11 September 2010

Comments: tony Blair's talk to Common Word Conference

The text I am commenting is from full speech delivered on 7th October, 2010 at George Town University at the Common Word Conference. [See Tony Blair Calls for All Religions to Unite Against Secularism for Austin Cline's comment] The speech is reproduced completely below interspersed with my comment in yellow background.

We, Christians and Muslims, represent around half the world’s population. So, the religious is the majority in the world. We know that. In an era of globalisation, when nations are interdependent, change happens at a rate unsurpassed in human history and people of varied races, colours and creeds are thrown together as never before, getting on together matters. Actually, if we Does his "we" include the non-believers? can get on, the twenty first century world can get on.

It’s true we are different. But then so were our founders. Jesus Christ was a Jew who gave birth to Christianity. The Holy Prophet was steeped in study of the books of the Bible and was chosen to recite the Qur’an. Each was made to feel an outsider. Each stood out against the conventional teaching of the time. Each believed in the universal appeal of God to humanity. Each was a change-maker.

If we reflect sensibly on the state of our respective faiths in the world today, we see we face common challenges. We are people of faith. Oops, it seems to me that "'we" only include people with faith. We see how faith shapes our lives and the lives of others. We watch, in sadness, as it is abused to do wrong. When has religion done any good? We passionately want it used to do good. We believe in the power of faith to change lives for the better he has conveniently forgotten to say "or for worse" as well.

 We face the challenge of relevance – showing how faith can be a force for the future, for progress, that it will not fade as science, technology and material prosperity alters the way we live. We face an aggressive secular attack from without. So, the secular army is matching towards the holy cities and trying to kill all the believers???  History has ample examples of the reverse, but there is not a single instance of a non-believer attacking a believer in the name of "there is no god".We face the threat of extremism from within. Extremists always exists in any ideology.  The best way to tackle the problem is to promote compassion, understanding and tolerance.  Let's see what Tony Blair is going to suggest...

These challenges are not for Muslims alone or Christians or Jews, Hindus or Buddhists for that matter. They are challenges for all people of faith.

Those who scorn God and those who do violence in God’s name, both represent views of religion. Who do violence in God's name??? Believers.   Oh the extremists of course. But putting "those who scorn god" in the same breathe is misleading at least and implication by association by intention. But both offer no hope for faith in the twenty first century.Wrong sentence.  It should be faith has no hope in the twenty first century.

The best hope for faith in the twenty first century is that we confront all of this together. and eliminate religion altogether. This is not because we intend to have the same faith. We don’t. Our separate beliefs will remain. But our coming together, will allow us to speak in friendship to one another about our own faiths; and also speak to the world about faith.  It is the intolerance among faiths that is the problem.  The non-believers do not care about what you believe as long as you do not push your stupid ideas into our face and put them into laws.

So how do we make our relations, so fraught in the past, fruitful in the future? First, we need to understand each other, learn about our roots, how and why we are as we are, learn the essential spirituality, peacefulness and goodness of the others’ faith. This means we educate each other about each other. Can you?

 Secondly, we need to respect each other. We must do this, not pro forma, to be polite or courteous but do it deeply, beyond tolerance or acceptance. OK, what does this mean? We say it is Love that motivates us. Love of what? What kind of love is Tony referring here? We must demonstrate it in our dealings with each other, as indeed both our Lord and the Prophet exhorted us to do. One reason why peace between Israel and Palestine matters so much is: that it is a test, not just of conflict resolution but of even-handedness and respect. Yes, middle east is a good example. So far the conflict has demonstrated the incompatibility of faiths among the people in the area. If the peace process is to be successful would require both parties to give up their faith.  Tony, you are so naive as to believe they can co-operate when the religious agenda are in place? We share our common heritage in Abraham and Moses. Peace between Jews and Muslims in the Land holy for all of us, would be such a powerful symbol of peaceful co-existence of faiths as well as nations or peoples. Yes, if Christians, Judaism and Islam can peacefully co-exist, that would be a powerful symbol of peace.  Who has the illusion that they can?

 Third, we must act. Our relationship with each other and both of us with Judaism that in time I’m sure will be part of the Common Word, will best be judged in action, in the work we can do together in relieving poverty, fighting injustice, preventing disease and bringing hope to those in despair. Can you also add respect to the female population, support same sex marriage, allow stem cell research in the list as well? That’s why I am so delighted to see four of my Faiths Act Fellows here today with us.

Love your God; love your neighbour as yourself. These simple admonitions are the guiding light of our faith. They give us the possibility of ‘A Common Word.’ When we lose our way, Christians or Muslims, this is the light by which we re-discover our true path. So: understand each other, respect each other, act with each other; and in doing so, show why humanity is not made poorer by faith, but immeasurably enriched. Only if you can co-exist without fighting each other, the world would be a better place already.

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