Faith a forgotten component of international policy?

19 January, 2011


Richard Burge, Chief Executive, writes:


The blog from Dominic Asquith, British Ambassador in Egypt, came at a critical moment for us in Wilton Park.  His thoughtful reflection on diversity and respect in faith coincided with discussion here about how we might address faith and its impact on international policy.  It is complicated, sensitive and risky.

In his piece, Dominic asks us to think about how diversity and differentiation in faith are good and part of being human, but the danger comes when differentiation brings with it distinctions in the value we place on one individual or group compared to another.  In many ways it is the classic dilemma of international relations.  It is an atmosphere that we try to resolve when people gather here.  We ask for difference and diversity to be fully, openly, and honestly expressed.  Wilton Park is where you come to influence others, but also arrive with a willingness to be influenced in return.  Our big challenge, I feel, will be creating an international opportunity for the religious and the secular to talk constructively to each other; at all levels from the governmental to institutional to individual.

So what does this mean for our emerging programme?  Should we take a lead from Dominics persuasive thinking?  Should our programme focus on religious freedom and liberty?  How do we make sure that this is not simply a debate between the Abrahamic faiths and secularism?  Is this an opportunity to reach out in a truly global manner?  In 2012, it will be the celebration of the 150th anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore, the Bengali poet, novelist, musician, painter and playwright. He was Asias first Nobel laureate and a man of myriad gifts. Tagore sought to be a bridge-builder between East and West. He once said, I refuse to think that the twin spirits of the East and the West, the Mary and Martha, can never meet to make perfect the realisation of truth.  Now there is a powerful ambition.

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