World Leaders and Interfaith Cooperation

It was striking to hear the similarities in the speeches that Tony Blair and Barack Obama gave at the National … Continued

It was striking to hear the similarities in the speeches that Tony Blair and Barack Obama gave at the National Prayer Breakfast last week. They each told their personal stories of growing up in nonbeliever households and finding their way to faith. They each quoted “Golden Rule” type scriptures from different faiths. They each spoke more of faith-inspired service to the world than the inner life of prayer and the soul. And they talked about interfaith cooperation as an antidote to religious extremism.

As Blair said, “If faith becomes the property of extremists, it will originate discord. But if, by contrast, different faiths can reach out to and have knowledge of one another, then instead of being reactionary, religious faith can be a force for progress.”

The coincidence did not escape President Obama. He told his Faith Advisory Council in the Oval Office last Thursday that he and Blair had basically the same message at the Prayer Breakfast, even though they had not coordinated speeches.

But even more interesting than the commonality of vision is the fact that both Blair and Obama have made commitments to realize their vision. Blair has set up the Tony Blair Faith Foundation to bring faiths together to serve others. Amongst TBFF’s first projects is a major initiative on preventing deaths caused by malaria.

And President Obama stated that his Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Initiatives will not only support nonprofits (secular and faith-based) serving American neighborhoods, but also reach out across the world to advance interfaith cooperation. As he put it, “If we can talk to one another openly and honestly, then perhaps old rifts will start to mend and new partnerships will begin to emerge.”

So we have a former British Prime Minister and a new American President each articulating a vision of interfaith cooperation and building institutions to make good on that vision.

Here’s my prayer: that Blair and Obama are only the first world leaders to build real institutions to interfaith cooperation. Who’s next?

About

  • CCNL

    Blair is despised in the UK??? Supporting references please!!!

  • clearthinking1

    Blair is a phoney. They talk of faith as if that makes you a good person. Where were Blair’s ethics and morals when he lied before the Iraq war. Yes knowing lied to start a war that killed tens or hundreds of thousands. The lies were plenty and visible, just ask Claire Short, etc… Remember when Heathrow was surrounded by missiles and shut down because Blair had information about Sadam’s WMD. Remember the uranium from Niger forged documents from the British secret service. The list goes on. And now we are supposed to be impressed by Blair because he talks about faith.Phoney talk of interfaith dialogue again. Address the real issues Mr. Patel and Mr. Blair. It is the supremacist attitiudues of Islam and Christianity that are the problem. That is the source of violence, not lack of faith.

  • darling_ailie

    Mr Patel, you do realise that Blair is commonly despised in the UK, don’t you? And not just amongst Conservatives.

  • clearthinking1

    Mr. Patel writes: “They talked about interfaith cooperation as an antidote to religious extremism.”This has become a sick joke. The problem is not good Muslims fighting with Jews, Christians, or Hindus. Good people are good.The problem is good Muslims NOT fighting bad Muslims. The reasons are simple:Muslims can never say this simple statement: “All religions are equal”Just say it, Eboo. Just say it once, Mr. Ebrahim Patel. Please, just say “all religions are equal” to your fellow Muslims. We don’t need to hear it from you, but your fellow Muslims do.

  • darling_ailie

    CCNL : He is often called Bliar, as in ‘liar’, a name he has earned.The man is an opportunist.

  • hsnkhwj

    Clearthinking:”Muslims can never say this simple statement: “All religions are equal”Your thought is anything but clearthinking. Your demand is an oxymoron. All religions claim that their message is universal. Since messages from these religions are not identical or are different, how do you expect any religion to claim that all religions are equal?Christians believe that Jesus is son of God or is God. Muslims believe that Jesus was a human being but a messenger from God (prophet), and Jews do not accept Jesus as prophet or God. Hindus never heard of Jesus at the time of the Aryan invasion, 3000 years ago. Jesus was not even born then. Buddha was before Christ.Sometimes deep-rooted prejudices of people lead them to ask irrational questions.By the way, all human societies suffer from ethnocentrism–the belief that their ways of life are the best and others’ are bizarre, strange, and unfit for human survival.

