§ The Archbishop of Canterbury rose to call attention to the role of religions in the promotion of international order and the avoidance of international disorder; and to move for Papers.
§ The most reverend Primate said: My Lords, I am most grateful for the opportunity to initiate this debate which I believe is timely, notwithstanding the fact that it is being held on a Friday. I thank the House and the business managers for making the debate possible.
§ I believe it is timely, not simply because of the many challenges to international peace and stability that continue to confront us these days, but also because we are just 10 weeks away from the new millennium, from the 2.000th anniversary of the coming of the one described by the prophet Isaiah and seen by Christians as the Prince of Peace.
§ I want to assure your Lordships at the outset that in this debate I am not seeking to restrict the meaning of religions to Christianity alone. Far from it. Indeed, it is one of the joys of your Lordships' House that there are men and women for all seasons, and for a whole range of denominations and faiths. So I look forward to hearing contributions from a variety of perspectives today.
§ I suppose the essence of the debate could be distilled into two questions. Do religions cause conflict? Can religions forestall conflict? My basic response to the first question is that in today's world their impact is overrated and to the second that their potential is under-exploited. Indeed, my main purpose today is to outline the kind of contribution that I believe religious communities and leaders can make to the quest for a more just and peaceful world.
However, before I do that, let me refer to some of the more negative interpretations of the role of religions in this quest. It has become fashionable in the post-Cold War era to claim that clashes of civilisation are replacing clashes of ideology, that the world's fault lines, on the eve of the millennium, are in a broad sense cultural. It is also claimed in the context that religion is a kind of diabolical yeast, fermenting and fomenting strife and discord. Far from speaking up, as I do today, the argument implies that religious leaders could serve the world best by piping down. It is a warning with quite a history. I think back to the admonition of the king in Shakespeare's Henry V to what is portrayed as a rather gung-ho Archbishop of Canterbury then. The king says:
For God doth know how many, now in health,
Shall drop their blood in approbation
Of what your reverence shall incite us to.
Therefore take heed how you impawn our person …
How you awake our sleeping sword of war".
§ I trust today that I shall deserve no such yellow card, and that neither will I awaken any sleeping swords of war.
§ It is certainly the case that matters of faith and religious allegiance can have a substantial bearing on the formation and preservation of a sense of communal identity. Religion, if you like, can be a potent binding agent for societies and cultures, part of their fundamental sense of self. In situations where conflicts arise between communities so defined, politicians and others will often use religion as a way of justifying and even sharpening the conflict. It becomes a way of saying, "This is what makes you against us rather than for us, different from us rather than like us". One does not have to stray very far for examples of this kind of thing. Ireland and Kosovo spring readily to mind.
§ But none of this means that religions are necessarily the root cause of the conflict or its essential constituent. Recent experience indicates that shared religious affiliation has proved no barrier to patterns of violent revenge and reprisal. I shall never forget visiting Rwanda soon after the genocide. I heard inspiring stories of Christian Hutus and Christian Tutsis prepared to be martyred together. But, sadly, I heard more stories of Christians killing Christians, despite the fact that they had known one another for years; nor are Christians alone in that. More recently in Kosovo we have learnt of cases of Albanian Muslims from Kosovo exacting revenge on fellow Muslims identified as Serbian.
§ Of course, I do not seek to deny that religion, or what many of us would regard as the abuse or misuse of religion, in such circumstances can be a complicating and negative factor. Put simply, invoking religious alignments and affiliations in the dubious service of a difficult political problem can make it even more intractable.
§ But even allowing for that, those who would dwell on the alleged destructive power of religions in world affairs during the century now drawing to a close might want to reflect upon the mass slaughter of civilians, in concentration camps and elsewhere, carried out by the messianic but secular regimes presided over by Stalin, Hitler and Pol Pot. These, it can be argued, are examples where the absence of true religion, and the abandonment of basic moral values anchored in it, helped to make genocide both possible and, shamefully, acceptable.
§ But if, as I believe, there has been a tendency to over-estimate the impact of religions in situations of conflict, there have also been occasions when their presence as a factor has been virtually ignored or dismissed. This has resulted in a corresponding failure of analysis and understanding, and even of the potential, to exert a positive influence. The revolution that overthrew the Shah of Iran is a well documented example. The loud claims of the participants—that it 659 was a faith-based movement drawing much of its energy from a reading of Islam in opposition to the influence of the West—seem to have been woefully ignored. The religious dimension was all but discounted in favour of a range of other factors, economic, political and social. A mistaken diagnosis is unlikely to yield the best prescription.
§ The reasons for this kind of diplomatic myopia are many and varied, and at least some can be traced back to Enlightenment views about so-called scientific methods of analysing human behaviour and interaction from which religious considerations were firmly exiled. This tendency has clearly influenced the world of professional diplomacy where there has been a tradition of keeping religion as far away from the diplomatic machinery as possible, which one expert has called a learned repugnance to contend intellectually with all that is religion. I believe that to be a shame and a loss for reasons that I hope will become obvious as I turn to the positive contribution and considerable potential of religions for international peace and stability.
§ The benign influence of religion in this context can take many different forms. At the most general level, faith communities help to shape societies and cultures through the core values that they proclaim. An ethical framework that includes tolerance and forbearance, repentance and forgiveness is shared and sustained by many different faith communities. The very fact of common ownership of such values can act as a counterweight to narrow and self-serving objectives and policies. My own appreciation of the values that religious communities share owes much to the writings of Professor Hans Kung. Important work is being done in this field by organisations such as the World Conference on Religion and Peace, which I shall have the honour to address in Jordan next month.
§ Understanding abroad can profitably be fed by experience at home. In this country we have seen remarkable examples of inter-faith co-operation since the last war. The Council for Christians and Jews has proved to be a significant counterweight to anti-Semitism. More recently, the Inter-Faith Network has brought together members of no fewer than nine different world faith communities.
At the same time, a commitment to seeking and sharing common ground does not mean compromising or disowning what is distinctive and special. The recent words of the Iranian President, Ayatollah Mohammed Khatami, come to mind:
The aim is not to eliminate differences between human beings, but to preserve and strengthen them as a source of joy and strength. That is the work ethic we need; a framework of shared values—a sense of our common humanity—within which different traditions can co-exist".
§ Religions and faith communities do not exert influence merely through the resonance of an ethical framework. We trust that at their best they also seek to provide examples and agents of such values. I think, for example, of the immense humanitarian work of organisations such as Christian Aid, Cafod, Muslim Aid, UKJ Aid and similar bodies in Hindu and Sikh 660 communities around the world. This is work that, in the aftermath of a conflict for example, can be a vital part of helping to secure peace and thus prevent a relapse into violence. In addition, such organisations seek not only to alleviate some of the conditions that can exacerbate conflict but also, at their best, they attempt to embody the values that they proclaim. They seek to be (to use current jargon) models of good practice.
§ I believe that there is also a role for faith communities not only as ambassadors of positive values and good practice but, on occasions, as something approaching diplomats themselves, as mediators, go-betweens and conciliators. That may especially be the case when it comes to conflicts within rather than between states; in other words, precisely the kinds of conflicts that have so scarred the last part of this century and could well disfigure the next if we do not do something about it. It is that dangerous prospect which lends special relevance and urgency to such a debate.
§ As I suggested earlier, there has been a marked reluctance in the past within international diplomatic and government circles to contemplate or permit this kind of entanglement. All the same, it is not difficult to point to instances in which the active involvement of religious leaders and communities has been extremely effective, if not downright indispensable. Let us take, for example, Mozambique where the distinguished Roman Catholic lay community of San Egidio in Rome and the Anglican Bishop Dinis Sengulane have played major roles.
§ Other examples come to mind. One thinks of the likes of Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Desmond Tutu. Those are all remarkable figures with a charismatic power, personality and vision which would have stood them undoubtedly in good stead in many different circumstances. But the influence they wielded was not political power in the conventional sense. Indeed, they represented the dispossessed and powerless. I believe that that is significant in itself. In a sense, they had influence because they lacked power. They could not be viewed or dismissed as merely representing one or other of the usual political suspects or vested interests at the negotiating table.
§ The same holds true, I believe, for the potential impact on conciliation and mediation efforts of other religious communities and leaders. They owe allegiance to and derive their authority from a moral and spiritual constituency beyond the scope and therefore at times, we trust, beyond the suspicions and limitations of conventional politics. They can play precisely because they are not players. They are not part of the game.
§ In sum, faith communities and religious leaders have distinct and distinctive qualities in relation to the realm of conflict, mediation and conciliation which makes it gratifying that there seems today to be a growing awareness of that potential, based upon some significant experience.
§ I give another example. We are about to mark the 10th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. A decade ago, the evangelical churches in East Germany 661 were playing a significant role in that momentous process of change and unification. But that is not an isolated example. The Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines helped to shape the emergence of that nation from the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos. Today we admire the courage, vision and remarkable spiritual leadership of Bishop Carlos Belo in East Timor.
§ Of course, there are limits to the scope of the possible religious involvement. It should be regarded as a useful supplement to the more traditional diplomatic activity, not as a substitute for it. But I am convinced that the potential is there. We should be looking to forge closer links between faith groups and bodies like the United Nations. Ties already exist. But if we in the faith communities are serious about the potential we have, those links need to be activated and the expertise more widely deployed. I know that the Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, is developing ideas along these lines. Individual governments, including our own, should be encouraged to draw on such expertise. Indeed, it might become an integral part of the training of diplomats
§ In the United States, the American expert, Douglas Johnston, has done ground-breaking work on religions and diplomacy. His efforts are now being carried forward in a number of initiatives blending theory and practice. Closer to home, in the City of London we watch with admiration the project led by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London to build a centre for peace and reconciliation from the rubble to which St Ethelburga's Church was reduced by a terrorist bomb.
§ In a recent lecture at Lambeth Palace, the Dalai Lama pointed out that true peace means more than the absence of war: to be real and substantial it requires a sense of security; and that does not miraculously appear after the guns fall silent and the bombs stop falling, it has to be earned and fostered with care and commitment.
§ That is surely one of the lessons of the Balkans. I have already referred to the magnificent humanitarian work of organisations with religious affiliations. These inter-faith partnerships are vital to the prospects for reconstruction and what will prove the even more daunting challenge of reconciliation. Reconciliation is intimately related to ideas of repentance and forgiveness. True forgiveness, we know, does not come easily; but without it we may do no more than obtain a period of quiescence, one born partly of exhaustion and trauma. That must be the fear in the Balkans: that the recent cycle of fear and hatred will not be broken; merely the wheel will turn more slowly for a time. The parties may bury the hatchet, if you will, but do so in the certain knowledge of how to dig it up again in double-quick time. We in the faith communities must seek out ways of developing the true spirit of reconciliation. We must do so by example and practical engagement, not simply by exhortation.
§ As I remarked at the outset, the millennium is almost upon us. The anniversary for us as Christians is the anniversary of the coming of the Prince of Peace. 662 "Blessed are the peacemakers", He said, "for they shall be known as the children of God". Whatever our beliefs, or none, whatever our spiritual allegiance, surely in this House we can all aspire to be in that sense children of God. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.
§ 11.25 a.m.
§ Lord Faulkner of Worcester
My Lords, I start by saying what a privilege it is to follow the most reverend Primate. I thank him for initiating this important debate today, and for giving me the opportunity to address your Lordships for the first time. I must also thank numerous Members of your Lordships' House—in all parts of it—who have been so welcoming in the short time that I have been a Member here. And I am deeply grateful to the officers and staff who have made me feel so much at home
. I hope that I may be able to contribute to your Lordships' deliberations on a variety of subjects in future. I have particular interests in transport policy, financial services, and culture and sport. As vice-chairman of the Government's Football Task Force, I share a love of football with the most reverend Primate, although he supports a rather grander London team than I do
. For the 10 years between 1970 and 1979 I tried on four occasions to get elected to another place. This was an ambition I finally abandoned some time after the 1979 election. It was not much fun being a Member of the Labour Party in the early 1980s.I was often reminded then of the comment of the football manager, Tommy Docherty, who used to say, "When one door closes, another slams in your face
". Life in the Labour Party today is rather different, although there is one change which I regret. The increasing preoccupation with domestic political issues tends to push wider international concerns down the agenda. Today's debate is an opportunity to redress that
. In preparing my speech today, I read the text of the sermon given in Harare by the most reverend Primate during the World Council of Churches last December. I am not qualified, nor would I presume, to comment on the theology it contained but I was much struck by his description of how Africa was bleeding—"Bleeding", he said,from too many mouths to feed, too many calamities to cope with, too much debt to repay, too many natural disasters to confront".I am sure your Lordships support the efforts successive governments have made to provide greater debt relief to countries which pursue sensible economic policies, and invest the proceeds in anti-poverty programmes.
The Heavily Indebted Poor Countries initiative agreed in 1996 was a brave attempt but it did not achieve enough. The G8 Summit in Cologne in June agreed on proposals which will provide much more significant debt relief. Two-thirds of the poorest countries' official debts will be cancelled through a combination of reliefs worth 100 billion dollars, and this help should get through to them in three years rather than six
663. We are a long way from the ideal world which the Greek philosopher Plato envisaged. He argued that social stability depended on the wealthiest in society enjoying no more than five times the wealth of the poorest.
We hear much about how globalisation can provide the cure for the world's inequalities, and it is true that the proportion of the world's population living in income poverty has declined over the past decade. But global growth rates are not currently high enough to sustain that reduction. It would be a tragedy if globalisation were simply to become another lost opportunity
. Debt relief for poorer countries is an excellent example of where the Churches and the politicians can work together, particularly in convincing a sceptical and cynical public in the richer countries that this is the right thing to do.
I am conscious that there is also much cynicism about the role of religion in the promotion of international order. Indeed, when I mentioned to friends that I intended to speak in this debate, I was advised to concentrate on the wars that religion has started, rather than the conflicts it has resolved.
I shall not do that. Instead, in the last part of my speech, I commend to your Lordships the initiatives to achieve reconciliation being taken by the religious leaders of a state which has suffered massively from war, hatred and adversity. That country is Bosnia-Herzegovina. The international community has spent more than three years on physical reconstruction following the signing of the Dayton Accord in 1995. International peacekeepers have also tried to persuade displaced persons to return home.
But, while you can rebuild roads and railways, houses and factories, you cannot reconstruct a community if high levels of fear, hostility and insecurity remain in the hearts of the people. And you need to do more than offer elections if you wish to rebuild a country's social fabric. However, the religious institutions have set a lead for the social reconstruction of Bosnia-Herzegovina. They have formed the World Conference on Religion and Peace, to which the most reverend Primate referred. This has brought together the Islamic community, the Serbian Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church and the Jewish community; all the main religious groups in the country. They have unique standing as the most viable, sustainable and legitimate institutions in the country. They have deeply held and widely shared common values. They have a presence in every local community, and they can draw on their international connections as representatives of credible and respected organisations
. The World Conference on Religion and Peace has brought together scholars, students and religious leaders who had not met together since before the war. They started in June 1997 by issuing a joint statement 664 of Shared Moral Commitment. In that they signed up to the implementation of the Dayton Accord. It contained three basic ingredients. First, a statement of,respect for the fundamental human rights of all persons";secondly, support for the "free right of return" for those whom the war had displaced from their homes; and, thirdly, a recognition that,violations of basic rights are not only against man-made laws, but also break God's law".Now they are working for the return of displaced persons by getting priests and imams to lead the way in minority areas, particularly outside Sarajevo, to give confidence to the members of those minority communities that it is safe for them to go back home. Next, they will concentrate on working with religious scholars to develop their role as advocates for human rights, particularly the freedom of religion. And they are targeting young people, so that the next generation of civic and religious leaders can benefit from working with and understanding their colleagues from other religious communities, and put into history the hatreds of the past
. This is positive evidence of how religion can play a part in the promotion of international order. I am delighted to hear that the most reverend Primate will soon attend and address the conference. I do not accept that human rights in other countries are no concern of ours, and from what I understand of the approach adopted by the main religions of the world, that is not their position either. We need to defend the democratic rights of peoples everywhere, not just in Britain or in Europe. I hope that throughout this Parliament and in future, our Government will continue to receive the endorsement of Amnesty International as one that is making,a genuine and active commitment to human rights".
§ 11.35 a.m.
§ Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne
My Lords, it is a great honour to follow a maiden speaker at any time. But having listened to the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner of Worcester, it is a particular pleasure to have the opportunity of thanking him on behalf of all noble Lords for his magnificent speech.
He is going to be a lively and challenging Member of this House. Yet he is a man of great seriousness. He talked about poverty, about disasters and about global problems. He brought our hearts and minds to bear upon those in deepest need. But looking at his background, we should not be surprised at that. He has a background of helping others in the aftermath of one of Britain's worst national tragedies. I refer to his work following the Hillsborough disaster when he was deputy chairman of the Football Trust, rebuilding the nation's confidence following that terrible tragedy. He also brings wisdom and understanding on our most recent national tragedy, the Paddington railway disaster. He has been an adviser to the British Railways Board and has done much work in that field during the past 20 years. I am sure that I speak on behalf of all noble Lords when I say how much we welcome the noble Lord. We respect him for his 665 knowledge and greatly look forward to his sharing it with us particularly just now on railway safety. He has all our support in that regard
§ Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne
My Lords, I thank the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury for giving us this opportunity for thinking about religion and its role in peace, harmony or strife internationally. I hope that he will forgive me if I tell your Lordships that when I last entered this House on a matter of national ethics, it was during the debate on equality. I entered with two noble Lords who were somewhat on the elderly side. I happened to see one looking with immense pleasure at the burgeoning Benches of Bishops that evening. He turned with satisfaction to the other and said, "Good. Bishops. If it's Bishops it must be sex!". Today, I am glad to note that it is Bishops and religion.
