An Urgent Need to Recognise the Role of Religion
30 Apr 2015
The world faces a scourge that has seen innocent lives taken, communities scarred and nations destabilised in an arc that stretches from the Far East through the Middle East to North America. This fanaticism abuses faith to justify violence against innocent civilians. We need to urgently recognise the global nature of this problem and from that analysis contrive the set of policies that will resolve it, writes Tony Blair for our Global Perspectives Series.
By Tony Blair
A generation of leaders face a fundamental question: how do we uproot the thinking of the extremists and win the battle of ideas. There is no doubt that security measures are required. This is a consequence of taking on groups of people who fight without hesitation, kill without mercy and die without regret. But this alone will not be enough. Without a comprehensive strategy, we will face a future marked by conflict and instability across swathes of the world and major acts of terrorism in our own lands.
To respond in one way to one crisis as it arises and then to another in a different way, produces a fractured, incoherent response that will only serve the purposes of the extremists themselves. Of course extremists are adept at jumping on the back of political grievances and each case has its individual aspects. But to deny on this basis that there is a common factor at play here has dangerous consequences for our response.
The violence is the end product of a way of thinking. The soil in which the extremists plant the seeds of hate, is the soil of ignorance, of warped thinking and education producing warped minds and, in particular, of a distorted and false view of religion. We will not deal with the root causes of terrorism unless we confront this fact.
And the evidence is clear: the problem is growing not diminishing. The current crisis in Syria and Iraq has overshadowed incidents in China, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, India, Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya, Nigeria, Central African Republic, Mali, Kosovo and the United States of America to name but a few. We must tackle this as one, faiths united, East and West together; we must support the moderate majority, the open-minded and help them to make their voice heard, because it is only by providing a counter-narrative to close-minded extremism that we can halt this growth.
Education is a battlefield we have not yet entered decisively, to our great detriment. If we do not tackle this question with the honesty and openness it demands, then all the security measures and all the fighting will count for nothing. Especially foolish is the idea that we leave this process of the generational deformation of the mind undisturbed, at the same time as we spend billions on security measures to counter the very threat we allow to be created.
This is what the Faith Foundation responds to. This is the importance of the critical examination of the current policy debate set out in this volume. Engaging with issues of religion and conflict is not without its difficulties. But their direct engagement with reconciliation efforts to provide practical tools to counter religious extremism puts them at the forefront of this debate. Their experience working on these issues can help to map out our response to this crisis. This struggle will define the 21st century. There is no better cause, nor one more urgent.
This article is taken from the Global Perspectives Series (Volume I): Religion and Conflict: Responding to the Challenges. Find all the articles from the volume here.