  • CCNL

    And what does one find when “googling” Tony Blair’s popularity?He was one of the more popular PM’s until the Iraq war went sour. UK’s voters are now seeing that the war was more complex than simply removing/destroying the WMDs that Saddam said he had. It also involved keeping the Third Axis of Evil in check, cleaning up the problems created by the UK et al in establishing various countries and boundaries in the Mideast and keeping a centuries’ old blood feud between the Sunnis and Shiites in check.A recent poll showed Blair’s popularity has actually increased by 13%. From Google (Blair)’Up 13% in popularity this week. See why on IMDbPro. … http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0086363/

  • hsnkhwj

    clearthinking1:I do not think it proper to criticize Hinduism or any other religion for it is against the spirit of interfaith understanding.But how do you reconcile with the actual practice of human inequality by birth among Hindus? Are Brahmans, kshatriyas, vaishs, shudras and the Dalits (the untouchables) equal by birth?Don’t tell me that the caste system has been outlawed since the Hindu Code bill was passed.Dowry was banned in India. But it is still given and taken. Young brides are still killed simply because they did not bring “enough” dowry. Cow urine is still drunk as a cure for all “ills”.So, before you criticize the Abrahamic faiths, you should understand the maxim: “Physician heal thyself.”There are a lot of progressive Hindus in India who understand that considering Hinduism above the Abrahamaic faiths is futile. The question that “Muslims can never say, “all religions are equal” is an exercise in futility.

  • CCNL

    Darling, Darling, Darling, You noted:Your comment is not evidence that Tony Blair is despised by all those in the UK. All you have given is a list of UK newspapers. Polls please, with cited references where said poll was published and when.

  • clearthinking1

    HSNKHWJ:Your confusion is understandable if you are a follower of an Abrahamic religion (Judaism, Christianity, Islam), which it seems that you are. Fortunately, “religion” is a much larger concept than the Abrahamic Faiths have allowed it to be. For example, A Hindu can easily and rationally say that all religions are equal. This is because Hinduism is an old “religion” based on a spiritual philosophy called Vedanta ( plus local cultural rituals and mythologies which help communicate the philosophy of Vedanta in different ways to different people). Hinduism is different from what you might think of as a “religion”. It is not a cult of personality that needs a founder like Moses, Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha, Mahavir, Guru Nanak, etc…It is simply a profound spiritual philosophy of oneness and unity. Some may want to call this God or Ishwara etc. This allows for tolerance of different methods of spirituality. That is why you see on the Indian subcontinent over the millenia “Hindus” living with Buddhists, Jains, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, Zorastrians, and nonbelievers. Christmas is celebrated, along with almost anything people want. No big deal.So, your claim that religion and equality are contradictory (that’s what oxymoron means) is incorrect. It is your narrow understanding of religion (Abrahamic cult) that leads you to believe that. The supremacist philosophy of these 3 religions (being chosen, one prophet supercedes, etc…) is the source of conflict. Whenever there is conflict due to religion, at least one of the parties is Muslim or Christian. Think about it objectively if you can.The majority of people on earth are not of the Abrahamic faiths. They either have non supremacist and peaceful spiritual systems or are nonbelievers. With science, eduacation, and rational skepticism spreading, this trend will continue. Fundamentally, the concepts of unity are seeing a rebirth, through our understanding of physics and movements like environmentalism and vegetarianism. Just like slavery has slowly dissipated over the millenia, the enslavement of minds by cultish religions will dissipate with time.Good luck in your personal spiritual evolution.

  • clearthinking1

    Hey Eboo,I just wrote a nice response in the discussion with HSNKHWJ. Why are you withholding it. A little defense of Hindus and Vedanta make you nervous?This is the USA. The Bill of Rights and Constitution supercede the Koran.Freedom of speech. Many American Christians gave their lives for your freedom, Eboo. Respect that.