I come from the European Parliament where we constantly spend our time discussing personal, national and international political morality. Religion is at the heart of that; religion not just as the leader and inspiration for those who follow the different faiths, but also as global watcher and good governor of the world generally. Like many other noble Lords, I recently visited Kosovo. I accompanied the new President of the European Parliament to discuss with the Serbs, the Kosovars, the people of different faiths, how they could harmonise their behaviour. I have just returned from a large and challenging debate with the Afro-Caribbean Pacific nations who meet at regular six-month intervals with the European Parliament to discuss matters of good governance. We were debating institutional corruption this week
. However, from the European perspective, more and more we are discussing the future shape of Europe. We see a Europe and a world which, with the ending of the Cold War, had great faith in the emergence of a new international order. But what has happened? Instead of order, we have been faced with new international disorder
. In this new world the sovereignty of nation states is at best proving to be an increasingly irrelevant concept and at worst leads to national collapse into tribal strife. Our world is now dominated by transnational flows. What do I mean by that? I mean flows—money, knowledge and drugs, for example—which are beyond the capacity of individual governments to dominate and control. Internet, e-commerce, which is still at the early stage, will soon become the world's largest creator of wealth and added value to people's lives. Yet how difficult it is to reward inventors, through the internet or e-commerce. The old values are being swept away. New rules have to be brought in to compensate those who create new products
. Multinational companies have a philosophy whereby the location of the headquarters is of increasing irrelevance. High added value departments, such as research and development, may be located in different corners of the globe. That has some beneficial 666 results. For example, in India the creation of software now almost outweighs India's former front-running product: gem production and sales globally
. Transnational flows, I suggest, are therefore neither good nor evil, but they are rewriting our world's rules and customs with increasing rapidity. But religion has always had a transnational flow. Religion has always ignored borders. It has called upon another international language, faith in God, and has brought a different spiritual set of international values to humanity. It uses languages common only to those who follow that religion. For Christianity, it was Latin. In Islam, Arabic. Those languages and values unite people of different countries, different backgrounds and different economic backgrounds as strongly, if not more strongly, than the new modern transnational economic flows
. I suggest that in this "new world disorder", where the old order of nation states is crumbling, religions should be a key stability factor precisely because, if properly addressed, they can be the only transnational flow deliberately oriented towards the good of the people. The three Abrahaminic faiths are surely dedicated to that goal
. The European Union is a phoenix risen from the ashes of the bitter religious conflicts of this century. It is hallmarked by commitment to tolerance. It is wedded to freedom of worship. Yet even in Europe today I find that Islam is perceived as a religion of war and one which embraces apostasy. There are rumours among non-Muslims that even female genital mutilation is ordered by the Koran, and that freedom of speech is prohibited by the Koran
. I am no Muslim, but I have been working with hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Muslims since the ending of the Gulf War. As a non Muslim, perhaps I may be permitted to comment from the holy Koran, because I may be able to correct those views. In our debate some months ago, the noble Lord, Lord Ahmed, nailed the lie that the Koran orders female circumcision. It does not. However, many people believe that peace and security are undermined deliberately by Islam. Yet the Koran tells usFight in the cause of God those who fight, you. But do not transgress limits for God loves not transgressors. A little later on, it says,And fight them until there is no more persecution, and the religion becomes God's, but if they cease, let there be no hostility except to those who practise oppression".Another quotation which I love is,Let there be no compulsion in Religion. Truth stands out clear from Error".I cannot see in those lines from the Koran a religion determined to fight others and to force people to agree. Indeed, there is a particularly beautiful quotation on apostasy which runs,Therefore do give admonition, for you are one to admonish. You are not one to compel over them".I suggest therefore that the Holy Koran does not demand either apostasy or war, and indeed, that these are misunderstandings. If' one refers back to the Muslim state of Medina, it was a state of tolerance 667 within which Muslims and non-Muslims were living in harmony and peace. I suggest that we start to look at Islam differently and that we understand that what we can find in history is that Muslims' relations with others are based mainly on recognising difference and admitting the rights of others.
The most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury has already quoted the President of Iran. Iran is an Islamic state. I shall be in Iran next week making a speech at a conference being run by President Khatami's wife, the First Lady of Iran. Non-Muslims often believe Islam denies freedom of thought. Yet President Khatami has said recently:Freedom is the essence of growth and development, but the path to freedom is risky and rough. I am of the view that thought cannot be contained and that if we live in a free atmosphere, opinions shall balance each other and logic shall prevail. Without freedom, the thought sparkling in the minds of thinkers shall be channelled into hidden communities and may emerge one day in the form of bitter and violent reaction.In my opinion we must not search for a uniform model of freedom for all people. We must endeavour to create a desirable milieu in which people can more easily tolerate one another and come up with an agreed definition of freedom".Is that not the same freedom of thought and speech as Europe honours? I think so. Today, do we want the Europe of Charlemagne, with the gates of Vienna at all times in the forefront of our minds? Such religious discrimination leads to the crematoria of Auschwitz. Or do we want to follow the thoughts of the people of Persepolis, who predate all three Abrahaminic faiths, which declare,Let my eyes only see good things. Let my ears only hear wonderful things. Let my hands only help others and let my heart be full of love"?In the modern world, our religions can prevent the fragmentation of societies and the resumption of ancient hostilities. These long predate our civilisations and religious cultures and harm irrevocably any pretence we may have of honouring God.
§ 11.46 a.m.
§ Lord Gretton
My Lords, I should like to take this opportunity to ask for your indulgence at this time
. This is a huge honour for me, as I have reason to believe that I am the only Gretton to stand before you in this manner since the first Lord Gretton was elevated to your Lordships' House back in 1944 for his long service as a Conservative Member of Parliament for the Burton division of Staffordshire.He was a distinctive and, as time went on, a somewhat isolated figure, whose speeches, delivered without any touch of emotion, won respect for their sincerity of thought. The Times wrote in June 1947. On 19th October 1922 he led the Conservatives out of the coalition government and became chairman of the 1922 Back-Bench Committee. His other main interest was the brewing industry, with which our family had a major connection: the firm was then called Bass, Ratcliffe and Gretton. It is of that connection with Bass that I feel I am able to speak in this debate today, for it was once said of beer, by Spy, 668The national beverage, Beer, has always played a most important part in the working of our moral, social, and political systems, and, in spite of the gestures and shrieks of permissive prohibitory liquorists, will assuredly continue to do so as long as we remain a nation".To be able to start debating this subject one needs first to define what is meant by "international order". "Order" is widely recognised as the "constitution or nature of the world, or society", and I endorse that definition. Personally, I believe that that means the tangible and intangible rules and morals which govern our lives. Therefore, I believe that international order can be divided up into three areas: political, social and environmental. It is within those three areas that we must see whether religion can help.
To start with the political environment, we only have to look at the Middle East as a study of whether religion can promote international order within politics. The Middle East is probably the one area in the world that most people would think of when the issue of religion in politics arises. That is due mainly to the long-running struggle between the Jews and mostly Muslim Arabs, especially since the formation of the state of Israel. The main issue dividing the two parties is the question of who is permanently in control of Palestine, with its holy areas, with religion being used as a main symbol of the division between the two peoples. That is exemplified by the rise of religious radicals posing serious challenges to modernising governments. Religion is, of course, not the only factor causing the struggle; for example, history and culture are factors, but religion is a main component.
According to the book Religion in Politics by Jeff Haynes, in this area of the world:the continued electoral importance of religious parties—and the rise of Jewish fundamentalist movements—collectively ensured that they retain an important political position. However, the assassination of Prime Minister Rabin in late 1995 and the unprecedented electoral success of the religious parties in the following election may mean that there will be an even sharper polarization between secular and religious Jews in the future. If that happens, it bodes ill for the country's political health".Admittedly, that is the opinion of only one person but I believe it illustrates the point very well of the effect of religion on politics and my belief that religion finds it very hard to promote international order within politics when properly exercised.
To question whether religion can promote international order socially, one has only to look at the long-running concerns of Northern Ireland. In 1968 long-standing sectarian animosity between the Catholic and Protestant communities degenerated into violent conflict, sparked by the campaign for Catholic civil rights.
At the heart of the problem is a conflict of national identity. It consists not only of different national identities but different kinds of national identity, rooted in historical evolution. A factor which will affect Northern Ireland in the future is the growth of the Catholic population, from one-third of the population in the 1960s to around 42 per cent at present. That growth is likely to continue, albeit slowly. But while it intensifies the pressure to address minority grievances, it might also intensify unionist 669 anxieties, which could be a reason for the increase in traditional marches. Those increased by 507 between 1985 and 1996, according to the North Report, 1997. I do not profess to be an expert in those matters but I believe that when minorities live among a community with differing beliefs and religions, time and time again disorder will happen due to fear and anxiety of the majority. Education can help but I believe religion will find it hard to help, especially in the case of Northern Ireland as it is one of the primary reasons for social disorder.
Religion in the environmental arena is finding it just as hard to promote international order as it is in the political and social arenas. In the modern western world especially, the commandment in the book of Genesis that man should "multiply and dominate the earth" has been exploited. As a result, man does anything he wishes to dominate the earth.
Again, I do not profess to be an expert in these matters but, for example, looking at the religion of Christianity, I believe it can help by getting back to its roots and getting away from the above attitude. The religion of Christianity developed from the rural environment, which is illustrated in the very first book of the Bible—Genesis. Nowadays, however, I feel that the Christian religion is becoming more and more urbanised. I do not say that the Church cannot do good within the urban environment because I know that it can, from first-hand experience of Shrewsbury House in Liverpool. However, if the Church wants to help to promote order within the environment, I believe it needs to start to encourage people to look at where ultimately they come from, according to people's beliefs and what they depend on. One should get back to the land and not be too scientific; some mysteries should be left alone. I believe that the urban ideals of the modern world, going against rural ideals, can promote international disorder within the environment.
It is all too easy to say that at the moment religion does not promote international order without quickly summing up how I believe that it can
. The first Lord Gretton found himself trusted to be a Member of your Lordships' House because he proved himself in small things: his service to others and a sense of social responsibility to a local place. His place in national and international order came through that. I believe that the religions of the world are grasping at international issues far too often and have forgotten that they need to prove themselves at a local level. Religion is in the world, not of it. It is when religion tries to be of it that disorder occurs. St Paul did his duty within local communities—not on a national scale—emphasising family values and local issues. That is how I believe that religion can start to promote international order and the avoidance of international disorder
. Finally, I take the opportunity to thank your Lordships for the kindness shown to me both inside and outside your Lordships' Chamber. It is a great honour to have the opportunity to participate in this debate and to be a Member of your Lordships' House. I thank you for your time.
§ 11.55 a.m.
§ Lord Haskel
My Lords, it is my privilege to thank the noble Lord, Lord Gretton, and to congratulate him on a wonderful maiden speech. I do so on behalf of the whole House. It is refreshing to have a young point of view. That is something which we may miss in the transition period and in the reformed House. It is nice to have the views of young people, especially an analytical view. The noble Lord's views about the Middle East and Northern Ireland were most refreshing
. I cannot say much about the noble Lord because he is quite young, but I see that he attended the Royal College in Cirencester. Therefore, I assume that he is looking to a farming career. Farming is an industry in great difficulties at the moment, but I should say to the noble Lord that one has to differentiate between an industry which is in decline and one which is undergoing change. It may well be that farming is in a condition of great change which presents many opportunities to a young person entering that industry. I hope that we shall hear more from the noble Lord during the next few weeks. We look forward to hearing his views on the matters that we shall be debating
. When I saw the Motion of the most reverend Primate on the Order Paper, I must confess that I was a little surprised because it seems to me that peace and religion do not mix. Religion does cause conflict. However, I am grateful to the most reverend Primate for the opportunity to debate this issue.
The most reverend Primate reminded us that peace is a religious value. The call for peace appears in virtually every page of the Jewish prayer book, as it does in the prayer books of other religions. All prayer books speak of the peaceful obligations that we have beyond our own frontiers: to feed the hungry; to defend the weak; to shelter the homeless; and to help the sick. Yet that does not give us the international order for which we all yearn. Perhaps that is because religion speaks to those issues, but does not always address them in a modern way. It does not address them in a way which is suited to our secular age of human rights.
I do not want to dwell on the past. The millennium is a time to look to the future. So what is the issue of the 21st century which will challenge international order and disorder? I believe it is globalisation, and religion has much to contribute towards that because religion has been globalised for centuries.
The noble Baroness, Lady Nicholson, spoke about the Internet. The more interconnected world in which we now live as a result of globalisation presents religions with a wonderful opportunity. Globalisation has extended the world-wide discussion of moral and ethical issues in ways that we can hardly begin to comprehend.
However, to me, globalisation means much more than communicating information and ideas. It implies world-wide human values; similar challenges in economics, science and technology and minimum global social standards of healthcare, education and 671 social protection. It implies the rapid spread of ideas, benefits and information, and an equally rapid spread of problems and difficulties. Such difficulties are often caused by speculative flows of capital around the world, upsetting the delicate balance between states and markets.
Economic globalisation means that societies compare their progress in terms of their economy; that is, the free market capitalist economy. When the Soviet bloc collapsed, it was taken as a demonstration of the superiority of the free market economy, not as a sign of weakness due to the absence of religion.
As the source of this wealth is created by business, administrations world-wide tend to pay more heed to corporate lobbyists than to religious leaders. Sadly, there is little room for generous, humane and sensitive welfare policies and regulations which are the natural instincts of our Judaeo/Christian civilisation.
I was reminded of that a month ago on the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, the Day of Atonement. The portion of the Bible read on that day in many synagogues throughout the world deals with this very point. It is from Leviticus, chapter 19. It states:When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap the corners of your field, nor shall you glean the fallen ears of your crop. Likewise you shall not strip your vineyard bare, or gather the overlooked grapes; you shall leave them for the poor and for the stranger".It struck me that there is no place for this kind of inefficiency in our modern, globalised world. It is progress in science and technology that will help us to survive this global rat race. Yet new science is throwing up enormous ethical concerns. There are the deep ethical dilemmas of genetic engineering. Now, religion preaches the sanctity of life, yet these matters seem to have gone beyond that and deal with the nature of life itself. Religion seems to have little to contribute to that debate
. The debate has been captured by those interested in the ethics of science where there are no absolute rights and wrongs. It is no good lamenting the declining role of religion, harking back to the past when the religion-centred explanation of the world was all that there was. Religion will never again occupy such a place. To contribute to the discussion about human rights issues, it must do so on equal footing with other secular ways of looking at the world. It must win the argument and not see itself as occupying some privileged position.
My third area of globalisation relates to eliminating poverty; ensuring international minimum social standards in healthcare, education and protection. It was John Kennedy who warned us that if a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich. Is that why we have obligations beyond our frontiers; to save the rich? What about the shared needs, mutual responsibilities and linked destinies proclaimed by religions? Surely it is here that religion can play an inspirational role in globalisation
. My noble friend Lord Faulkner reminded us that poverty is a major issue. Almost a quarter of the world's population is trapped in poverty. Most of such 672 poverty is a consequence of economic and regulatory weakness and debt. How can we help those countries to achieve international minimum social and economic standards? As my noble friend Lord Faulkner also reminded us, that can be done by shoring up the weak regulatory institutions and relieving debt.
Poverty and economic collapse are often caused in poor countries by speculative flows of capital upsetting the delicate balance between states and markets. That is because the institutions regulating such flows in poor countries are weak or corrupt. Yet often in these countries the churches are strong and honest. In the modern world of globalisation, the churches must support those regulatory institutions as an important part of the fight against poverty. In many cases, they do. Indeed, the most reverend Primate reminded us of such cases in Asia and Africa.
Debt relief is part of the fight against poverty. I congratulate the churches on successfully campaigning for debt relief. It is both an economic and moral issue. It is an economic issue because the vast amount of inherited debt stands in the way of economic development in many countries. Debt relief is a moral issue because this burden from the past deprives the present of their chance in the future.
In addition, perhaps I may remind noble Lords that earlier this year my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced that for every £100 donated to a third-world charity in this year and next, the Government will add a further £30. He calls this and debt relief, "the economics of hope". The economics of hope responds to a yearning to humanise the market economy; a yearning for an ethical law and for relieving conflicts by replacing ethnic and religious violence with civic nationalism. It inspires the commitment to global corporate responsibility. As the Pope recently reminded us, there is a social mortgage on capital and private property. Globalisation gives us the opportunity to put that into practice world-wide. In that way, together with the politics of hope, religion and globalisation can contribute to the avoidance of international disorder. I hope that noble Lords will join me in supporting it
§ 12.6 p.m.
§ The Lord Bishop of Rochester
My Lords, I am glad that I have been called to speak sixth in this debate. It is important that there should be clear water between the most reverend Primate and another bishop. Nevertheless, I am deeply conscious of the privilege I have in addressing your Lordships today. The most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury has allowed in his speech the possibility of religion gone wrong becoming part of a heady cocktail of ethnicity and nationalism, also gone wrong. We have seen an example of that already in the Balkans and in many other parts of the world. Such a cocktail can be deadly in its effect, not only on international order but on regional stability and even internal peace within nation states.
At the same time he has rightly pointed out that healthy religious traditions are necessary for the reinforcing of a spiritual and moral vision which can 673 inform a framework of values needed by every society. He has shown also that religious commitment can be important in peacemaking and in relieving the distress and suffering caused by conflict.
It is true that religious beliefs and traditions have an important role to play both in the maintenance of harmony within nations and in the promotion of peace and justice in relations between nations. If religions are to play a role, however, there is a prior condition which has to be met; that is, the need for religious believers and religious communities to be free to practice and propagate their beliefs and their systems of values. It is a sad commentary indeed on the state of our world today that so many people are still denied this basic freedom in so many parts of the world.
But people who live in glass houses should not throw stones. What is the situation in this country regarding freedom of belief? Since the English Toleration Act of 1689 there has been a progressive extension of religious liberty for non-conformist Christians, Roman Catholics, Jews and also for secular humanists. Nevertheless, the only statutory provisions against religious discrimination as such relate either to Northern Ireland or, within the framework of the Race Relations Act 1965, to those religions which are ethnically based.
In the meanwhile, religious believers and communities may still experience discrimination in a variety of ways. There may be obstructions in the acquisition of buildings for worship, for example. Planning regulations and hostility in the community may prevent people from exercising their right to meet, to worship and to study with fellow believers. The saga of the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, attempts to build in Oxford is a case in point. A serious and forward-looking organisation has been unable, so far, to proceed with this project because of a raft of religious, aesthetic and planning objections to an architecturally well-conceived building. As a bishop in Pakistan I was used to such objections regarding the building of churches. Naturally, therefore, I have much sympathy for my Muslim, Hindu and Sikh friends when they encounter similar obstacles in this country.
The landmark case of Ahmad v. ILEA has shown that it is possible still to discriminate on grounds of religion at the workplace. Certainly such perceptions of discrimination are widely reported. In education, also, the rights of parents and children regarding their respect for beliefs and for social norms which flow from such beliefs need to be acknowledged. This will have to do not only with rights of withdrawal from religious or personal and social education but also the greater provision of alternatives. It will involve a greater tolerance of diversity in dress and in the ability to take part in certain sports, such as mixed swimming for example.
