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Post-Iraq Views
of the New Year,
Part III

Part I
Part II
Part IV

Natalia J. Garland

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Tony Blair, who as British Prime Minister was one of America's strongest allies in the war on terror, has recently served as a visiting professor at Yale University. In his continuing desire to rid the world of terrorism and to preserve civilization, he talked about the importance of religious values in a globalized society. He said there is a tendency for religions to be a "divisive force" when based on identity and culture, but there is a potential for religions to unite people when based on common values of "compassion and justice." While teaching at Yale, Blair says he learned ten lessons from his work on this theme. He lists these lessons in his article, "An Alliance of Values." I have added numbers to his list of ten lessons for easier reference.



There are 10 lessons
I've learned from this undertaking:

  1. Religious faith matters. Whether one likes it or not, billions of people are motivated by religious faith.
  2. Faith is not in decline. It may be in decline in some places, but not worldwide. In some parts of the world, it is growing.
  3. Religious faith can operate positively in support, for example, of the U.N. Millennium Development Goals to reduce poverty and advance development. Wonderful work has been done on this by churches, mosques and Hindu and Jewish interfaith organizations. Or, religion can operate negatively, through fundamentalism or extremism.
  4. Globalization is forging multi-faith societies. The London my little boy is growing up in is completely different than the London he would have grown up in 30 years ago. The same is true across Europe and the United States as well.
  5. To work effectively, globalization needs values like trust, confidence, openness and justice.
  6. Faith is not the only means, but is an important means, of providing those values if faith is itself open and not closed; if it is based on compassion and help for others and not on the basis of exclusionary identity.
  7. For globalization to flourish, we need social capital--trust in one another, so we can have confidence in the future. Spiritual capital, so to speak, is an important part of social capital.
  8. In an era, however, of globalization and multi-faith societies, creating such spiritual capital requires not only tolerance of, but respect for, people of other faiths.
  9. The key to respect is understanding, and hence the need to learn and to educate ourselves about each other's faith and traditions.
  10. Organized religion should be supporting this process, and allowing through it the evolution of faith so that faith can be a positive, constructive and progressive force.

  11. [End of quote.]


For the purpose of further arranging an anti-terror lexicon for our post-Iraq world, I will summarize Blair's definitions from his ten lessons as well as from the remainder of his article. Generally, I will use direct quotations but I will condense his paragraphs.



  • ALLIANCE OF VALUES = the common good, values held in common across nations and across faiths, equal dignity and equal worth of every individual before God.
  • TRUE FAITH = reconciliation, compassion, justice, peaceful co-existence, global prosperity, a constructive and progressive force.
  • FALSE FAITH (my term) = division, conflict, hatred, sectarianism, exclusionary identity, a dangerous world.
  • MULTI-FAITH SOCIETIES = a result of globalization.
  • GLOBALIZATION = a result of trade, travel, telecommunication, migration.
  • EFFECTIVE GLOBALIZATION = needs these values: trust, confidence, openness, justice; stability flows from these values.
  • SOCIAL CAPITAL = trust in one another, responsible behavior.
  • TRUST = being able to rely on the other person's word, a long-term perspective instead of short-term profit maximization.
  • SPIRITUAL CAPITAL = tolerance, and beyond tolerance: respect for other faiths (a part of social capital).
  • KEY TO RESPECT = understanding via education (a process).
  • ORGANIZED RELIGION = should support the process of understanding via education.
  • INTERFAITH ORGANIZATIONS = religions working together to achieve goals such as reducing poverty; the opposite of religious fundamentalism or extremism.
  • ECONOMIC POLICY, FOREIGN POLICY, and PEACEFUL CO-EXISTENCE = cannot take root unless we have strong alliances through common values.
  • TERRORISM = inspired by hatred, exclusion, division.


Blair's ideas are remarkable for two main reasons. First, he gives credence to the importance of religion while some Americans are focused on removing reference to God from government, schools, the workplace and even shopping malls. Second, he defines true faith in ways that could promote the fulfillment other worldwide needs: international relationships, business, education, and humanitarian projects.

However, some of Blair's ideas, three in particular, will require more study and elaboration. (A) His definition of religion does not include theological, moral, or cultural differences which might affect the common good (e.g., the custom of marrying underaged girls, the practice of honor killings, the possibility of conversion to a different religion, the concept of nation-building, etc.). The omission of theology is probably meant to enable and emphasize the theme of common values. Nevertheless, in the practical application of common values, it would soon become evident that some people regard certain policies and practices as unacceptable or harmful.

While omitting the details of doctrinal differences, Blair brings attention to the role of education. (B) He relies heavily on educational processes to bring about religious tolerance, understanding, and respect. However, regarding school systems, America's educational methods are already highly multicultural: an approach that seems to promote respect for all religions except Christianity. Although it might be assumed that Americans need to acquire an understanding of both extremist and moderate forms of Islam, it is just as likely (perhaps more likely) that Americans need to stop bashing and silencing Christians.

Although Blair does not include a definition of false religion, he seems to define terrorist groups in terms of religious sectarianism which, in turn, is complicated by a lack of education in foreign policy formation. (C) Blair states that terrorism is inspired by hatred, exclusion, and division. It might be more accurate to state that exclusion and division contribute to terrorism, and that fanatic ideology, psychopathology, and/or evil are its essential causes. However, a liberal-arts education for boys and girls in politically or religiously isolated areas would break down the barriers of exclusion and division. Children could learn about the outside world and also receive positive, faith-based instruction.

It might be more difficult to educate adults involved in foreign policy. Most non-Muslims do not have knowledge of the history, politics, and religion of Islamic countries or populations. The acquisition of such knowledge could require years of study: including a thorough knowledge of the Koran (which would necessitate learning Arabic) and the various branches of Islam. Moreover, there would have to be a deep understanding of and sensitivity to the general dislike of Western culture felt by many Muslims, including Muslims who live cooperatively in America and Europe.

Can we develop a definition of false faith from Blair's work? It would seem that false faith is any belief system that promotes division, conflict, hatred, sectarianism, and exclusionary identity. Such qualities obstruct communication, relationships, education, and also make the world unsafe. We could conclude, therefore, that terrorist-based ideology and activity have no normalcy or genuine spirituality. Killing innocent civilians in the name of God is not an act of true faith and cannot be justified. True faith is based on values of reconciliation, compassion, and justice. True faith is a constructive and progressive force, and it promotes peaceful co-existence and global prosperity.

Blair includes the values of democracy and freedom in his alliance, and he includes all true faiths despite any theological differences. His purpose seems to be to move beyond specific religions or governments, and to put together values which reasonable people will not deny: such as compassion and justice. He makes a global sweep in an effort to unite people in common survival and supportive relationships: people whose different religions and governments and whose lives are threatened by terrorism.

Perhaps Blair's alliance of values will motivate Americans who view terrorism in naive, sentimental, or delusional ways to expand their capacity to face reality and solve problems. Although Blair does not rule out military responses, he offers a non-military lexicon and a new beginning for policies and practices in our post-Iraq world. As for people with strong doctrinal positions, it is noteworthy that Blair does not say that all religions are equal or that we all worship the same God. Blair says, with accuracy and diplomacy, that all people deserve equal dignity before God and with regard to their human rights on this earth.

[NOTE: This essay is a personal interpretation and arrangement of Blair's work. It is possible, therefore, that some or all of the essay content does not reflect Blair's intended meaning of his ideas.] (Written 01/19/09: bibliography available.)

Until we meet again..............stay sane.

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Copyright 2009 Natalia J. Garland