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A Common Word Between Us and You

Remarks by the Right Honorable Tony Blair

Georgetown University
October 7, 2009

As prepared for delivery.

We, Christians and Muslims, represent around half of the world’s population.  In an era of globalization, 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 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 Qu’ran.  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.  We see how faith shapes our lives and the lives of others.  We watch, in sadness, as it is abused to do wrong.  We passionately want it used to do good.  We believe in the power of faith to change lives for the better.

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 materials prosperity alters the way we live.  We face an aggressive secular attack from without.  We face the threat of extremism from within.

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.  But both offer no hope for faith in the twenty-first century.

The best hope for faith in the twenty-first century is that we confront all of this together.  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.

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.

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.  We say it is Love that motivates us.  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 and Palestine matters so much is: that it is a test, not just of conflict resolution but of even-handedness and respect.  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 of peoples.

Third, we must act.  Our relationships 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.  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 and 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 no made poorer by faith, but immeasurably enriched.

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