The Government's reservations regarding the relevant provisions of the European Convention should not be used as an excuse for doing nothing. In fact, the incorporation of the convention into domestic law may also show us the way forward. The Human 674 Rights Act of 1998 explicitly recognises not only an individual right to freedom of thought, conscience and belief, but also that of faith communities (Section 13), as your Lordships will be aware. There is room certainly for a greater recognition of religious customs which do not conflict with statutory or common law, and for greater dialogue between law makers and the representatives of religious traditions about the further development and direction of law.
Many of us were glad to see that the liberties we enjoy were being extended during the 1980s and 1990s to the people of the iron curtain countries, and in particular to those of the former Soviet Union. The early 1990s were a time of the greatest freedom of belief in many of those countries. Since that time, however, there have been various attempts to curb such freedoms both in the Russian Federation and in the central Asian republics. In Russia, not only are there laws against "foreign" religious organisations but indigenous unregistered Churches are also experiencing harassment and persecution. At the same time, there has been an increase in anti-Semitic feeling, with attacks on synagogues and on Jewish organisations.
Because of the situation in the Caucasus and the terrorist attacks in Russia, there is now widespread anti-Muslim feeling. The new-found vigour of the Russian Orthodox Church is to be welcomed, but the Church needs to be encouraged to develop a ministry of promoting tolerance and dialogue within Russia
In the central Asian republics it is non-Orthodox Christians who are being arrested and tortured for their faith. Sometimes, however, there are Muslim prisoners of conscience as well. The situation in the countries of the former Soviet Union is so serious that the well-respected Keston Institute recently decided once again to re-start its list of those persecuted for their faith in the countries of the former Soviet: Union. It is perhaps an occasion to salute Canon Michael Bordeaux, who has just retired as the director of that institute. During the Cold War period and under his leadership the institute acquired an enviable record of monitoring freedom of thought, conscience and religion in the Communist world. I hope a way can be found of recognising Canon Bordeaux's enormous achievement—and I do not say that only because he is a Canon of Rochester Cathedral!
There are serious concerns about religious freedom in India and China, and those should not be neglected, but I want to turn now to the Islamic world. The noble Baroness, Lady Nicholson, has already said much that is of value. During certain periods of Islamic history there has been relative tolerance of minorities, such as Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians. Indeed, at times those communities have been able to make a significant contribution to learning, to administration and to the material culture of what we call Islamic civilisation and also to its intercourse with other civilisations, including western Europe.
The noble Baroness, Lady Nicholson, has pointed out already that the teachings of the Koran, like those of the bible, are varied, but among them is the 675 recognition that religion cannot be a matter of coercion. There is also a recognition of the inescapable diversity of religious affiliation in our world. Yet, it would be irresponsible to ignore the widespread concern about freedom of belief in many parts of the Muslim world. Although the civil war in the Sudan is not primarily a war of religion, it has caused disproportionate suffering for the Christian and animist populations. In Egypt, next door, the large Coptic Christian community has been the subject of a vicious campaign. In Iran, communities such as the Bahai and certain kinds of Christians have been persecuted. And in Pakistan the so-called "blasphemy" laws have put into jeopardy the safety of Christians and other minority groups. What is most disturbing about those situations is that the perpetrators often appeal explicitly to Islamic sources for justification of their actions.
It is increasingly urgent that Muslims should find the resources for tolerance within their own traditions and history. Nor can this just be a nostalgic glance over the shoulder. It should, rather, lead to the development of policies and structures which embody what has been learnt from the past. In particular, there is a need to activate the dynamic principles of the Shari'ah, or Islamic law, in such a way that it is allowed to develop in the light of contemporary conditions and issues. Such a path would lead truly to the promotion of international order and would be widely welcomed by the international community.
The United Nations has called for a year of dialogue in the year 2001. The role of religions in the promotion of international order and in the prevention of disorder should form an important part of the agenda for that year. But so should the need for freedom of belief if religion is to fulfil its vocation in the 21st century.
It has been said that the cause of freedom is truly the cause of God. As the Polish-German radical Rosa Luxemburg, whose name will still be recognised on these Benches, has said:Freedom is always and exclusively freedom for the one who thinks differently".
§ 12.20 p.m.
§ Lord Avebury
My Lords, it is an enormous pleasure and privilege for me to congratulate the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester on his wide-ranging maiden speech and on the wisdom that he has displayed in approaching all the topics that he covered. I am not surprised that he was able to do so because, when one looks at his distinguished record, one sees that he has been a lecturer on the relations between Islam and Christianity and has written prolifically on the subject. He has lectured at the universities in Lahore and Karachi, as well as in this country at Cambridge. He has brought that distinguished and lengthy background to the contribution that he made today.
I was very glad that the right reverend Prelate began his maiden speech by drawing the attention of your Lordships to some of the shortcomings of this country 676 in relation to religious freedom. We frequently adopt the arrogant attitude that religious discrimination is something which occurs elsewhere and that we are completely immune from any criticism on those grounds. However, as the right reverend Prelate showed, we fall short in a number of respects of the standards which we aim to impose on others. As he hinted, I hope that the Human Rights Act will enable some of those against whom discrimination is practised, including those who wish to build mosques and other religious centres, to take their grievances through the courts and get them remedied.
I also hope that the aspirations of the right reverend Prelate as regards our education system will be fulfilled and that we will pursue that diversity of curriculum, which is essential in a multi-faith society. Indeed, I do see that entering into our religious education curriculum in that all the faiths are taught without distinction and pupils who have been brought up in a predominantly Christian environment at home will have at least some insight into the main other faiths of the world.
However, we have a long way to go in meeting the standards that we have laid down for ourselves. I am glad that the right reverend Prelate drew attention to that fact, as well as to the difficulties which are faced in the former Soviet Union, in Russia and in central Asia. I certainly endorse everything that the right reverend Prelate said about the alarming situation in Russia; for example, the court cases that have been brought against members of minority religions, especially the persecution of Jehovah Witnesses. The latter is a group which is not likely to attract very much support in your Lordships' House but, nevertheless, it is important. If we do not defend the faith of Jehovah Witnesses, other groups will be next on the agenda of those who believe in persecution.
As has already been said, religion is a tremendous force in human society for both good and evil. It tolerated and sanctioned slavery for centuries and then helped to abolish it. The Church encouraged anti-Semitism in Imperial Germany, and some historians now see the Church as being an active collaborator in the Nazi Holocaust. The Churches failed to speak out boldly against racial segregation in the United States of America, though now they do try to make amends by promoting integration. The Churches have resisted women's ordination, and yet they advocate equal rights for women. All religions have produced compassionate individuals whose faith led them to provide for the poor, the sick, the hurting and the broken. It is a paradox that religion generates unselfish love in some people and vicious, raw hatred in others.
Mention has not yet been made of the UN Rapporteur on Religious Intolerance, M Abdelfattah Amor, who reports annually to the UN Human Rights Commission, as well as making reports on particular countries from time to time. He believes that,prevention can be ensured mainly by the establishment of a culture of tolerance, notably through education'',although there is not a great deal of evidence for that proposition. The commission urges states, 677to promote and encourage through the educational system, and by other means, understanding, tolerance and respect in matters relating to freedom of religion or belief".However, a glance round the world shows that many states relentlessly persecute those whose religion is different from that of the government. The right reverend Prelate gave us several examples from the Russian Federation and the former Soviet states of central Asia.
According to the US State Department's annual report on international religious freedom, published last month, religious freedom in Tibet diminished over the past year. Visits by human rights delegations are rigidly controlled, but we know that monks and nuns have been imprisoned by the hundred, that many have been tortured and that some have been extrajudicially killed. At the very moment when the EU Troika delegation was visiting Drapchi Prison, guards opened fire on some 200 Tibetan prisoners, killing two of them. I wonder how many of these important matters relating to the freedom of religion in Tibet—and, indeed, in China as a whole—will be raised with President Jiang Zemin when he comes here on a state visit next week. When she replies, perhaps the Minister could tell me whether these matters are on the agenda.
In Bahrain, Shi'a mosques have been desecrated and closed down, Imams silenced or exiled and leading clerics held in prison without trial by the Sunni ruling family. The ruler of Bahrain is also coming to this country in the near future. I hope that, something will be said to him on those matters.
In Vietnam, all religious and organisational activities by the monks of the United Buddhist Church are illegal, and their activities outside private worship in the temple are forbidden. The State Department singles out Vietnam as one of seven countries with, "totalitarian and authoritarian regimes", which,seek to control thought and expression, especially dissent".These states are not likely to comply voluntarily with the mild urgings of the Human Rights Commission, and the commission will always treat religious intolerance as a lesser form of human rights violation because it is not violent per se, even though it often leads to violence.
The right reverend Prelate mentioned the Baha'is in Iran who have suffered grievous persecution because of their religion. I went to see the Iranian Ambassador on 26th April to put their case. Every question that we asked him he deflected on to Northern Ireland. "All right, what about the Diplock courts and detention without trial in Northern Ireland?" I replied that we had not come to see him to talk about Northern Ireland because we could do that on some other occasion and that we should stick to the point about the Baha'is. However, we did not get a single answer out of the ambassador. After that meeting, I went home and wrote him a four-page letter, which he has since ignored. Ironically, the Baha'is are active in developing conflict prevention mechanisms, advocating, for instance, a standing international force under the control of the Security Council, but they are treated as spies and traitors in Iran, purely because of their religion.
678 The right reverend Prelate mentioned Pakistan, where laws have been passed criminalising the Ahmadi Muslims. They are relentlessly persecuted there as blasphemers. The attitude of the government has fostered a climate of institutionalised discrimination and harassment of all members of that community.
There are some 30 to 40 armed conflicts going on around the world and many of these have religious overtones, as has already been mentioned. Further, almost all of them are internal, although some, such as Kashmir, have an international dimension. Whether it has been the achievement of the United Nations, or of the leadership of the great powers, and among them principally the US and the former Soviet Union, there have not been any big wars between states since the end of the Korean War in the 1950s. However, there have been dozens of internal armed conflicts which have been destructive both in terms of human lives and the loss of economic potential. Examples of states or territories in which these conflicts have a religious element are Acheh, Afghanistan, Algeria, Bosnia, Chechnya, East Timor, Israel, Kashmir, Kosovo, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Tajikistan. That is not an exhaustive list.
Obviously religion is not the only factor in any of these cases. Often peoples who are subject to "colonial and alien domination", to use the well tried UN terminology, are of another faith than their oppressors, but there are also differences of culture, language, ethnicity, history and institutions. The United Nations gave peoples the right of self-determination, but it failed to create legal mechanisms by which that right could be asserted. It has become a matter of state practice that the international community only grants the right when people have already achieved it by force of arms, as in the cases of Bangladesh and Eritrea. That surely is an immoral position on which the religions of the world ought to have something to say. When states are concerned to preserve their territorial integrity at all costs, religions ought to unite in upholding the rights of the peoples, and thus help to put an end to sonic of the most destructive conflicts in the world. Thus in Sudan, as has been said, it is not a matter of Christians and Muslims fighting one another; it is a question of the right of the people of the south to determine their own constitutional future and whether or not they wish to be a part of the federation, or whether they wish to become independent. That right should be determined by a plebiscite held under international supervision.
In Chechnya the first war cost 50,000 lives and left the North Caucasus ruined and bankrupt, as Irina Maryniak states in Index on Censorship. Now the Russians have launched a second blitz against the civilian population, in flagrant breach of their OSCE obligations on the very eve of an OSCE summit which is centred on the question of compliance. What does religion have to say on that? I suggest that it is not enough simply to deplore the loss of life and gratuitous destruction. It is the imperative duty of religions at the beginning of the 21st century to prevent these conflicts by dealing with their causes. That means attacking the sacred cow of territorial integrity.
679 That so-called principle stops us from considering Kosovo's claim to independence, although it is absolutely unthinkable that the territory should be compelled to remain in any form of association with Serbia. Again Kosovo was not one of the constituent republics of the former Yugoslavia. On that legalistic basis, in total defiance of the realities on the ground, it was treated as not having equal status with Slovenia, for instance. It was defined as an "autonomous province", a legal entity which had the potential to exercise all the powers of a republic, but not the title itself.
Noble Lords may say that it is the prerogative of states, not religions, to deal with political ideas of this kind. But can we separate politics from religion, or is there some degree of overlap between their proper spheres of action? If religion is to have any role in the sphere of conflict resolution, is it to be concerned only with thought processes, or can it attempt to regulate the way in which they apply in the real world? Religion has had much to say—in the Middle Ages and onwards—about just and unjust wars and about the conduct of war, so why should it not speak now about the maintenance of peace where states are concerned with upholding their own interests against those of their peoples?
§ 12.34 p.m.
§ Lord Alton of Liverpool
My Lords, I join the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, in thanking the most reverend Primate for introducing this important topic today. I couple with that the widespread admiration felt by many of us in this House for the most reverend Primate and for the role that he has played in the resolution of international issues, not least in the Sudan.
We have heard three notable maiden speeches in your Lordships' House today. During the 1980s I worked with Keston college on a variety of issues, particularly in the former Soviet Union, and in the early 1990s wrote a report on behalf of the Jubilee Campaign concerning the plight of the Coptic Church in Egypt. Therefore I especially endorse the remarks made by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester in his interesting and provocative maiden speech which we shall all wish to reflect upon.
I was especially pleased to hear from my friend, although I have to think of him now in terms of the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner of Worcester. We met in his previous incarnation. How could I have represented a sporting mad city such as Liverpool and not have met Richard Faulkner, as he then was? In the aftermath of Heysel and Hillsborough he played an important and significant role in helping the healing process in our city. He too has made an important maiden contribution and we all look forward to hearing many more contributions from him in your Lordships' House in the future.
Although I intend to remain until the end of today's proceedings, because of the uncertainty of the timing and duration of the debate, and as I shall address a school in Lancashire tonight, it may not be possible for 680 me to hear the reply. If that is the case, I apologise to your Lordships in advance. However, as I say, it is my intention and hope that I shall be able to be here until the end of the debate. Perhaps that is a reason for me to observe some brevity in my remarks.
The most reverend Primate has reminded us that all too frequently the great world religions are caricatured as part of the problem preventing peaceful co-existence, rather than as an essential part of the solution. Religious belief, though, and spiritual impulse are an innate part of man's make-up. The peaceful co-existence of secular societies and religious belief will be one of the great challenges for civil society during the coming years. Those who simply view all religious belief in negative ways frequently omit to recognise that in previous times people of great faith have enriched our political and civil life in diverse ways. Figures such as Thomas More, William Wilberforce, Lord Shaftesbury, Keir Hardie and William Ewart Gladstone were all principally inspired by their religious belief. So, too, were the founding fathers of the European Community, Jean Monnet, Robert Schuman, Konrad Adenauer and Alcide de Gasperi. Schuman and Adenauer believed deeply that Christian heritage formed the very basis for Western European civilisation. They saw national antagonism as a major factor in the success of totalitarianism and the outbreak of cataclysmic conflict. Who can doubt that their resolve to create reconciliation and peaceful co-existence has brought unprecedented stability in western Europe since the Second World War?
During the Recess I visited Albania with the Bishop of Brentford, the right reverend Thomas McMahon. We saw there the abandoned mausoleum which Albania's Marxist dictator, Enver Hoxha, had erected in the heart of Tirana. Hoxha had committed himself to the eradication of religion in Albania. Among the last of his victims was a priest who was executed in 1975 after conducting an illegal baptism. The marble mausoleum is now being used as an unofficial ski slope by local children, while just over the road a new cathedral is being erected. The day before we arrived there the local archbishop ordained 10 deacons from among 100 young seminarians preparing for the priesthood.
Albania reminded me of the Ukraine and other communist fiefdoms that I visited before the collapse of communism. In the Ukraine in the late 1980s I met Ivan Hel who was chairman of the committee for the defence of the Church there. I also met Bishop Pavlo Vasylk. They had spent 17 years and 18 years in prison respectively. I met a young priest who had been sent to Chernobyl to clear radio-active waste as a punishment for being caught celebrating the liturgies in the open. It helped to remind me how precious the freedoms are which we enjoy in our own country and the liberties that we prize, but how fragile those things can be.
Stalin once mockingly asked "How many battalions does the Pope have?" The election of a Polish Pope in 1978 and the crucial role which he and all the churches played in eastern Europe in challenging Marxist totalitarian regimes more than provides the answer.
681 But none of that should make us belligerent or impervious to our own failings. During the coming jubilee year, His Holiness Pope John Paul has called on Catholics to reflect on their own past failings and to atone and repent for those times when the principles of Christ's Gospel have been abandoned. In his Apostolic letter, Tertia Milllenio Adveniente, he said this:The sins of the past still burden us… It is necessary to make amends for them, and earnestly to beseech Christ's forgiveness…One painful chapter of history to which the church must return with a spirit of repentance is that of the acquiescence given, especially in certain centuries, to intolerance and even the use of violence in the service of truth".In plural and democratic societies, argument must be joined and debate waged. Although believers cannot impose their views they have a duty to speak out when they encounter injustice. Wilberforce recognised that as he patiently campaigned for 40 years for the abolition of slavery. It took a change of heart and mind and a decision made in these two Houses.
As is so often the case, it is the British Chief Rabbi, Dr Jonathan Sacks, who has pointed us towards the truth. Writing about the enormities which led to Dachau, Auschwitz and Belsen, he said:People ask where was God at Auschwitz? They should ask, where was man?".Dr Sacks rightly argues against quietism or pietistic faith and urges us towards civic engagement.
We stand at the end of a century disfigured by brutality and violence which has been carried out on an unprecedented scale. The Holocaust is, of course, the most obvious example. But the litany of terrifying infamies is almost endless: the blood has been shed of more Christian martyrs in this century than any preceding it. The monstrous ideologies of fascist and socialist totalitarianism have claimed millions of victims. Even as we speak, as the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, reminded us, in countries such as China human rights are daily violated. The Chinese oppression of Tibet, about which we have just heard, has led to the destruction of some 6,000 Buddhist monasteries; 600,000 Buddhist religious have been killed or proscribed; and the persecution of the Church in mainland China goes on even as we speak.