  • clearthinking1

    HSNKHWJ,In contrast, the Vedantic philosophy which defines Hinduism has allowed people to be tolerant for millenia, as I have mentioned before. When free to write their own constitution, Hindus in India led by Nehru and Gandhi (Hindus & Vedanta scholars) immediately codified equality, plurality, and tolerance. Since then India has had Muslim, Hindu, female, Dalit etc. presidents. The current PM is Sikh. The most powerful politician in India today (Sonia Gandhi) is female, Catholic, and Italian. Christians have been Defence ministers. The wealthiest man in India is Muslim. You mentioned Vajpayee – he had a Christian Defence Minister and a Muslim as a President. Lalu Prasad is doing quite well and is enjoying his power and wealth. All this in a nation that is 85% Hindu.Continued above

  • halozcel1

    Clearthinking,You say *Wealthiest man in India is Muslim*Isnt *number one* Mukesh Ambani ?Isnt *number second* Lakshimi Mittal(shark) ?Both of them are Hindu,not muslim.

  • hsnkhwj

    clearthinking1 :You continue to evade the issue. If Hindus of India can not make equality among themselves and continue to commit atrocities against Dalits (the untouchables), how can they give equality to non-Hindus?Do you forget that Sonia Gandhi had to withdraw her name from Prime Minister’s position because of relentless attacks on her for being of foreign origin and of Christian origin? One female Hindu politician from Delhi even threatened to get her head shaved in protest if Sonia Gandhi became the prime minister.Did you forget to mention that Hindu fanatics of Gujarat committed genocide of Muslims in 2002? Is this also an example of Hindu tolerance? You can put up the names of show pieces of women, Muslims, Dalits who became presidents. The question is how are minorities treated at the grassroots level in India?Did you forget that Christian churches in India were burnt in Orissa, Karnataka and other places in 2008 and on Christmas day in 2007, several churches were burnt in Orissa in 2007?There are lots of Hindus in India who are good people. But BJP (to which Modi, Vajpayee, Advani, Singhal and many others belong) are not the tolerant ones.THe RSS, the Bajrang Dal (the monkey brigade) the Shiva Sena, the V.H.P. (Vishva Hindu Parishad or World Hindu Council) want to take India back to the Dark Ages.Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi, the Congress party and several secular parties of India are the greatest hope for India’s democracy.

  • clearthinking1

    continued(BTW hsnkwj, threatening to shave ones own head is not very violent. Sonia Ghandhi is an Italian born in Italy. In America, to be President you have to born in America. Its rational policy.)

  • forgery1

    HiJurist criminalist Daniel Mohamad Ali

Read More Articles

colbert
Top 10 Reasons We’re Glad A Catholic Colbert Is Taking Over Letterman’s “Late Show”

How might we love Stephen Colbert as the “Late Show” host? Let us count the ways.

emptytomb
God’s Not Dead? Why the Good News Is Better than That

The resurrection of Jesus is not a matter of private faith — it’s a proclamation for the whole world.

noplaceonearth
An Untold Story of Bondage to Freedom: Passover 1943

How a foxhole that led to a 77-mile cave system saved the lives of 38 Ukrainian Jews during the Holocaust.

shutterstock_148333673
Friend or Foe? Learning from Judas About Friendship with Jesus

We call Judas a betrayer. Jesus called him “friend.”

shutterstock_53190298
Fundamentalist Arguments Against Fundamentalism

The all-or-nothing approach to the Bible used by skeptics and fundamentalists alike is flawed.

shutterstock_178468880
Mary Magdalene, the Closest Friend of Jesus

She’s been ignored, dismissed, and misunderstood. But the story of Easter makes it clear that Mary was Jesus’ most faithful friend.

shutterstock_186795503
The Three Most Surprising Things Jesus Said

Think you know Jesus? Some of his sayings may surprise you.

shutterstock_185995553
How to Debate Christians: Five Ways to Behave and Ten Questions to Answer

Advice for atheists taking on Christian critics.

HIFR
Heaven Hits the Big Screen

How “Heaven is for Real” went from being an unsellable idea to a bestselling book and the inspiration for a Hollywood movie.

shutterstock_186364295
This God’s For You: Jesus and the Good News of Beer

How Jesus partied with a purpose.

egg.jpg
Jesus, Bunnies, and Colored Eggs: An Explanation of Holy Week and Easter

So, Easter is a one-day celebration of Jesus rising from the dead and turning into a bunny, right? Not exactly.

SONY DSC
Dear Evangelicals, Please Reconsider Your Fight Against Gay Rights

A journalist and longtime observer of American religious culture offers some advice to his evangelical friends.