Tony Blair speaks up for ‘faith’
In his first speech on faith since becoming a Roman Catholic former prime minister Tony Blair has called for faith to be given a central role in tackling the world’s problems. Speaking to an audience of 1600 at Westminster Cathedral Mr Blair said faith should be rescued from extremism and be a force for progress. Mr Blair converted to Catholicism shortly after stepping down as prime minister last summer.
He said for politicians to admit to having faith ‘leads to a whole series of suppositions’. These ranged from being ‘considered weird’ to people assuming ‘that your religion makes you act, as a leader, at the promptings of an inscrutable deity’, or that politicians desire to impose their faith on others.
He said religious faith was most obviously associated with extremism in the name of Islam, but there were extremists in ‘virtually every religion’ as well as those who used ‘their faith as a means of excluding the other person who does not share it’.
However, commenting in The Times newspaper, Mr Terry Sanderson, of the National Secular Society, said: ‘Mr Blair’s call for religion to play a bigger role in world affairs is like trying to douse a fire by showering it with petrol’.
An indication of the ambiguity of Mr Blair’s position was highlighted by a noisy Stop the War protest outside the cathedral and demonstrators calling for the ex-prime minister to be indicted for war crimes. There was also a silent vigil by the Catholic peace group Pax Christi.
In a separate development, the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) has called on Mr Tony Blair to repudiate his former government’s commitment to the promotion of abortion as a human right.
John Smeaton, SPUC director, said: ‘Mr Blair’s Faith foundation, to be launched later this year, has the UN’s millennium development goals at the heart of its mission. However, those targets were interpreted by the Blair government as supporting a universal right to abortion. As someone who has recently been received into the Catholic Church, will he now come clean and dissociate himself from that objective?’