This report is from a recent edition of the Sunday Times. It describes a 33-year old priest who was dragged away before the eyes of his congregation. That evening his battered body was found on a street in the capital. The Cardinal Kung Foundation, which reported his death, also reported that the arrest and torture of a seminarian from Yan's native Hebei province, near Beijing, where about half the country's Catholics live, had also taken place. Wang Qing was beaten, hung by the hands for three days and force-fed a filthy liquid that caused gastro-intestinal illness. In another recent incident, four men caught attending a clandestine mass in Hebei province were sent to a labour camp.
China will need to learn the art of co-existence. But it is not alone. Recent events in East Timor and Kosovo, and before that in Rwanda and Bosnia, graphically illustrate the need for international 682 stability. Why did it take so long—and only after massive aerial bombardment by NATO—for us to indict Milosevic for his crimes against humanity? The continuing atrocities in East Timor graphically illustrate the role which the Church can play as an advocate for justice and as a force for stability; they also illustrate the need to act early. Perhaps in the longer term, as in South Africa, inspired by men like Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Church can act as a force for reconciliation.
In East Timor the Church has been paying a heavy price. The Nobel peace prize winner, Bishop Carlo Belo, Bishop of Dili, had to be evacuated while his home and offices were destroyed. Nuns, priests and lay workers have been murdered and churches burnt down. In Bishop Belo's words, this was because the Church has been,the voice of the people, the defender of human dignity".Notwithstanding the admirable and commendable efforts of the present Minister, Mr John Battle, to play a constructive part in the creation of democracy and autonomy for Timor, there are lessons here for Her Majesty's Government and for other western governments, not least over the sale of arms. Even in military dictatorships, such as Burma, while we ban the sale of arms we permit British investment through companies such as Premier Oil. If that were an American company its owners would face prosecution and imprisonment for providing economic succour to this most barbaric of regimes. We would do well to emulate the American administration's total economic embargo, rather than permitting sanctions busting by predatory British firms.
Last year, after I returned from visiting Karen refugee camps and military bases on both sides of the Burma/Thai border, I subsequently initiated a debate in your Lordships' House. Since then the genocide has continued. There is a belief among the Burmese military that they continue to take life 'with impunity. That must be challenged. In the past five years alone, 30,000 Karen have been killed and 300,000 people have been displaced. These include Christians, Muslims and Buddhists. Genocide charges should now be laid against those responsible. If we have learned anything from our experiences in Iraq, East Timor and Kosovo, surely it is that despotic and brutal leaders cannot be appeased and that quiet accommodation leads to more brutal measures having to be taken later.
Last night in Westminster Cathedral, along with my noble friend Lord Hylton, we took part in a vigil for the Karen people and those oppressed in Burma, and not least for the two young British people who have been imprisoned for the stand that they have taken—James Mawdsley and Rachel Goldwyn, who are now languishing in Burmese gaols. James is a young Christian from the Catholic tradition who has been jailed for 17 years for handing out pro-democracy leaflets. He was arrested, tried and sentenced within 24 hours of his arrest. Now he faces the prospect of 17 long years in gaol. I hope that the Government will heed James Mawdsley's call for full economic
683 embargoes on any inward investment in Burma and for genocide charges to be brought against the perpetrators of those barbarities.
I know James Mawdsley; he is from Lancashire. He was tortured the last time he was in a Burmese gaol but he decided to go back when he saw a Karen school in a refugee camp burnt to the ground by the Burmese military. The Church should be very proud that it is producing men of James's calibre and commitment. Fired by his faith, he recognised that sometimes a personal price has to be paid for peacefully challenging injustice and suffering. His personal witness and his idealism are a good omen for the future of the Church in this country.
A few months ago some new statues appeared on the plinths outside Westminster Abbey. One of those is a statue of Maximillian Kolbe—the Franciscan who took the place of a Jewish prisoner facing an execution squad at Auschwitz. The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, was right to remind us of collaboration and quietism in pre-war Germany and in other parts of Europe. Father Kolbe was offered the chance of a quiet life if he stuck to a pietistic religiosity. Instead, he was sent to Auschwitz for writing these words:No one in the world can change Truth. What we can and should do is to seek Truth and serve it when we have found it. The real conflict is within. Beyond armies of occupation and the hecatombs of the extermination camps, two irreconcilable enemies lie in the depths of every soul. And of what use are the victories on the battlefield if we are defeated in our innermost personal selves?".The call to be witnesses to the Truth is as potent today as it ever was. The right reverend Prelate has rendered the House a great service by focusing us all on the implications of that call.
§ 12.49 p.m.
§ Lord Selsdon
My Lords, I will be the first to declare an interest in that I am of the Church of Scotland, the last of a dying breed within my family. They have been attracted by other religions and beliefs—by Catholicism and Protestantism.
We were always brought up to understand that if you came from a great family—as I do not—the oldest son had the estates, the second son went into the military, the third went into the Church and the last and poorest went into trade. I was an only son; I went into trade.
Unfortunately in my family I have no one in the Church—no one to turn to—but I place, as I have done all my life in trade, a great value upon the Church, upon religions, beliefs or faiths, which are all interchangeable words. Today I have a nephew in the SEALS; I have another nephew in the American forces in Bosnia; I have a sister working for the Peace Corps in Senegal; and I spend much of my time, unfortunately—because I was junior in trade—associated with the more difficult countries.
I shall try to share with noble Lords my own thoughts and beliefs. I was told that if you plant cypress trees, you must plant two of them side by side. One would grow taller than the other. That one would 684 be prosperity. The shorter one would be peace. There would always be prosperity somewhere, but never peace anywhere, and the key to peace was prosperity. Whether that can be achieved by the cancellation of international debt or by financing countries, I know not.
I was also told that man is like a reed blowing in the wind: with one leg he can be blown over in any direction; with two legs, only in two directions, and with three legs, so long as they are equal, he may not be blown over at all. Each of us may choose the legs of our tripod. It may be Father, Son and Holy Ghost, or Church, Law and Parliament, it matters not. For myself it is Church, Law and Parliament. I believe that the word "Church" has been misinterpreted over many years. Let us examine some simple statistics: how many people are there in the world? It is irrelevant, but there are 6 billion. How many people are nonbelievers? A search on the Internet and in the Library told me that there are 1 billion non-believers. How many are believers? If you consult all the faiths, there are more believers of their faith than the total population of the world.
In general, the believers fall into two groups. Some three-and-a-quarter billion are people of the Book; namely, Christians, Muslims and Jews. The others comprise mainly Hindus and Buddhists. One can see when looking at the world that where two or more major religions are concentrated, that will be where there are trouble spots. However, in general it is not the differing religions that have caused the war, it is the desire for prosperity. Or often it is the desire to gain more territory and the development of tribalism. Religion is often used as an excuse for action.
I shall take for my tripod today the people of the Book: Jews, Muslims and Christians. The Christians divide into the Catholics, where the Vatican claims that it does not know exactly how many followers Catholicism has, but that the figure is somewhere between 950 million and 1.5 billion, and the Protestant Church which has 350 million followers. The Muslims have 1.1 billion. However, it is intriguing that possibly the oldest religion in the world, one that flourished when the rest of us were still pagans; namely Judaism, has only 20 million followers. That is remarkable given the quality of influence that those 20 million have exerted upon the world. Why should an old religion like that from Jerusalem at the centre of the ancient world be so influential? I have been told that it was because the Jewish people did not have missionaries. They did not go out to impose their faith upon others. They largely kept their faith to themselves.
I am not qualified to comment on that, but after a lifetime in trade, I have seen the enormous significance and importance of the relationship between trade and religion.In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God".The Word came through trade. If we look back to 2000 years BC, the trade routes had opened up first with the Indo-European silk route and then right across Africa to Dakar. If you follow that you can trace the development of the Muslim religion. The development 685 of the Christian religion was not so strongly related to trade, but rather to the scramble to conquer Africa, which led to the creation of 300 million Christians on that continent. However, today there are 300 million Muslims.
However, it is the relationship between the different religions that gives me cause for concern. They are all people of the Book and each recognises and acknowledges the other. In the Koran Jesus is the spirit of God, in the Torah, Moses is descended from Abraham. I have had the privilege of meeting with people from the different religions in certain special circumstances. For six years I was chairman of the committee for Middle East trade, dealing with 15 Arab countries, plus Iran. My opposite number, Lord Sieff, was chairman of the committee for Israel. It intrigued me that his budget was the same size as mine, but he had only one country, whereas I had 15 from Afghanistan right through to Morocco. However, in our discussions we found that the Department of Trade and Industry had the same people dealing with Israel as were dealing with the Arab world. At the time, many did not acknowledge the divisions.
I have had discussions on this with many muftis and wise men, and have found that the Arabs have no objection to Judaism or the Jewish faith. It was Israel that caused the problems. I recall the occasion when President Sadat visited Israel. As soon as he had returned from helping with the peace process, Lord Sieff sent two of his best men from Marks & Spencer, one to help the Egyptians with their cotton industry, and the other to develop their food industry. We could all recognise the importance of trade. Indeed, in the souk in Cairo there is a road named St. Michael Street. There I found that prejudice did not exist.
I was once again involved in the peace process when my noble friend Lady Thatcher visited Aqqaba to make a speech about the need for peace. That followed on from many resolutions that had been made, including the late Lord Home's Harrogate speech. I could feel the tension when I boarded an Israeli gunboat on that visit. As the covers were taken off the guns. one became aware of all the countries around Israel: Jordan, Egypt and. Saudi Arabia, and sense the territorial tension.
Later, to my amazement I found that I was the only person allowed to visit Iran when there was a row over a strange book written by someone whom I had to call "that man"; namely, The Satanic Verses. Everyone's visa had been cancelled, except for mine. I was asked to visit Iran because I had been involved in forming trade links. The row was proving to be a barrier to trade. I flew in a British Airways plane. During the flight, the pilot approached me and said, "Do you know that you're the only British person on board?" I told him that that was fine because I had a visa. He then told me, "We have just received a message that the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom is seeing that man at the moment. You might get into real trouble when you arrive. Do you still want to go?" I could do nothing about it. I was due to meet the Minister of Metals, a fundamental ministry. When I arrived I was flown up to Esfahan. I met with a member of the Council of 686 Guardians, a mullah and a lawyer. We debated all the problems of blasphemy and why that should apply only to the Christian religion. I was given a long lecture in Sharia law and reminded that for Iranians, that came before anything else. I also had explained to me the difference between Shi'ite and Sunni, and the problems of a fatwa. I was told that if Ayatollah Khomeini were to issue a fatwa and then die, it would be like a Henry VIII clause: nothing could be done about it.
The solution we came to was that all that "that man" had to do was to perform touba; namely, to make a statement along the lines of, "I believe in God and that Moses, Mohammed and Jesus were his prophets". There was some debate as to which prophet should come first. However, I could never understand why, if you leave a faith, you are mortad. It does not seem right that in a system of freedom of worship and belief, someone is allowed to make a decree that a follower may still go to heaven if they kill someone. Even the Koran says in so many words, "He who kills shall surely himself be killed".
I have also been talking with friends in the Catholic Church and I am most impressed by the Vatican's 2000-year foreign policy. It is setting out to try to help in problem areas such as North Korea. Although I am not a Catholic, I have been looking at the manoeuvrability that Catholics utilise to bring in finance to alleviate problems. I have visited Albania some 20 times, and have been to many parts of North Africa. The Vatican seems to turn up everywhere.
As for the Protestant Church, the most reverend Primate may feel that his own initiatives are greater now than they have been in the past. It is perhaps the Protestant Church that is lacking representation in so many of those parts of the world. Whether that is through lack of resource, I know not.
One of the many changes we have seen is a monumental one; that is, the removal of belief in communism, but not necessarily the influence of communist societies. I wonder about our great friends and allies, the United States, who seem to regard an enemy as something ending in "ism"—communism, terrorism, fundamentalism—yet we in this country regarded our enemy as the military might of the Soviet Union.
There is no enemy between faiths and the people of faiths. It is in general only the regimes themselves that use faiths and religions as an excuse for increased gain and territorial acquisition. We come back not to the dangers of religion but to the dangers of tribalism.
§ 1 p.m.
§ Lord Ahmed
My Lords, I should like wholeheartedly to endorse the proposal of the most reverend Primate.
We can no longer afford to ignore religions as a significant factor in communal and international relations. Many conflicts around the world could be made amenable to resolution if the right religious approach were made. I say "the right religious approach" because I am mindful of the long history of 687 wars and massacres committed in the name of religion. The protagonists preferred to meet on the field of battle rather than the debating chamber. Humanity appears to be moving away from this painful path of hostility and hatred. Almost all the significant religious leaders of the world are calling for peace among nations and mutual respect between religions. We no longer hear the blood-curdling cry for religious conquest and coercion. The Parliament of the World's Religions gathered in one assembly not long ago the spokesmen of all religions to promote peace and harmony across the religious divide. They celebrated diversity of faiths and underlined the common human values enshrined in all the world's religions.
To be sure, the religious scene is not all rosy and hopeful. We are only too aware of the conflicts that still rage in many parts of the globe and even in our own country where religion is advanced as the perpetrator if not the fundamental cause. This should make us careful in the employment of religion as an instrument of conflict resolution. Religion is a potent medicine, and like a potent medicine, it should be handled with care. Only those qualified by knowledge, piety and position should be encouraged to utilise it. It should be administered with skill, care, sensitivity and vision. We must learn from the practices of the physician who applies the remedy in exact quantities; not below the required amount, nor above it. So is it the case with religion. Too little of it would give reign to less noble motives, while too much may lead to fanaticism.
Islam, my faith, calls always for moderation and abhors extremism. The Prophet said:The middle course is the best course of action".And the Holy Qur'an describes Muslims as the middle of the road community. Says (our Sustainer):We willed you to be a community of the middle way so that (with your example) you might bear witness before all mankind".There are many ways of interpreting religious texts or manifesting religious conduct. We are all familiar with those whom journalists choose to call fundamentalists. Such people exist in every community, every religion and every creed. Their most obvious characteristic is a closed mind and a refusal to listen to any view that does not accord with their own. To them there is only one legitimate opinion; namely, their own. They tolerate no other view and reject all arguments that might lead to modifying their stance. Extremist fundamentalists firmly uphold the truth of theories that factual evidence has shown to be wrong. Such people are not the easiest to deal with. Mercifully, they are always a small minority who attract more publicity than their number warrants. The media's preoccupation with the fundamentalists misleads ordinary people into believing that they are representatives of the true faith. The image of Islam has suffered much distortion in the West through the obsession of the media with the oddest and most eccentric expressions of it. It has become axiomatic in the minds of many people that Islam is a barrier to inter-religious co-operation, a prison within which the believer is not permitted the relief of any contact with 688 others. Yes, the Holy Qur'an not only encourages Muslims to dialogue with people of other faiths but sets the ground rules for such dialogue:Do not argue with the people of earlier revelations except in a most kindly manner except for those who do wrong. And say we believe in what has been sent down to us and what has been sent down to you; our God and your God is one and to Him we have surrendered";and it says:Ridicule not other people's object of worship lest they ridicule your God".The human race has a long history of aggression, individual against individual, community against community and nation against nation. The motive of this reprehensible conduct is always mundane, such as greed, the desire for dominance, belief in racial superiority or simple sadistic cruelty. Of all God's creatures, our species is the one that kills for the pleasure of killing. Other species might kill for food or self-defence. Humans alone indulge in this cruel conduct for its own sake. Only religion can help to channel human aggression to more ethical expression such as achieving victory over poverty, illiteracy, disease and hunger. Only religion can guide our species from aggression. Jesus says, "Love your enemies"; that is to say, do not let the hatred of others be a cause for aggression. The Qur'an says:Good deeds and evil deeds are not equal. Repel the evil done to you with that which is fairer and behold, he between whom and you there is enmity shall be as if he were a loyal friend".The role of religion has been ignored by those who are concerned with conflict resolution on the international stage. This is, in my view, an oversight or perhaps a misguided suspicion rooted in the religious wars of the past and the conflicts of the present day. But should we allow the sins of the past to blind us to the hopeful signs of the present? The growth of the inter-faith movement throughout the world should awaken world leaders to the new spirit of co-operation between the faiths that can be an effective base for peace between nations. Hans Kung says that international peace can occur only when inter-religious peace is achieved. I say that the many institutions, national and international, manifesting this peace should help to reduce hatred, ban violence and bring forth harmony and peace.
There are events which need to be recorded in this regard. The first is the dialogue convention signed by the Vatican and Al-Azhar, the great seat of Islamic learning. This is a sign post in the way of co-operation between Islam and Catholicism. It is my hope that in his forthcoming visit to Egypt the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury will conclude a similar accord between the Anglican Church and Al-Azhar. The Al-Azhar committee includes representatives of all Muslim countries.
In our own country, there are old, as well as new, respected organisations that work for communal peace and harmony, such as the World Congress of Faiths, the Maimonides Foundation, the Interfaith Network and the Three Faiths Forum. They old point the way to the good contribution of religion to human happiness and harmony.
689 As a Muslim whose faith honours all humanity, abhors aggression and enshrines tolerance and friendship among nations and communities, I should like to express my strong support for the noble statement by the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury.
§ 1.10 p.m.
§ Lord Butterfield
My Lords, we are all grateful to the most reverend Primate and his colleagues for introducing this important and timely topic. It reminds us all of the need for resistance to inhumane regimes and for humility and tolerance. The debate comes at the end of the second millennium and reminds us all of our responsibilities in the third. It comes at a time when the Secretary-General of the United Nations has reminded us of 'lie birth of the 6 billionth inhabitant of this world. I should also like to remind the House briefly of another aspect of human endeavour, science, and how it is impinging more and more on our affairs and needs to be reconciled to religious activity.
The most reverend Primate is leading a crusade for reconciliation which I wholly support. Likewise, I support the brave proclamations in favour of freedom of religion by the noble Baroness, Lady Nicholson, and the views expressed by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester. I support also the exhortations from the noble Lord, Lord Haskel, to run economic globalisation alongside the efforts of the faith communities to help the world.
Perhaps I may briefly take your Lordships' time to report events which I believe reflect a growing interest in Christianity, especially among the young, and wider support for it than is widely recognised. For several years I have been associated with St George's House at Windsor Castle, where His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh has sat among 20 or 30 of us from all walks of life several mornings a year to discuss a wide range of topics. The most reverend Primate will be pleased to know that, some years ago, during a discussion in Israel on the problems of science and religious intolerance, His Royal Highness, in introducing the theme, indicated that he would try to get the scientists of the Royal Society interested in striking up informal discussions aimed at reconciliation between Christians, Orthodox Jews and Muslims.
