who are doing something really practical together.”
When asked about his vision for the next ten years, Tony Blair said:
“The most important thing for me in the long term is around the issue of faith. I want to see a situation in which, people of different faiths, without losing their own faith, can reach out to others. In an era of globalization where technology has changed our lives, faith should accepted as part of the future and part of progress and not as a relic of the past.”