Tony Blair Gives Keynote Speech at Beijing Forum

Foundation Update

Tony Blair Gives Keynote Speech at Beijing Forum

07 Nov 2010

Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair delivered the keynote speech today (Sunday) at the 2010 Beijing Forum, marking the partnership between Peking University and the Tony Blair Faith Foundation. The Tony Blair Faith Foundation co-sponsored, with Yale University, one of the key themes of the 2010 Beijing Forum, on "Faith and Responsibilities: Spiritual Reflections on Global Issues".

Amongst the speakers invited to the Foundation's panel were His Eminence the Grand Mufti of Bosnia, Mustafa Ceric; Professor Miroslav Volf of Yale University; Professor Arvind Sharma of McGill University; Professor Monica Toft of Harvard University; and Professor Anantand Rambachan, a member of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation's Religious Advisory Council.

Speaking at the closing ceremony of the Bejing Forum, Mr Blair said:

"I doubt that the twenty first century will be a century that repeats the great battles of political ideology of the twentieth century. Most people today realise there will be a role for the state and for the market in the modern economy. But the twenty first century could easily see – indeed in some degree is already witnessing – fundamental struggles around religious or cultural ideology.

"My belief is that, in this new world, we cannot afford or sanction religious illiteracy. No one today, aspiring to lead a country, company or civic organisation should be without a developed understanding of religion and its role in our different societies.

"China's willingness to engage in this issue will greatly assist East-West relations. China has more than sixty different ethnic groups. Its religious diversity is obvious. So how China charts its path to a harmonious society will not only matter to the world, but will be something from which we can study and learn. Likewise, how in different parts of the world, religious faith impacts stability and harmony, will be a vital Chinese interest.

"We need to recognise and encourage religious faith to express its essential, and in my view more true role, as a source of values, not ideology. And we need to discourage faith where it is defined as a badge of identity in opposition to others.

"We have the best chance of obtaining peaceful societies, if we encourage, promote and activate interfaith harmony and understanding. This is of the essence. If we have more knowledge, we have greater understanding. With greater understanding comes a larger prospect of peaceful co-existence. What we don't know we fear. What we can't understand, closes our mind. It is often ignorance that is at the root of conflict. So we should create not just the feelings but the practical methods of co-operation that lead to co-existence."

This summer Peking University joined the Tony Blair Faith Foundation's Faith and Globalisation Initiative which builds partnerships with leading universities on every continent to develop a deeper understanding of the inter-relationship between faith and globalisation. The Initiative aims to help emerging leaders understand how faith can motivate and impact new trends in the modern world and highlights the implications through research and publications.

Founding partners of the Foundation's Faith and Globalisation Initiative are Yale University in the USA, National University of Singapore (NUS), McGill University in Canada, Durham University in the UK, Technologico de Monterrey University in Mexico, the University of Western Australia (UWA), and Peking University in China.