Secondly, I should like to mention the fact that mergers are always tedious. In an attempt to resolve the tensions at Guy's and St Thomas's Hospitals during the present merger, leading consultants in surgery and obstetrics are urging the adoption of Christian principles. The approach is encouragingly popular among young doctors and medical students.
Two days ago, a meeting took place in a Committee Room of this House of a group of people who are concerned about, and pleased with, the excellent work that is being done to help schoolchildren who are in serious difficulties at school. The group heard a series of moving presentations by young people who openly embrace Christian principles. They have taken the 690 decision to work in schools with truants; for example, meeting them in school playgrounds, trying to help them to resolve their personal conflicts and very often the rages that they have against society, particularly in large schools, where they often feel that they are not noticed. Family complications, including divorce and the presence of step-parents, frequently precipitate their difficulties, which are often unrecognised by the staff. Such young people truant frequently. They may attend school only one or two days a term. However, those young people reach out to them, like Jesus, and encourage them. Those of us who were present at the meeting found the report of their success very moving. The organisation, Schools Outreach, is receiving wider and wider support throughout the country. It receives charitable contributions and a lottery grant. Right reverend Prelates should receive encouragement from the fact that these kinds of Christian activities go on in our society. That organisation's activities are not greatly recognised but it is doing wonderful work in our midst.
I turn now to what is a powerful factor in our affairs; namely, science. Over and over again, science and the scientific method are represented as opposed to the efforts of the faith communities. But I do not believe that they are. Charles Darwin called his book The Origin of Species, not "The Evolution of Species". The title encouraged many to believe that scientists could explain the origins of nature rather than the way it worked. Regrettably, the Church has not fully recovered from that whole trend in the 19th century.
We need more sensitive, humble scientists, such as Galileo. My wife is reading a book to me about Galileo. It is clear that his appreciation of the wonderful aspects of nature, of the heavens as his telescope revealed them, made him so appreciative of the powers of the creator that the Inquisition recognised his true appreciation and humility in the face of God, and he was not condemned to death by burning.
Finally, I plead that men everywhere try to be more humble in the face of God, and more tolerant of their fellow men.What poor creatures these mortals be",Puck says in A Midsummer Night's Dream. We should realise that we are indeed poor creatures. We should strive to be less arrogant, more humble and more tolerant as we move into the third millennium of our civilisation. We thank the most reverend Primate for his most welcome stimulus to our cogitations.
§ 1.17 p.m.
§ Lord Weatherill
My Lords, I had the privilege of serving with Indian troops in the Burma campaigns in the last war. We had a squadron of Sikhs, a squadron of PMs (Muslims), and a squadron of Jats (Hindus). I assure noble Lords that soldiers going into battle pray, and pray hard. I joined with the Sikhs in the gurduara, with the Muslims in the mosque, and with the Hindus in the temple. The fact that I was a Christian was totally irrelevant.
691 There are many roads to God, and God is a God of many names. It is against that background that I seek to make a modest contribution to this debate. All the founders of the world's different religions have taught us to treat others as we should like to be treated by them. They all teach the true meaning of tolerance, the importance of charity and compassion, and the dangers of greed, obsession and self. In the words of one of the Sikh gurus,The final vision of justice lies not with man or any other creature of the universe—but with God alone".But which God?
Different religions have too frequently erected barriers of belief between different faiths, which hide the essential similarity of belief. Small differences are emphasised to suggest that, "My religion is the only true belief and the others are all inferior". It is not religion, but the manipulation of religious sentiment, which is the cause of conflict.
As we enter this new millennium it is important to reflect not only on the failures of the past, but also on the achievements and on our hopes for the future. The century we are now leaving has been one of unbelievable scientific achievement: near-instant communications have shrunk the world; and tremendous developments in the field of medicine mean that we have the ability to play with the very building blocks of life itself. That was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Butterfield, who preceded me in this debate.
It has been a century that has seen more dreadful killings of more of our fellow human beings than in the rest of recorded history put together. Many of those conflicts have had religious overtones but, in fairness, many cases where initiatives of conciliation have been progressed have been led not just by religious leaders but often by unsung laymen. It is encouraging, and of enormous significance, that the initiatives in overcoming these misunderstandings and the divisions between the world's religions have frequently been led not only by Church leaders but also by laymen. It is right, I think, that in this debate we should pay tribute to them.
One of them is the remarkable Sir Sigmund Sternberg. Others have made mention of his initiative in the Council for Christians and Jews and, more recently, with Sheikh Dr Zahi Badewi at the Three Faiths Forum which, as the noble Lord, Lord Ahmed, has mentioned, brings together Christians, Jews and Muslims. There is also Indarjet Singh, a winner of the Templeman Prize (as is Sir Sigmund) who, through his regular broadcasts on "Thought for the Day", has done more than anyone else to bring to our attention the teachings of the Sikh gurus, which are reflected also in Christianity and other religions. I pay tribute also to the Parliament of World Religions, which will be meeting in Cape Town later this year. I understand that between 5,000 and 8,000 people are expected to attend. There is also the World Conference on Religion and Peace, which was mentioned by the most 692 reverend Primate in his opening speech. I understood him to say he would be attending that conference very shortly.
The fact that this debate today is taking place at all is a great tribute to the House of Lords. I doubt whether there is any other Parliament in the world which would spend one full day on a subject of this kind. It is particularly encouraging that so many Members of your Lordships' House have sought to participate in it. There have been three very remarkable maiden speeches. I should like to pay tribute in particular to the speech of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester, who is my Bishop. He can, I suppose, claim to be British by adoption because whereas he was born in Pakistan and is British by adoption, I can claim that I am Pakistani by adoption, because my regiment is in Pakistan.
At this particular time I hope that we can all spare a thought—let us put it more bluntly—or pray that the present troubles facing that country will be resolved by peaceful means and that out of them perhaps may come a greater tolerance for those of other religions in Pakistan, particularly the Christian community.
In many ways, the world's different religions are overlapping circles of belief. Our task in the coming millennium is to emphasise that the degrees of overlap are greater than the smaller areas of difference. If we do this, we shall see religion as it really is: a valuable guidance for sustained and responsible living, and for lasting peace for strife-torn humanity. I have one warning: it is dangerous for politicians to make definite forecasts. However, I make so bold as to give two this afternoon. First, the world's population will go on increasing. The noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, said that today there are 6 million people on this planet. On "Thought for the Day" on Radio 4 earlier this week it was said that 147,000 babies are born in India every day. The world's population is likely to double within the next 50 years—or maybe less than that. That represents a lot of extra mouths to feed.
Secondly, we are at the end of the power shortage. Within probably the next 25 years every country will have a nuclear capability, for good or evil. Therefore, it behoves us to think with great care of ensuring a fairer distribution between the rich countries of the world and its poorer nations. I think that is what peace is going to be about in the days to come, possibly rather more than religion. In the words of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin,The age of Nations is past. If we are not all to perish the task before us is to build the World".
§ 1.26 p.m.
§ The Earl of Longford
My Lords, it is always an extra privilege to follow the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill. To me he is rather a phenomenon. I speak as one of the old-timers here and we are not very friendly to that crowd there, particularly when we fail to get into it ourselves, and therefore when somebody comes from there, he or she is viewed for a long time with a certain amount of suspicion. However, that is not at all the case with the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill. He has become the leader of 300-odd Cross-Bench Peers. 693 What is it with this man? There must be something special in him. What is it? I do not know, but at any rate it is a great privilege to follow him today.
Of course I pay tribute to the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury for starting the most far-reaching Christian debate that we have had since 1961. I suppose some of our younger Members would not even have been born then. The debate then was started by the father of the present Earl, Lord Arran, who talked of Christian unity. The most reverend Primate's predecessor spoke eloquently and I was sitting on the opposite Benches next to my noble friend the Leader of the Opposition, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough. He was a strong Baptist—I would call him a bigoted Baptist—and I do not think he would mind my saying that if he were here. At any rate, when the Archbishop of Canterbury was holding forth my noble friend interrupted him and said, "Tell me, Archbishop, is the Church of England Protestant or Roman Catholic?" The Archbishop said, "Both", and smiled sweetly. My noble friend, for once, was silent. So that was the debate of 1961 on Christianity.
Of course we have had eloquent debates dealing with Christian matters since then and the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, comes to mind as one example of a Member who has played a special part, indeed a lead part, in helping this House—and therefore the country—to introduce Christianity specifically into an education Bill. And now we have this debate, which is a much wider debate on the subject of religion generally—that means all leading religions—which it is hoped will promote world peace.
It is a special pleasure to me and quite a few noble Lords that we have other non-Christian religious people speaking, like the noble Lord, Lord Ahmed. When he heard me begin to speak he fled, for whatever reason. He is the first Muslim to be here, which is wonderful. Of course, we have all read the Koran, and the noble Lord, Lord Ahmed, represents the Muslims. We have had many famous Jews—mention has been made of Sigmund Sternberg. I am not sure how he is referred to. I suppose he is a layman but he is a great Jew, certainly not a man on the fence. Some of us dare to call him "Siggy". He is one of the leaders of the Jewish community, like other famous Jews speaking today. We have had spokesmen for all kinds of religions, a wonderful moment.
Now I turn to Christianity. I am bound to speak from a Christian point of view, being a so-called Christian. What do Christians offer? We do not all agree on politics. My mind goes back to 1935 and the Labour conference, just before I became a Labour member, soon after my noble friend Lord Bruce. I heard the great Christian and Labour Party leader, Lord Lansbury, a Christian pacifist, speaking against collective security. He said:Those who take the sword will perish by the sword, as Jesus Christ said in the garden".That carried the conference. Then Ernie Bevin came along and said: "We're not going to have George Lansbury hawking his conscience around Europe". He did not say it quite that way, but the Labour Party rejected Lansbury and he was thrown out.
694 Then Clem Attlee came in, an ethical giant, my political hero in England, with de Valera in Ireland. Clem Attlee was asked: "Are you a Christian, Lord Attlee? Do you accept the Christian ethic?" To that he replied: "I accept the Christian ethic, can't stand the mumbo-jumbo". So he was not exactly a Christian in the ordinary sense. Nevertheless, he was supremely ethical and that is the problem today. I had a lot to do with Clem Attlee. He was old-fashioned, he did not like Europe. I once asked him to become patron of the Anglo-German Association, of which I was chairman. He did not like being unkind. He said: "I must tell you that I have never liked the Germans. Vi and I once had a German maid we were very fond of, but she was an exception". That was his slightly old-fashioned, smalltime point of view about the Germans. Nevertheless, he was filled with that internationalist inspiration. In his last years here, he was a great spokesman for world government, so he had the roots of the international cause in him.
That is why we are where we are today. Do we stand for world brotherhood? Do we stand for the belief that we are all brothers and sisters, whether we are black, white, yellow, brown, rich or poor? Thai is the internationalist cause. It may be said that many people who were not religious believed the same thing. Many people who were not Christians believed the same thing, like my much admired friend Victor Gollancz. He used to call himself a Judaeo-Christian at the end of his life. All kinds of people, Christians and non-Christians, have that feeling for world brotherhood.
In the end, I can only submit with confidence and yet humility—a Christian duty—that if you have a Christian belief that God loves everyone equally, whatever their colour, class or creed, it helps to believe in world brotherhood.
§ 1.33 p.m.
§ The Lord Bishop of Chichester
My Lords, in an inaugural lecture delivered in 1959 by the newly appointed Professor of International Law at Cambridge, Professor Jennings drew a striking contrast between the very few subjects available for his predecessor, the first holder of the chair, in 1871 and the mass of material which confronted arty student of international law at the time he was speaking. He pointed out that modern international law is no longer a matter of relations between states, but increasingly includes cross-frontier relationships of individuals, organisations and corporate bodies. His catalogue of subjects with which the modern lawyer must deal is an impressive demonstration of the way in which the necessity of living together impels people to make agreements of a practical kind, often without fully realising the implications of what they are doing.
An important effect of this great extension of peace in the development of international arrangements has been to limit the sphere of independent action of states. Like it or not, national sovereignty is in practice today very different and more limited than it was in the 19th century when people like Austin defined it.
695 But as people have begun to experience the impact of some of these developments, they have begun to react against what they see as threats to their culture and way of life. An outstanding example is the French reaction against the infiltration of American culture and their defence of their language, seeing themselves as the champions of the Latin culture and Latin civilisation. All over Europe now one sees groups of varying kinds and sizes asserting their own distinctive culture and, to use an ambiguous word, race.
It would be wrong to condemn local and limited loyalties. Most people are born into a family: the family is in the Christian view the smallest natural unit of association. It is right that there should be deep bonds of affection and loyalty within the family. Each family has its own ethos, in a sense its own culture which, at its best, is of real importance in binding it together. Something similar can be said of the various groups that I have mentioned and also of states and nations.
Christian moral teaching has indeed recognised the value of both state and nation and the place that they have in the divine ordering of the world. But it has also insisted that both are subordinate to international order. It is remarkable that in a period when the Church in the west was breaking up, in the 16th and 17th centuries, there should have come from the separate parts of it a striking unanimity of testimony to the Christian and moral bases of international order and unity. The Dominican theologian, Francis de Vittoria, the Spanish Jesuit Suarez and the Dutch Calvinist Grotius are principal figures among those who in the 16th and 17th centuries developed ideas of Roman lawyers and Christian fathers into the foundations of modern international law.
Vittoria, for example, in language which is at times surprisingly modern, argued for the freedom of the seas and freedom of trade as natural rights. He condemned the Spanish conquest of Mexico as a violation of the rights of the Mexicans to govern themselves in their own way. He also condemned the forcible conversion of the Mexicans and their baptism by the Spanish Jesuits. Grotius, a lawyer as well as a theologian, is the acknowledged father of international law, but this eminence should not be allowed to obscure the fact that he is one among other figures in a broad Christian tradition.
I wish to mention also a much earlier figure, Nicholas of Oresme, Bishop of Lisieux in the 14th century, who wrote what has been described as,The earliest example of a pure economic monograph in the modern sense".In it he argues that money is essentially something which exists for the public benefit and must not be tampered with nor varied in value except in cases of absolute necessity and in the presence of an incontrovertible general utility. He has in mind tampering with the coinage, which rulers were apt to do from time to time, but the principle that he lays down is applicable to all forms of currency speculation. The currency is a public possession that 696 exists for the good of the whole community and it is not for individuals, whether they be rulers or private speculators, to indulge in activities which are detrimental to the public good. I was particularly grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Haskel, for making an important point about economics in this context.
It is easy to see how the principle laid down by Nicholas condemns a great deal of modern financial dealings and raises the question of morality in a wider form than international law does at present. Peace is related to stability and in that the stability of the currency has an important role to play. This suggests that the writings of Vittoria, Suarez, Grotius and others on international matters such as the Spanish conquests of parts of America, have important things to say to us about peace and unity today and the restraint that any authority should observe. I was amused to read that Dr Johnson said he had always loved the University of Salamanca from which these people came because of what they said.
The newer states of Africa and Asia are understandably suspicious of an international law whose principles have been so demonstrably formulated by the Christian countries of Europe. We must, therefore, be careful to insist that these principles, although illuminated by the Christian revelation, rest upon something antecedent to it—what Christians might call the doctrine of creation and others might describe as rational reflection on the nature of man. We must show that there is common ground—a meeting place—for men and women of different faiths.
Professor Herbert Hart in his book The Concept of Law shows how the concept of natural law can be restated in a form which does not require it to fall within the categories of Christian belief but is yet important and valid. Sir Henry Maine, summing up the work of Grotius and his predecessors, says:What we have to notice is that the founders of international law, though they did not create a sanction, created a law-abiding sentiment. They diffused among sovereigns and the literate classes in communities, a strong repugnance to the neglect or breach of certain laws regarding the relations and actions of States. They did this, not by threatening punishments, but by the alternative and older method, long known in Europe and Asia, of creating a strong approval of a certain body of rules".International institutions have an important role to play in developing such approvals. The International Court of Justice is necessary and can by its activity be seen to be more and more necessary. The closer the world is drawn together the more this will be seen to be so, and the more will the authority of the United Nations be seen to be necessary and something that must be strengthened. We are perhaps edging very slowly towards a permanent international peacekeeping force. We need to do our best to support the achievements of the United Nations, as against it failures, make those achievements known and support the work of the UN associations. If the world is to live in permanent peace some organ of peace-keeping is necessary and an authority to control its use. That depends on the will to peace existing among all nations, not just among those of the west. For that to happen it requires that nations care for one another, 697 which involves a greater sharing of material resources than is now the case and a real humility in listening to and understanding one another's concerns. Christians of all denominations, and all people of good will, should be foremost in promoting this and in building up, to use Henry Maine's wordsa strong approval of a certain body of rules".
§ 1.46 p.m.
§ Baroness Richardson of Calow
My Lords, it is not easy to enter the debate at this point without being in danger of making points already made. I shall attempt to be selective.
The major religions are all born out of a sense of creative theology which suggests that the world is one and should not be divided in its understanding of how it stands in relation to God. Most religions also have a sense of future aspiration that leads them to believe that the world is moving towards the fulfilment of perfection, or something that binds people together, in the way that the creative force has led us to believe is right. Sometimes this has led to the kind of evangelical missionary zeal that has moved from "Come and join us"—to let people perceive the joys that others perceive in their religions—to a desire for domination and conflict by conversions which has been unhealthy and is not related to the essence of the faith of those religions. People within the faith communities have abused that sense of purpose and dignity which the religion has been designed to give them and turned it into a sense of personal power.
Religious faith and ideology is an enormously powerful force. Anybody who is able to believe in and give his or her allegiance to a force greater than himself or herself draws great strength from involvement in that faith. That has led to the laying down of life for the faith which, in some cases, leads people to believe that suicide bombing is right and, in other cases, that the self-sacrificial giving of life for the benefit of others is equally the way that they should go. Whether one believes that as a fanatic or as a saint depends largely on one's point of view and the outcome of the action. Faith that is harnessed into co-operation with others who have faith and is designed to create an ordered and compassionate society can be an enormous force for good for the whole world.
In 1993 a gathering of the world's religions made a declaration towards a global ethic. Following condemnation of poverty and conflict in the world, the following affirmation was made:We affirm that a common set of core values is found in the teachings of the religions, and that these form the basis of a global ethic.We affirm that the truth is already known, but yet to be lived in heart and action".It continued with a call for commitment to working together.
