May 30, 2008

How idealism, according to Tony Blair, became the new realism

This is a century rich in potential to solve problems, provide prosperity to all, to overcome longstanding issues of injustice that previously we could not surmount. But it only works if the values which inform the change are values that unify and do not divide. Religious faith has a profound role to play. For good or for ill.
The Tony Blair Faith Foundation will try to make it for good.

Tony Blair is launching his Faith Foundation today at the Time Warner Center, New York City, and the above quote is drawn from his launch speech. The initiative is a call for the creation of a new coalition to harness the moral leadership of people of faith to do good and to show the relevance of faith to the challenges of the modern world.

Here is the why of the Foundation in Tony Blair’s own words:

The world is undergoing tumultuous change. Globalization, underpinned by technology, is driving much of it, breaking down boundaries, altering the composition of whole communities, even countries and creating circumstances in which new challenges arise that can only be met effectively together. Interdependence is now the recognised human condition.
So, the characteristic of today's world is change. The consequence is a world opening up, and becoming interdependent. The conclusion is that we make sense of this interdependence through peaceful co-existence and working together to resolve common challenges.
In turn, this requires an attitude, a state of mind, an emotional as well as an intellectual response consistent with this conclusion. A sentiment that we are members of a global community as well as individual nations means we must be global citizens as well as citizens of our own country.
All this sounds impossibly idealistic.
But if the analysis of the nature of the world is as I set out, then it is in fact the only practical way to organise our affairs. Idealism becomes the new realism.
So: religion matters and there is a lot of fear around between the faiths.
In summary, you cannot understand the modern world unless you understand the importance of religious faith. Faith motivates, galvanises, organises and integrates millions upon millions of people.
Here is the crucial point. Globalisation is pushing people together. Interdependence is reality. Peaceful co-existence is essential. If faith becomes a countervailing force, pulling people apart, it becomes destructive and dangerous.
If , by contrast, it becomes an instrument of peaceful co-existence, teaching people to live with difference, to treat diversity as a strength, to respect "the other", then Faith becomes an important part of making the 21st Century work. It enriches, it informs, it provides a common basis of values and belief for people to get along together.
I believe, as someone of Faith that religious faith has a great role to play in an individual's life.
But even if I didn't, even if I was of no faith, I would still believe in the central necessity of people of faith learning to live with each other in mutual respect and peace.

And this is the what:

We do not want to engage in a doctrinal inquiry.
We do not want to subsume different faiths in one faith of the lowest common denominator.
We want to show faith in action.
We want to produce greater understanding between faiths through encounter.
We want people of one faith to be comfortable with those of another because they know what they truly believe, not what they thought they might believe.


  1. Tony Blair has always been a very good marketing person... ;-)

  2. Good marketing starts with a good product ... ;-)

  3. Well, I really do hope he can achieve something with this foundation (real steps towards peace and collaboration among religions etc., who cannot but desire this...) but I am very sceptical about it.

  4. Rob, I have replied to this whole idealism and values thing here and here.

    All the best,

  5. Hi M_o_R,

    I had a quick read, and since I am very busy at the moment, I’ll take my time … However, it seems to me that the ground has been cleared of any potential confusion and misunderstanding. See you soon (I hope!).


  6. Hi MoR, here is my answer to your answer to my answer … ;-)