But aspirations to co-operation for the whole world need to be earthed in a personal and individual responsibility and participation. Mahatma Gandhi's challenge to those who were willing to follow him was to recall the face of the poorest and most helpless 698 person they had seen and to ask whether the action they proposed to take would be of any use to him. Will it restore him to a control over his own life and destiny? If only somehow we could return to that kind of religious search and commitment which is for the common good—and for the common good of the weakest in society—we would be on the way towards finding a whole community of peace and co-operation.
The call for the cancellation of unpayable debts has already been mentioned in this House. It is an indication of what can happen if people of faith are willing to join forces in order to put these calls for justice and commitment into good practice.
The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, reminded us that there are few international conflicts today. Today, conflict and disorder are often within national boundaries and between people who were seen previously to live together in some degree of sharing and harmony. It is not possible to find a diagnosis for all those conflicts. But a desire for power and domination, an unequal sharing of resources, and—it has to be said—a concept of conflicting religious ideologies leading to fear are often the causes of those conflicts.
However, there is much that faith communities can do to promote co-operation and to prevent strife. In the way that religious communities work, one of the greatest things we can offer is education about our faith and those of others which will then challenge those wrong perceptions and prejudices which lead to fear. But that is not achieved simply through reading the sacred texts of other's faith. It results from dialogue and the experience of sitting down together with other people. Once you have looked into someone else's face and shared faith together, there is no way that you can then withdraw and speak of "them"; but only of "us".
Faith is not a private salvation. John Wesley, the founder of the tradition in which I stand, spoke about preaching scriptural holiness in order to reform the nation. Faith is a practical, social ethic, not simply a private salvation and a Sunday observance. The greatest way of learning to live and work together is to share tasks. Working together on a shared task can bring about the greatest sharing of understanding.
Many examples have been given of sharing across religious boundaries in order to promote goodwill. I mention other examples. One has the wonderful title of the Bench we share. It has a lovely image of sitting together considering problems. That is in the Croatian-Danube area, linked with communities in Birmingham. Another is the Centre for Peace, Non-Violence and Human Rights. The World Conference on Religion and Peace has been mentioned; and the valuable work being done in the facilitation of inter-religious councils in Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Bosnia. There is local participation in shared concerns in Britain. Among those I mention the Citizen Organising Foundation of which I am a trustee. In places in this country where there could easily be an explosion of difficult areas of life, it seeks
699 to bring together people of all different faiths and community groups to take part in shared decision-making and engage people in their local communities.
The most reverend Primate mentioned the millennium. I have had the rich experience of belonging to the Lambeth Group of faith leaders looking for co-operation in the way that we approach the millennium. I hope that Members of this House will take the opportunity when visiting the Dome to look in particular at the Faith Zone, with its images about the role of religions in conflict and reconciliation. We continue to work together to see how within this country we can stimulate a debate on the kind of society in which we want to participate and encourage in the new millennium.
Finally, Churches Together in England has sought to offer to the whole of the community of the United Kingdom—indeed, it has gone further—a significant moment as the year turns into the new millennium of lighting a candle which in many places has been a gift from the churches to all people within communities. It is a reminder of that proverb which says:It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness".It invites people to join in a resolution, which to all those of faith is a prayer, which says:Let there be respect for the earth Peace for its people Love in our lives Delight in the good Forgiveness for past wrongs And from now on a new start".I suggest that if all people of faith could only move from competition into co-operation for the sake of the world, we would be on the way to finding peace, justice and reconciliation; and doing the very things we have been invited to consider in this debate.
§ 1.56 p.m.
The Earl of Carlisle
My Lords, it is an enormous pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Richardson of Calow. The noble Baroness mentioned dialogue between different faiths. She mentioned getting together and reconciliation. I hope that she will not be too disappointed by my speech which follows on in slightly more detail about one specific region.
It is the role of all religions to proclaim the sanctity and dignity of human life on this planet. My friend and former pastor the Reverend Francis Chadwick, the Anglican Chaplain to Helsinki and Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, whose parish once stretched from the Gulf of Finland to Vladivostok, put it so well,For religions to have the most impact on promoting world order and for their contribution to be taken seriously in the international field, it is essential not only that they have a meaningful, sincere and sympathetic dialogue with one another but are seen to be in harmony one with another".I am grateful once again for that remarkable servant of Christ and of his flock in the Baltic region who in his late 60s, after 40 years of serving parishes within England, was able to come to the Baltic states to be the Anglican Chaplain of Helsinki and bring all folk from points north, south, east and west together.
700 I do not believe that one can have international order without friendship. I do not believe that one can avoid international disorder if there is enmity and hatred. One must pour in friendship and extract the enmity and hatred before we have peace and good will. That is why I thank the most reverend Primate for introducing this debate. But I also owe him another debt of gratitude. Three years ago last month, on 8th September 1996, he will recall that he came to Tallinn, and in that great cathedral church on the hill there was worship for the signing of the Porvoo Declaration, the aim of which is to bring together the Anglicans and Lutherans in northern and central Europe. The most reverend Primate did not come alone; he brought with him the Anglican and Lutheran spiritual leaders from all four corners of the United Kingdom, from all the Scandinavian nations, including Iceland, and from all three Baltic States. Latvians, Ingrians and German-speaking Lutherans from Russia were also present. It is said that that great and wise statesman, President Leonard Meri, said to the Archbishop and his flock of bishops, "It's a pity you didn't bring the Buddhists". The president, with his natural wit, was making a valuable point; that perhaps one day after the Porvoo Declaration the Lutherans and Anglicans in that part of the world would bring in more faiths.
All of us owe an enormous debt to Bishop David Tustin, formerly the Bishop of Grimsby, who after many patient years of negotiation brought us to the signing of the declaration. It was not the most reverend Primate who gave the address to the congregation on that September afternoon. That task was undertaken by another Member of your Lordships' House, the noble Lord, Lord Eames, who is not in his place today. I apologise to him in his absence for not asking him whether I might quote from that remarkable address. He said, I recall:The Porvoo Declaration has much to say to us about the nature of episcopacy, the meaning of koivoria [fellowship], the significance of ministry and the importance of dialogue".He said also:What happens now could make a profound and highly significant contribution to the new Europe which is steadily emerging around us".To that, I shall use the final words of Nelson's battle hymn before Trafalgar, "Amen, amen, amen".
As I believe the most reverend Primate and right reverend Prelates on his Bench will agree, the Porvoo Declaration would be but a scrap of paper if the congregations, both Anglican and Lutherans, in their parishes had not willed and urged it on. But permit me to state to the most reverend Primate, without one iota of arrogance—for once—that we in the Puhavaimu Church, the Church of the Holy Spirit, under the direction of the Reverend Gustave Piir, Dean of Tallinn were practising the spirit of Porvoo long before he arrived. We practised it when he was present and we are practising it with even greater vigour now he has gone. But we can only do this if we, the Anglican Churches, under the Diocese of Gibraltar, provide our congregations with those outstanding pastors such as Francis Chadwick, Rupert Morton in Helsinki and Canon Chad Coussmaker in Moscow who have done 701 so much good to promote harmony in the area. I hope that the Synod and the bishops will be able to provide pastors; that they will not create gaps and will not skimp on the pastors' travelling expenses, because often they have a long way to go to get the congregations together.
At this point, noble Lords may well ask why I concentrate on one region which is currently at peace when there are so many conflicts in other places. I need not remind noble Lords yet again that this was not always the case in this century. Between 1940 and 1988, more than 10 per cent of the people in Baltic states were murdered or deported to Siberia, enslaved and mutilated. Churches were closed down, destroyed or turned into discotheques, as was St Saviour's in Riga. The church in Klapeida in Lithuania was closed down. Other churches were turned into museums for atheism. It is a fact that St Saviour's, which was a formerly a dance hall, has been turned back into an Anglican church. Many destitute Russians are visiting its great cellars and being fed and given comfort by the Anglican and Lutheran members of the congregation.
Those noble Lords who urge the religions to be more directly involved in peacemaking may wish to note that conflicts and oppressions do not last for ever. Oppressors such the former Soviet empire, the enemy of all religions except Marxism-Leninism, collapsed first. Here is an opportunity for the Churches: the role of reconciliation. It is so painful, so difficult but so rewarding once it succeeds. That can start at both ends of the scale through the congregations and parishes and through the work and direction of the most reverend Primate and his bishops in their synods and in their cathedrals, both national and international.
I know of no more remarkable event recorded in the history of reconciliation than the following. We are informed in the Gospel of St. Matthew, Chapter 6, verse 20, that when evening came Jesus sat at table with his 12 disciples. In my opinion, two of those disciples are worthy of special interest. One is St. Matthew, a Jew, working for the most hated imperialist Roman oppressors, and a tax collector to boot. The other is St. Simon the Zealot, who had vowed by any means fair or foul to rid his country of the occupiers and to destroy all those such as St. Matthew who were in the pay of the oppressors. Yet both of them sat in apparent harmony at our Lord's table. I rather fear that this is a too neglected story in the New Testament and more worthy of study by all of us of every religion and none.
I ask the most reverend Primate to encourage more priests to practise in ministries in eastern and central Europe. I point out to the noble Baroness, who I welcome to the Dispatch Box as the Foreign and Commonwealth Office representative in your Lordships' House, that we have 212 embassies and legations overseas and we are proud of them. Will she encourage the ambassadors and the legations to listen carefully to priests and pastors? That is not the case at present because they live too far away from the embassies and they are shared between a variety of embassies. The fact is that often the priests in the 702 community know more about local happenings than the ambassadors on the constant diplomatic cocktail circuits.
I conclude by asking what more we can do to assist local communities. Oft en the churches were ransacked. In the Church of the Holy Spirit in Tallinn, Estonia, the local congregation, the Anglican and Lutheran priests, the British embassy and local business are helping to restore the 65 17th century panels depicting the scenes from the Old and New Testaments.
That is not only a British concern; it has expanded. We have had enormous support from the Hedley trust and from the Hella Valner Trust in Canada. More money has been pledged, especially from the Dioceses of Rochester and Portsmouth, to which we are all extremely grateful for their assistance. We look forward to the visit, when possible, of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester, who made such a marvellous speech.
I should like to say a word for the most reverend Primate, to whom I am extraordinarily grateful for introducing this debate. Over the past eight years I have read of his primacy, and in the more sensational papers that his retirement was expected the next day. I did not believe it. Perhaps he may take comfort from the remarks made by an inebriated Scots gentleman, who in bare feet in 1897 after the service of Thanksgiving outside St Paul's cathedral to mark Her Majesty Queen Victoria's golden jubilee, ran along the carriage, shouting the words, "Go on, old woman!". Today I shall not urge the most reverend Primate, ''Go on, old man", because he is a mere 14 years older than I am. But I hope that he will continue as he has started and as he has continued from his predecessors since St Augustine, the first Archbishop of Canterbury, to promote international harmony and the avoidance of international hatred and strife, because he has the support of all us, both in this House, whatever religion we may be, and, I trust, from his whole communion outside.
§ The Earl of Longford
My Lords, before the noble Earl sits down, may I ask him whether I am right in believing—I have every reason to admire him for it—that he reads the Bible in Estonian?
The Earl of Carlisle
My Lords, I thank the noble Earl. I do so, and I do so partly because I wish to assist the process of reconciliation in that region, as did the noble Earl between 1946 and 1950 in Germany. I try to follow his example. I have for him the Estonian Bible here.
§ 2.10 p.m.
§ Lord Janner of Braunstone
My Lords, alas I cannot read the Bible in Estonian, but I can have a very good go at Hebrew, if that is any good.
I am also delighted to follow the noble Earl, Lord Carlisle, with his huge enthusiasm. I shall not follow him into the internal depths and difference: of the Christian Churches—I believe that we have enough 703 problems in the Jewish community without trespassing on the ground of the most reverend Primate to whom we are all extremely grateful for introducing the debate. I salute with deep appreciation his work on reconciliation with other religions.
While the noble Earl, Lord Carlisle, was speaking, I was thinking that most probably he, together with a large number of other noble Lords in this Chamber, take for granted that people of their religion can sit in this Chamber. I do not take that for granted at all. I was thinking of Baron Lionel de Rothschild, who was not permitted to enter the other place and take his oath because he could not take it on the Hebrew Bible. It is not so long ago that Jewish people were not permitted to take part in the public life of this House.
§ The Earl of Longford
My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that Roman Catholics suffered the same disability?
§ Lord Janner of Braunstone
Yes, my Lords, but I believe that the Roman Catholic disabilities ended perhaps a little earlier. They were accepted rather more than Jewish people in most places—not least, if I may say so, in Estonia and Latvia, to which the noble Earl referred. Again, he went there, most correctly, to try to achieve reconciliation. I went there to try to find some record of my family, and found none—only mass graves. That is all that is left of my family in Eastern Europe.
We are deeply privileged to serve in this House, as some of us were in the other place. We are especially privileged, I have been thinking all day, to serve with people who are devoted to the diversity of this society. Indeed, with noble Lords who are Roman Catholics—the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and I have disagreed on many matters most happily over many years, and remain friends because there is huge common ground between us. Many years ago, the noble Lord, Lord Shaughnessy, who is from Canada, and I went to the same school across the water, where anti-Semitism was in those days part of the way of life of the school.
I do not take any of that for granted. I have always believed that religion should be the base from which we create tolerance, friendship and understanding, and that that base lies in a Hebrew expression. Some of your Lordships knew Chief Rabbi Brodie, who was my late wife's uncle and who often used to say: "Derekh Erets Kadma Le'Torah". Those of your Lordships who speak Hebrew will know that that means, "Respect goes before the law". Yes, one must obey the law; yes, one must carry out the precepts of one's religion but never in such a way as to be disrespectful to other people who have other religions and with whom one disagrees.
704 That is the basis of tolerance; it is respect. A man called Sir Moses Montefiore—a great leader of the Jewish community—once said, "We Jews do not wish to be tolerated but we do wish that there should be tolerance". There is a difference between tolerating other people—putting up with them—and extending that tolerance, which makes life diverse, happy and rich for us all, with each person contributing in his or her own way, through his or her own religion. It is that which I salute in this House.
I have just returned from Russia where I learned once again in four fascinating days that those of us who believe in acceptance of others have the same enemies. We have the same friends, but we also have the same enemies. Russia is a xenophobic society. At the moment the main hate is Chechens. Chechens are Muslims. Next in line come the Caucasians, who are dark of skin. The Jews come next. But if the Russians get them, the Christians will not be far behind. Russia is a country which is still unable to accept in the depths of its society that it is tolerance which makes life worth while. I went there partly because of a very useful organisation called the Inter-Parliamentary Council against Anti-Semitisim, which we want to see working there. I also went there partly because I believe that anyone who attacks Jews today will attack Christians tomorrow, Muslims the day after, and then Catholics, as my noble friend Lord Longford, said. We are all minorities in one way or another and if we are not prepared to accept and respect other minorities, we shall be attacked next.
I wish to say what a marvellous asset to this House is my noble friend Lord Ahmed. How fortunate we are that at last there are Muslims in this House. There are some 2 million Muslim citizens in this country. Is it not extraordinary that it has taken until now to have a Muslim Peer and my noble friend Lady Uddin, a Muslim Peeress? That should not have happened. However, at last we are starting to move, and my noble friend and I work together.
When a newspaper has headlines such as, "Islam dangers", "Muslims on the march" and "The flames of the Muslim world are feared", which happens nearly every day, I say to myself that if it had been Muslims today, Jews or Roman Catholics tomorrow, we would all have been protesting. I have worked with my noble friend Lord Ahmed to try to get the press to understand that those kinds of headlines cause harm. The religion of people should not be used to denigrate; people should not be picked out because of their religion in order to attack. Because some people who are members of a religious faith may be fundamentalist, extremist or even criminals, one does not denounce all of them. One should not refer to "the Muslims" because there is a fundamentalist, extremist sect, whether in Watford or anywhere else which could cause trouble. The Muslim community of this country is a major part of our decent diversity. I know that because today the Muslims are where the Jews were not so long ago.
This is a very important debate. It enables us to put together our concerns for diversity and for decency. I learned that point in the House of Commons over 705 27 years when I served the citizens of Leicester West. In that constituency there were scarcely 10 Jews, but there were Hindus. There we learned to assimilate into our community a different way of life. But it was a way of life which was good—a family way of life; a way of life which placed top priority on the education of its children. There were temples, not mosques; temples, not churches; temples, not synagogues. It was different. But is not this country a much richer place because we have my noble friends Lord Ahmed and Lady Uddin, and because we have my noble friend Lord Longford, with his interruptions? We have hope of long life when we see those interruptions. We work together in decent harmony and understanding with the Bishops' Bench—we all work together in promoting harmony which matters to us all. For that, I believe, we should all be deeply grateful.
§ Lord Shaughnessy
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, I have to say that I cannot agree with his opening remarks. I attended the school he mentioned several years before he arrived there. There was no evidence of anti-Catholicism, anti-Roman Catholic bias or any anti-Jewish bias during my career there.
§ Lord Janner of Brunstone
My Lords, I wish I had been at the same place at the same time as the noble Lord.
§ 2.20 p.m.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, any idea I had of making the speech I prepared last night vanished an hour and a half ago. Any idea I had of delivering the speech I scribbled 20 minutes ago disappeared 10 minutes ago. It seems that we have a debate on our hands and not a series of prepared speeches. That is an invigorating position in which to be, but is also dangerous.
The scope of' the debate is so wide that I find it difficult to reduce it to sensible proportions to fit nine or 10 minutes of comment. But surely what is emerging is that all faiths in the book believe that there is only one God; that we are all children of that God in one sense or another and, therefore, that we are all equally cared for by Him. That relates to the way in which the right reverend Prelate gradually resolved my difficulties over the terms of the Motion.
Order is not, by any means, always good, and disorder not always bad. Our Lord said that he came not to bring peace; he came to bring a sword among us. Therefore, we cannot look to peace as being in itself an absolute good if it merely means an absence of war. However, it does not mean that. The right reverend Prelate prayed in aid the Dalai Lama to say that he had included other things, including a feeling of security.
You cannot have a feeling of security if you are a member of a nation in which the average income is one-seventy-fifth of that which it is in the richer countries. So, the concept of justice and peace go together. What happens when they are in conflict with each other? Are we not then in an impasse? I believe that the purpose of this debate is to resolve that impasse.
706 I do not have the facility of my noble friend Lord Selsdon in making an impromptu analysis, nor, indeed, his prudence in removing himself from the Chamber before I speak. However, it seems to me that we now come to the question of scale. This problem can be approached from one end or the other: first, from that of governments, international organisations, treaties and the manipulation of trade. The noble Lord, Lord Haskel, did that, following on from the noble and most welcome Lord, Lord Faulkner of Worcester. That is one way of pursuing justice and should be encouraged.
However, our Lord's description of the Kingdom of Heaven, which has relevance to every faith, was not of big battalions and international corporations but of yeast, working in the dough, and a grain of mustard seed. Faiths are made up of the faithful. Every church and faith must look to its members. Where it finds intolerance and ignorance it must remove them.
I confess to a certain amount of ignorance, and probably a good deal of intolerance as a result, through my woeful lack of knowledge of some of the other faiths in this world. Therefore, I have slightly less anxiety than I originally did with the movement that there is towards inter-faith celebrations in our country. We have to recognise that if we have the security of our faith, it is not threatened by looking at anybody else's. If we discover that what we share is greater than what we differ about, maybe we shall begin to see the face of God more clearly. Perhaps that is what will lead us towards peace.
I had a great deal more to say. However, it seems to me that that is probably the most important thing to say and I should be sorry to dilute it by saying anything else.
§ 2.25 p.m.
§ The Earl of Sandwich
My Lords, I shall not follow the noble Lord, Lord Elton, whose skills I cannot equal. But he omitted to say that his own work in the ecumenical field has been considerable, not least in the British Council of Churches.
I presume to enter this debate as a trustee of Christian Aid and a member of the Church of England's International Development Affairs Committee. I too welcome the millennium statement on reconciliation of the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury—and who would not? I pray that it will echo around the world and bring more peace. I hope that it will rouse the Churches and the Church hierarchy into a little more activity and perhaps even criticism of government.
At Christian Aid we always look forward to Church leaders taking a stand on international issues. So it was quite an occasion. It is often the Church of England which is reticent and cautious and other denominations which have had to carry the can. But I have noticed that Anglicans are warming up and it may be the approach of Jubilee or the Christian tendencies in the present Government which are giving them courage.
707 Sometimes it is only when Church leaders in the Third World take a stand that our own find the confidence to confront our politicians. The South African example has been quoted and is well known. Archbishop Tutu took his famous stand on sanctions alongside Trevor Huddleston. Bishop Dinis Sengulane of Mozambique was also mentioned today as a churchman of great courage. Anti-apartheid was one of the most important campaigns for the British Churches, the Church of England belatedly included, even more than the current Jubilee debt campaign, which is important. Anti-apartheid created a unique sense of international solidarity, such as that spoken of by the noble Lord, Lord Janner. We are still groping for that sense today.
Pakistan, Timor, Kosovo; so many countries are in the headlines that unless we have the acumen of the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, we are bewildered about the proper response. Anyone privileged to visit poor countries will know that the Churches there, whether in Timor or Sudan, can be an inspiration. They are fully committed to the struggle for human rights, health, and the alleviation of poverty day by day. In Uganda a year ago I saw many examples of the Church's involvement against AIDS. I have seen them in conflict in countries like South Africa and Mozambique or in human rights campaigns in countries like India.
The point is that the Churches have a tremendous influence in daily life alongside other faiths, and they are already engaged in politics and diplomacy to an extent that we no longer understand in this country. In Britain our involvement in international affairs is so dictated by the media—too much so—that we can hardly imagine the clergy interpreting events as they once did in the pulpit (pace the noble Lord, Lord Haskel) drawing worshippers to powerful sermons. Charismatic bishops have to find more subtle ways of communicating these days and I hope we shall hear more fire and brimstone and more oratory from our bishops, such as we heard today from the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester. May he set an example to others. It is not zeal, but enthusiasm that is needed.
As the noble Lord, Lord Haskel, said, religion must win the argument, not expect a privileged position. That applies also to our reformed House. As the most reverend Primate implied, we need more involvement of clergy in the promotion of international order. There must be more dialogue at the highest level. I am certain that the noble Baroness will agree that it cannot be left to diplomats or politicians.
Very often the Churches in the country concerned are deeply involved already. For instance, in Sudan the original Addis Ababa peace agreement was the product of tough negotiations by the Churches. It later came unstuck but the potential remains a generation later. Only last month the Sudan Council of Churches was again engaged in the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development—IGAD—process and the setting up of a new secretariat, mentioned by the noble 708 Baroness, Lady Scotland, during Questions on Tuesday. That is a tangible example of the Churches carrying out diplomacy.
The Government will confirm that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has depended a lot on the work being done by the Churches in Sudan, in particular. This applies to peace and reconciliation in the South between Dinka and Nuer on both sides of the Nile, as well as to Christian-Muslim dialogue in the North.
As the noble Baroness, Lady Nicholson, said, more conflicts today are localised and it is often the local churches and mosques which have the experience of mediation and are most closely in contact with the people. I warmed to the noble Lord, Lord Gretton, who is no longer in his place, when he spoke of St. Paul and the local community which he served. In DfID-speak, this is called "civil society". I hope that the noble Baroness will give us many examples of co-operation in local communities.
I am reminded today of the Indonesian concept of musyawarah—I cannot claim to spell that word. We think of Indonesia as a somewhat zealous society, but, ahead of all nations, they have the experience of negotiating at a local level for as long as it takes and until everyone falls down exhausted.
I believe that more could be done to equip our clergy, and those partner clergy overseas, for conflict resolution and mediation. I also believe that there could be international profile for our Church leaders on the Tutu-Singulane model. At present, I am sorry that only the Church media seem to cover their overseas visits or their major public statements. Some bishops have a high profile, but they are not usually the ones who are free to visit Iraqi hospitals or refugee camps in Albania, let alone take part in a peace process. Meanwhile, politicians seem to have rather more time to show their faces abroad, and one wonders why that is so.
Equally important is an understanding by congregations and the general public of what religious leaders are trying to achieve. The most reverend Primate knows well, from his own visits to Sudan, that there is a process called the "Partners in Mission" network, which is supported by the Diocese of Salisbury and informs a vast number of clergy and lay Christians in the west of England on what is happening in that country.
As the most reverend Primate mentioned, this is where the staff of organisations like Christian Aid and the Catholic Fund for Overseas Development are so valuable. I pay tribute to their educational work in this country, to their advocacy of issues which face developing countries and their ability to develop a partnership with both secular and Church-related bodies around the world. There is a constant stream of visitors from the developing world into this country meeting ordinary people in the churches.
Finally, there is one group of people in our society who are under-used, and under-recognised; namely, our refugees. These are people who know so much about conflict because they have that direct experience. They are people who can help us forward 709 in our own fragile understanding of what is happening. Through Amnesty and other non-governmental organisations which have grown steadily in the past two decades, we can have access to the knowledge that they have of international affairs. I suspect that the Home Office and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office have very different attitudes to refugees. As we shall see next week, I believe that this Government as a whole will have to work a little harder to improve official attitudes to those whom we welcome to our shores.
§ 2.33 p.m.
§ Lord Stone of Blackheath
My Lords, the most reverend Primate has initiated a wonderful debate for our time. The noble Lord, Lord Elton, has just said that religion teaches us that we are all one and the noble Baroness, Lady Nicholson, who has had to leave, referred to the development of a new internationalism. This, together with the scale, pace and clarity of electronic communication is allowing people to feel part of one community.
Unfortunately, and possibly as a reaction to all this globalisation, individuals within all this search for their own identity, and in many a passionate sense of their own ethnicity re-emerges and ferments to the point of conflict. Ethnic groups develop hatred for one another. There is a view that ethnicity will supersede ideology as the single most important source of conflict in the next century. Religion, together with politics, science, trade and the media, certainly can be used within all this in the promotion of international order.
Last week I was privileged to host an evening's discussion on conflict resolution. It was being proposed that the international community could, and should, create new structures that would intervene earlier in the gestation of ethnic conflict. We could see that with a peaceful, pragmatic and palliative stepped-set of initiatives, introduced in stages, escalation to war might be averted. We realised that this would be a massive undertaking and would need international co-operation and global consensus. But since I spoke in your Lordships' House in May on this very subject many eminent people in this field have encouraged me to continue to hold this view that a new mechanism is possible.
A group of us sought the views of 45 of the world's most pro-active organisations in this field. They also agree that, although many of the tribal conflicts currently being fought have religious elements, they are not religious in the sense of rival dogmas competing for dominance. In most cases they are carried along on ancient hatreds with roots and causes that over time somehow have become mutated into national, racial, lingual or territorial hostilities.
What was agreed was that, first, although conflicts are often deep-seated and multi-dimensional, there are certain recurring initial signs and symptoms easily detected by an objective observer. I am told it is clear that at present there are at least 22 such conflicts throughout the world that could "go critical" at any 710 time. Secondly, it was agreed that when international agreement established that a particular region was one of high risk, there are certain obvious early steps, such as mediation, that can be taken; that identifying the separate communities and their needs and finding ways in which they can each obtain their social and democratic rights is a necessary ingredient; that perhaps sanctuary could be provided for the innocent; and then, if military intervention is unavoidable, there must be consistency of application in the use of force. Finally, as these conflicts are cyclical and not linear, post-conflict measures are needed to break the cycle. Everyone agreed that the conception and development of a new set of international protocols is timely and will need to involve government bodies, NGOs, academic institutions, global businesses, the media and the leaders of the world's communities and religions.
Nineteen ninety-nine has already been exceptional in that it is probable that two successful interventions into countries have been accomplished. Times are changing and a principle is being established that there are limitations to sovereignty. This year also saw two other global issues; namely, debt relief, which has already been mentioned, and the terminator gene, in which NGOs, with press support, have had pragmatic effects. That is action brought about on a global scale above and beyond conventional democratic control. It is time for new global institutions to be formed to act on issues of this nature and scale. All these issues have a moral dimension. The leaders of religions should play a part in the new world order. However, it is crucial that they ensure that their role is one of tolerance and pluralism.
I saw a new production of "Antigone" at the Old Vic on Monday. Sophocles was grappling with these issues over 2,500 years ago. The laws of the state oppose those of the gods in most Greek tragedies and these unholy decrees lead to death, disorder and destruction for all. In the last three lines of the play the chorus encapsulates the issues we are discussing; perhaps my self-satisfaction at the words I have spoken; and my impending early retirement. The chorus states,One must never be irreverent to the Gods Those who puffed themselves up with great words have been dealt great blows In old age they have learned judgment".Since those times, more than religion has ignored national borders and brought the peoples of the world together. As commerce, transport, communication, science and art go global within all this flux, each of us has a duty to be faithful to our own beliefs, but because we are so connected we must be cognisant of our duty to others. We must love in our immediate vicinity, but we have a wider duty to act globally. Never has the immediacy of this been more urgent.
As I have already spoken for five minutes, I hope your Lordships will allow me one final quote.] will not quote from the Bible in such company, but in Perkei Avoth, The Sayings of the Fathers, Rabbi Hillel, in urging the Jewish community world-wide to act in cohesion and immediacy, said: 711If I am not for myself, who will be? And if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?".Perhaps it will be timely to follow this debate later in the year with one which poses some peaceful resolutions to ethnic conflict. That would be another opportunity for religion to play a positive role in the establishment of world order.
§ 2.40 p.m.
§ Viscount Montgomery of Alamein
My Lords, I very much hope that the noble Lord, Lord Stone, will continue the work that he is undertaking on the resolution of conflict and extend it into the prevention of conflict.
The House is very good at debating philosophic subjects; nowhere has this been more clear than today, starting with the brilliant introduction of the most reverend Primate. Obviously religions play a great part in the world and exercise great influence. Presumably that is why the Soviet Union, when it was under Communist rule, went to great lengths to suppress religion. I was therefore saddened to hear in the maiden speech of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester—sadly, he is no longer in the House—that these difficulties are still continuing in the former Soviet Union. I hope that they can be resolved.
At this stage of the debate, as always, there is very little more that can be said. Like others who are privileged to be here—a privilege which in my case is very rapidly turning into the past tense—we have had a very wide-ranging debate.
Understandably many speakers—notably the noble Lords, Lord Faulkner and Lord Haskel—have spoken about the problem of poverty, which is a very serious problem in the world. But I doubt that the Churches can solve this problem. Poverty does not necessarily cause war; it rarely does so. War is instigated by politicians imbued with an excessive ambition to dominate others and to abuse their power—and power has always been a great source of evil.
The most reverend Primate accepted that in the past religious movements had been guilty of causing conflict. In some places, unfortunately, they still do, partly because in historical terms Church and state have often been intermingled and intertwined. Rulers have frequently carried out belligerent acts in the past, frequently under the cloak of proselytising the Gospel. The Crusades are a good example.
Another instance occurred in a part of the world with which I am familiar. When Spain conquered the New World of Central and South America, great barbarities were committed in the name of religion. Some of those barbarities were as great as those which had previously been the practices of the indigenous population and which Spain suppressed. Fortunately, these populations merged by intermarriage and, in due course, an almost homogenous Christian society emerged.
712 But these things are in the past. As many speakers have said, we need to look to the future. As we approach the millennium a key factor must be the reunification of the Christian Churches. While they remain divided in practice it is difficult for a clear message to be sent to world governments. The ecumenical movement must continue; it is vital to the success of the message and the propagation of peace.
Surely the key messages which go out in this trumpet call are tolerance, reconciliation and respect for minorities, to continue with the analogy that my noble friend Lord Selsdon used in always working on triple connections. Nowhere perhaps is this more necessary than in Ireland. I hope that as we pass into the next millennium the Christian Churches will reunite and send out a clear clarion call about the inequities of conflict.
§ 2.44 p.m.
§ Lord Northbourne
My Lords, the French poet and philosopher Diderot once wrote,Beware of those who seek to impose order. To impose order is always to impose oneself—a way to dominate others, and to interfere in their lives".This morning the most reverend Primate spoke not only of order but also of conflict and the resolution of conflict, and it is about conflict that I want to say a word now. In the past 100 years, the nature of conflict has changed a great deal. A leader in the Herald Tribune some six weeks ago made the point. It stated,When the 20th century began, civilians accounted for 15 per cent of the casualties of conflict. Today the figure is 90 per cent. War and conflict today are no longer international conflicts fought on battlefields, but internal conflicts fought in the streets and villages".Today the absence of conflict does not mean that people live in justice and peace or that they enjoy human rights; far from it. Some of the most unjust societies in the world are dictatorships where there is no conflict. The secret police see to that.
Conflict arises and order is destroyed when the oppressed become strong enough, or brave enough, to start to fight back. At that point it is always a question of whether the conflict may not be better than the order that was enforced previously.
The most reverend Primate has asked what contribution religions can make to reducing conflict. I believe that there are things religions can do. However, with great respect I shall differ from the most reverend Primate on what those things are.
On holiday recently, I found myself reading the following words from a book by William Dalrymple about a journey he made through the Middle East only in 1996 in which he states:In Jerusalem every street corner has its own martyr or monument, saint or shrine. The soil is drenched in blood, spilt in the name of religion.Amid this conflict between competing truths and moral certainties the Armenian Quarter".and he goes on to describe the problems of the Armenian Quarter, which incidentally I know are well known to the most reverend Primate, who has spoken publicly of his concern on the subject.
713 However, I should like to focus on the words,this conflict between competing truths and moral certainties".I believe that it is those competing truths and moral certainties which are destroying the credibility of religion in the world today. In a world of global communications and mass travel, ordinary decent people find it very difficult to understand, and I believe they feel betrayed. Many are leaving the Churches as a result. The noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, touched on the point in his reference:There are many roads which lead to God".Many speakers have referred to globalisation. The great revealed religions of the world were all founded at times long, long before the days of globalisation. Their founders and the teachers who followed them interpreted the one eternal inexpressible truth in ways which were at the time as accessible to the people of that time and place as they could be.
Throughout history there have been times—and there still are—when religious leaders have emphasised the differences between the faiths in order to rally their faithful. Alas, that is still the case today. The main concern of some religious leaders seems to be to emphasise their differences.
Has not the time come for the great religions of the world to recognise that the rich diversity of outward forms conceals a unity of inner truth; to recognise that people can attain to the transcendent truth by any one of a diversity of paths? I know that much has been done to bring together religions. I am not urging some kind of mishmash of religions, such as, alas, that which is being taught in some of our schools today; far from it. I believe that each of the great religions, properly understood, is complete and integral in itself. You cannot "pick and mix". There may be several paths to the top of the mountain, but if you want to get there safely, you have to choose one or the other.
People want to see that religions are on the same side. The fact that, as a Christian, I choose to follow a somewhat different route to the truth than, say, a Muslim does not mean that we cannot march shoulder to shoulder with them when it comes to challenging oppression or the excesses of the "me first" society. The fact that I may think that my religion is the best does not mean that I need to be in conflict with the others.
As we ponder this debate, I urge noble Lords to remember Jerusalem.
§ 2.51 p.m.
§ Viscount Brentford
My Lords, I wish to congratulate the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury on introducing this interesting debate on order. I should like also to commend him because he practises what he preaches. I know from my own experience how well received have been his visits to different troubled parts of the world. The fact that he is and acts as an ambassador for international order is something for which we are all deeply grateful to him.
714 There is a law of quantum physics, of which noble Lords will be aware, that things exist on a line between order and chaos. Order talks of a fixed structure that tends to mean boredom. Some consider that the point of equilibrium in religions falls much nearer the order of boredom than chaos, though how actually a personal relationship between a person and Almighty God can be found to be boring rather beats me. But it may be that some of your Lordships have more experience of religion being boring than of being exciting. No, the point of equilibrium does not fall half-way between order and chaos; it falls much nearer chaos than order. That means that there is plenty of scope for exciting activities and ventures. That is what we are thinking about today.
In discussing this Motion we have to face two great problems concerning international disorder. Both have already been mentioned. First, how does one actually disentangle in disorder religion from ethnicity, politics and the desire for power, which I equate with what my noble friend Lord Selsdon referred to as prosperity? How does one measure the balance of blame in the conflicts in the Middle East, the Balkans and Northern Ireland as between all these different motivations? I do not know the answer to those questions.
I happened this morning to be reading the story of the Good Samaritan, as told by Luke with his usual accuracy. Primarily the purpose of the story is to show that all people are our neighbours and are to be loved and served, which is what we are talking about as regards international order. Incidentally, the story shows also that it is wrong to consider anyone as racially, socially and religiously inferior to oneself. The theme of mutual respect has already arisen in the debate.
The secondary problem that we must face is that religions have created international disorder. My noble friend Lord Montgomery spoke about the Crusades. The crusaders, on their marches to the Middle East, murdered Muslims, Jews and eastern Christians indiscriminately. I have been impressed by, and grateful for, the reconciliation walk which has retraced the path of the First Crusade a thousand years on. Western Christians travelled from eastern European through the Middle East, ending up in Jerusalem in July this year, where they expressed sorrow and regret for the evil of the Crusades. That is the way that we should be moving today. I am grateful for the fact that Muslims, including the imams, in the towns on their route warmly accepted and expressed great appreciation to the hundreds of Christians who took the trouble to walk through the Middle East a thousand years after the First Crusade. But obviously, there has also been much fighting between faiths.
I should like to touch on the subject of the Sudan. We have debated it twice this week, and I cannot resist the temptation to score a hat trick, and to talk about cricket, as we have heard references to football in this debate. Christian/Muslim co-operation could play an enormous part in bringing a just peace to Sudan. That would have a highly beneficial impact on the whole region—on other countries such as Uganda, Congo, 715 and certainly on the conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia. It is important economically; the new discoveries of oil and water could help those other countries. But the prime beneficiaries will be the Sudanese people themselves.
Noble Lords have agreed during debates this week that peace in the Sudan will never be achieved by military means. There needs to be diplomacy. There is progress through IGAD, as the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, has told us. I believe that there is tremendous scope for joint Christian/Muslim co-operation at all levels, informal as well as formal, in the attempt to bring peace to that troubled country. I am certainly involving myself in that.
I should like to offer one proposal. The most reverend Primate spoke about basic modern values and a framework of shared values; the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner of Worcester, spoke about shared common values; and the noble Baroness, Lady Richardson of Calow, spoke about core values being revealed in the 1993 congress to which she referred. I was not quite clear from the remarks of the most reverend Primate how far agreement has been reached on producing a framework of shared values on the international scene between different Churches. I wonder whether it would be helpful if the most reverend Primate were to set up a small group in this country composed of Christians, Muslims and Jews, and possibly others, to agree a common framework of values based on the Judaeo-Christian tradition which would encompass Islam as well. A set of shared or common values, well publicised, well recognised and internationally accepted, would be a great help in creating international order. By way of example, I should like to mention one such value; namely, the importance of relationships. Relationships are central to our vision of society.
The noble Earl, Lord Carlisle, said that no international order can come about without friendship, and I warmly endorse that. Peacemaking can be seen in terms of restoration of right relationships. In the 1980s and the early 1990s I was involved in South Africa, bringing people together across the racial divide, helping to build relationships and considering what a post-apartheid South Africa would look like. I can remember, after one conference, flying up from Pietermaritzburg to Johannesburg and watching in front of me the head of a very Afrikaaner university talking to a black pastor from Soweto. They talked together during the whole flight and I thought to myself: "This is what we are about: creating and building relationships and friendships between people from across racial divides".
I have said enough at this hour in the afternoon but I would like to repeat my suggestion to the most reverend Primate that he should set up a group, if that has not already been done, to compile a common framework of values agreeable to all religions, and probably also acceptable to others as well. I feel that, if this could be produced, it would provide a 716 starting point for meeting the desire of the noble Lord, Lord Stone, for a further positive debate setting out these proposals.
§ 3.1 p.m.
§ Lord McNair
My Lords, I am more than usually grateful to the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury for bringing this debate before your Lordships' House today. It is a subject very close to my heart.
First, I want to suggest some ideas as a framework for reconciliation and a resolution of conflicts. They can be used by those who are members of a faith community, by those who have private, individual spiritual values and by those who do not have any kind of religious belief—in fact anyone who seeks to create harmony and understanding in the communities they encounter in their journey through life.
Secondly, I want to add to what the most reverend Primate has already said about Dr. Douglas Johnston and the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy. My first suggestion is that we should make sure that we always think and operate in terms of "you and me" rather than in terms of "you or me". It may seem too simple to make a point of, but getting people to negotiate is a question of moving from "I'm right; you're wrong" to something along the lines of "If this situation is going to work, what would it look like?" or "What could each of us have done to make that situation work so that everyone is a winner?" That is a very powerful kind of question to ask in a deadlocked situation.
"You and me" offers a future for all participants, or actors as they are now often called, whereas "You or me" only offers a future to one actor or to one set of actors. This sets in motion a cycle of alternate vengeance, such as has characterised the history of the people in the area that we now call Rwanda. In these situations we have the choice to operate on the basis of "right/wrong" or on the basis of "what works". This approach is so simple, but it has huge implications and possibilities. It seems to me that this is essentially a religious concept. It includes of course the concept. much stressed by Christians, of forgiveness. It also includes the thought "What is there in this situation for which I can take responsibility?" And also "What have I done to contribute to the mess that we are in?"
This approach extracts all the actors in a difficult situation from feelings of blame, shame and regret. It provides optimism that a solution can be found to a difficult situation, and also helps to create the feeling that the protagonists are on the same side and the difficult situation is the enemy, so to speak.
The next point I should like to make in this context is that one of the problems in creating harmony where there is disharmony is that there is usually no framework or point of reference that is larger than the protagonists. May I suggest a starting point? We all have very similar needs in terms of survival. We have our own livelihoods and careers; we have our families and the groups we belong to; we have mankind as a 717 whole, not to mention the need to maintain the physical structure and other life-forms on the planet as an habitable environment for all of us to exist in.
It is vital to establish a result to any conflict that provides a viable way forward to all the problems for all the participants across the range of the different roles they play in ensuring their survival, and at the same time to minimise the destruction of those activities and intentions directed towards survival. That provides a kind of formula to bear in mind when negotiating.
It can often he found that when two sides are engaged in a conflict that will not resolve, there is a hidden party to the conflict, keeping the conflict going. If both sides were to look for this hidden party, identify it and isolate it, a hitherto unresolvable conflict will often miraculously be resolved. This concept has been proven in practice and helps to transform a "you or me'" or a "you against me" into a "you and me" situation. The third party is often discovered to have a vested interest in the continuance of the conflict, for example from arms dealing or other financial motives.
Secondly, I wish to say a little more about Dr Douglas Johnston and the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy and also about the book which Dr Johnston co-edited. It is called Religion, the Missing Dimension of Statecraft. It sets out the stall for the international centre that he has founded. The book is now part of the training curriculum for American diplomats and I strongly commend it to the Foreign and. Commonwealth Office and the Civil Service College.
The most reverend Primate referred in his excellent opening speech to two of the case studies included in the book: the role of the German Evangelical Church in what was then East Germany in facilitating the peaceful transition from communist rule; and the role of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Manila in providing strong leadership against the dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
I must emphasise the ground-breaking nature of this book and of the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy. It focuses on what has come to be known as "Track 2 diplomacy". This form of diplomacy typically takes place outside the public gaze. Often those involved in such initiatives are members of faith communities which are not specifically caught up in the conflict, but have a particular interest in seeing conflicts resolved.
Another example from the book which I find most illuminating was related to the Rhodesia/Zimbabwe conflict. I had never previously heard of the role played by members of the moral rearmament movement in the resolution of that conflict. I learnt that Alec Smith, Ian Smith's son, had, after showing little interest in religion in his early adulthood, become a member of the moral rearmament movement. He played a vital role at the suggestion of members who were in close contact with Robert Mugabe, in arranging a secret but historic and vital meeting between the two leaders. It was this meeting which Dr Johnston credits with making possible a relatively smooth transition to majority rule.
718 I wish to make a point about globalisation. Globalisation gives enormous power to increasingly huge corporations which live and breathe and have their being by increasing the bottom line. These vast agglomerations of businesses have a tendency to reduce each of us to a digital reference number on a supermarket reward card, whose real purpose is to facilitate more precise targeting of mass marketing campaigns.
In contrast to this tendency is the increasing awareness that we are all connected spiritually anyway. We do not or should not need electronic communication to feel part of the global village. There is a danger that the increasing conformity that is a concomitant of globalisation will make it more difficult for many small faith communities to secure their rights to worship as they please. Members of such groups are often also the same people who think holistically about matters like health, diet and rearing children. The globalisation of commerce is tending to make it more difficult for them to exercise that freedom of choice.
Finally, a number of speakers mentioned the problem of international debt. In closing, I have one observation to make about it. Most countries with advanced economies have central banks. There is a factor in debt which is so obvious that it is often overlooked.
The central bank typically gives its government the right physically to print the currency of the country but then lends the money back to the government with interest, thus creating the national debt. I briefly recount an occurrence which illustrates why this is unnecessary. In about 1888 the Government of either Guernsey or Jersey decided that the community needed a new covered market for its fruit, flowers and vegetables, for which the Channel Islands are famous. Accordingly, they printed £10,000 in currency notes which they used to pay the architects and contractors, who in turn used them to pay their employees and suppliers, who in turn paid for the means of survival. When the government of the island felt that all of the £10,000 had percolated through the economy they simply destroyed the £10,000 of currency notes. What happened? The people of the island had increased their wealth and facilities by one brand new market hall. No one had lost; everyone had gained. Many of the world's major religions enjoin against lending money at interest, which they call usury. We have been bamboozled into accepting a debt-based economy.
I thank the most reverend Primate for introducing this fascinating debate and hope that the Church of England will turn its particular attention to my last point in considering the problem of third world poverty and international debt.
§ Lord Haskel
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, I sought to suggest that the problem was that the debt of less developed countries was other people's money, not their own.
§ Lord McNair
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that comment. This is a much larger debate that we do 719 not have time for today. I believe that if we start from the principle which I described we will find that when people borrow they do not accumulate such huge debts because the interest will be very much lower.
§ 3.11 p.m.
§ Lord Hankey
My Lords, this has been a fascinating debate. As the last Back-Bench speaker I shall be brief, but I should like to make one or two observations that arise out of 30 years' experience of working, and even longer of living, abroad under Stalin and in Franco's Spain.
Recently, my work has been as a consultant to international agencies for environmental upgrading, institutional and legal strengthening in the developing world and as a specialist in the social and built heritage. That work has taken me to many different countries all over the world. It has been my luck to be an architect to three dioceses in this country, to a new Hindu temple in Delhi, to King Khalid's Mosque in Riyadh and now to work in five different provinces in China looking after the World Bank's support for upgrading the environment. I look after the preservation and approved use of the 71 metres-high World Heritage site of the Leshan Buddha and the associated temples and pagodas.
Through this diversity I have been enormously impressed, not by the differences in belief and interpretation of the religious message, which is as diverse as the languages of the people involved, but by the astonishing uniformity, need for and interest in the importance of spiritual awareness and the benefits of meditation and prayer. There is in this universality a most important bridge for different religions to appreciate the qualities that each of them has. Religions help in ordering man's relationship to his spiritual needs and interpreting as best they can the relationship of man to the deity, whatever form it may take. I believe that the future peace of the world depends on the accommodation, tolerance and understanding of cultural and religious differences.
As we have heard today, history shows that the name of religion can be used as a weapon to defend the security and narrowness of a culture and its religious and mystical beliefs. It has done so throughout history. In this increasingly small and globalised world, however, many beliefs (be they religious, moral or political) are under threat, and the social and economic orders built upon those beliefs, accompanied by the many vested interests in the status quo, do not take kindly to change. Today, many societies, not least our own, face rapidly increasing change. Therefore, it is important that our moral and religious leaders assist us to accommodate that change.
But religion has so often throughout history fallen into the trap of disobeying the tenets of its founders and, for political and economic ends, has been the deluded agent of misguided and sectarian forces. The intolerance of dogmatic and fundamentalist belief is a danger to any society that we should not 720 underestimate; and we should not underestimate the reality and dangers of divisive politics and the policies of exclusion.
In history, I suggest, it has not been the religious, or any other, belief which may promote order or disorder but the manner in which that belief is exercised. This presents the faith communities with not only the problem of being adequately aware of the task of understanding the often complex social, political and economic context associated with a particular problem, but also the challenge of delicately respecting all sides of the argument.
It is only by inclusion, empowerment and the giving of ownership that conflict arising out of change can be overcome and the policies for change sustained. For many in the faith community, committed to their understanding and beliefs, and surrounded by different cultures, it is an almost impossible task to be so open and tolerant of difference.
As in politics, we so often find that it is not the objective of a policy that is at fault, but the lack of awareness of the inclusive management requirements and an ignorance of a means of implementation that impedes a policy's realisation and universal adoption. But the faith communities, I believe, can with due humility be a great source for good, conciliation, forgiveness and the restructuring of social relationships, as has already been said. They can provide the human spirit with a transcendent uplift and support. They can give order to the confusion of life. They can lend their moral weight to the judgment of right and wrong in local and contemporary issues; and they can promote the cultural awareness of people throughout the world. Religion is, in my thinking, a component of the cultural heritage that we inherit and continue to reinterpret as the centuries roll by. Certainly it is to be considered in the enhancement of well-being and justice, and by the inclusion by creative thinkers in government, the professions and other sectors of our lives.
We have mentioned many times today the increasing globalisation of international best practice and other pressures. There is an increasing state of mutual awareness and thereby, on the one hand, potential for conflict, and on the other, the beneficial appreciation of each other's contribution to society. An increasing number of people have immediate access to comparative studies on any issue. For the defence and conservation of our environment, we perceive the need to develop common standards and a common base for our social, political and economic relations. In effect, as we have such power on the one hand to destroy our globe and the sustainability of life, we also have never before had such a potential for realising that our existence depends upon developing and understanding mutually acceptable systems for laws, trade, institutional and administrative practices and an internationally acceptable social context.
There is a place, however, for cultural understanding, for the appreciation of the value and dignity of another person's experience. I believe that that relates to each of us in this Chamber as much as 721 to the grander relationships in the world. The philosophy of others may be confused, or it may be confusing only to one's own mind. I cite the example of an occasion in the city of Peshawar when I was discussing religion with the local manager of the Peshawar Development Authority. I said, "Of the few things that I really understand, I do believe in forgiveness.". "Oh, yes", he agreed, "we in Islam preach forgiveness, too.". After a moment's pause, his eyes lit up and he said, "But we also have revenge!". In the world of globalisation, a great amount of understanding and learning is required.
However, cultural appreciation and tolerance is essential in all cross-cultural dealings, as it is always the other party's perception—I speak as one trying to advise other parties in my profession—which must be the language and analogy for any development of understanding and reasoning. One's own logic must be built into their analogy and experience if we are able to do so. I believe that this is an important moral position for any adviser, whether religious or secular. It seeks empowerment, not repression. It seeks inclusion, not disenfranchisement.
In Yemen, where we have been restructuring the institutional and legal systems and developing planning for the reuse of the heritage assets of the country, it is quite clear that the ability to achieve effective and sustainable policy requires the devolution of power from the centre and the inclusion and ownership of policy by the people to create a sustainable and economically viable country. The position of the faith communities—the Aqaf—is vital in this process as they wield great authority. I believe that there is an important role that religion must play. In my youth I always imagined that that was the meaning of "militant here on Earth". But always it has to be part of a team effort.
§ 3.21 p.m.
§ Baroness Williams of Crosby
My Lords, I thank the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury for Instituting this debate. When I first read the words of the Motion I was a little puzzled. It seemed clear that we could discuss a large number of issues under the broad terms of the Motion, but his perception was far wider than mine. He has drawn on the astonishing resources of this House, exemplified by many speakers with their knowledge, understanding and reach throughout the globe. That has made this an extraordinary debate. On behalf of all noble Lords I thank him for this debate, which has given so many people an opportunity to reflect on the problems of our time.
We have listened to a remarkable set of maiden speeches. Indeed, it was the most remarkable group of maiden speeches that I have ever had the pleasure to hear in this House. All three were of an astonishing and complementary standard. We heard, first, from the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner of Worcester, a speech which indicated the great knowledge he will bring to this House. It was delivered with the force and confidence one normally associates with people who 722 have spoken on many occasions. I believe that the noble Lord will make a most considerable contribution to our proceedings.
We also heard from the noble Lord, Lord Gretton, who had some interesting comments to make about the Middle East. He drew upon his experience both there and in Northern Ireland, but concluded that religion added to the complexities of our world rather than helping to resolve them. I hope that during the course of the debate he felt that the argument was more divided than his speech suggested. However, he certainly lead us to think hard about the points he was making.
Thirdly, we heard from the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester. Apart from an astonishing knowledge of Christianity in many countries outside this one, he is known by many of us for his dedicated work among refugees.
The noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, referred to the way in which we in this country sometimes treat strangers. It is perhaps worth putting on record that, despite their poverty, many developing countries, such as Pakistan, India, Kenya, Tanzania and Zaire, accept strangers with a degree of generosity which we in this country no longer comprehend. I sometimes wonder whether our major enemy is not so much other faiths, but simply the tremendous grip of the consumer society of materialism on the wealthy countries of the West.
It seems to me that two profound issues came out of this debate. I should like to say a word about each of them. The first is the impact that globalisation is having on our society. That was touched on by the noble Lord, Lord Haskel, and the noble Lord, Lord Butterfield, in his remarks about the scientific revolution.
Indeed, globalisation offers us many potential benefits, but it also carries with it certain great dangers. I shall refer briefly to each of those. The first, as a number of noble Lords have pointed out, is that the immediate impact of globalisation has been to widen the inequalities within our world. In a splendid speech, the noble Lord, Lord Elton, referred to the need for justice as well as peace on our globe. He was absolutely right.
Earlier this summer I was in Brazil taking part in a seminar on human rights. While I was there, the most recent figures on the distribution of income were published. They showed that the proportion of the gross national product now enjoyed by the poorest half of Brazilian society had gone down from 12½ per cent of national wealth only eight years ago to 11 per cent of national wealth today. No less than 63.8 per cent of national wealth goes to the richest fifth of that society.
One must then look at the people who, in a sense, are almost being forced out of the human race. They are so poor, so destitute, so unable to reap the benefits of education or public health, that we must ask ourselves whether we do indeed intend to lose the heritage of one-third of our fellow human beings because of the impact which our greed and their desperation is now having.
723 In that context, that same kind of inequality is now being reflected within much richer societies such as that of the United States and even our own. My first question, which has already been addressed by several right reverend Prelates and noble Lords, is whether we can take steps to deal with the legacy of early globalisation, which appears to be deeper poverty for a minority of the world's population, albeit that it has helped to lift a substantial proportion of people who now enjoy benefits which they never had before.
I believe that the Churches should take great credit for the crusade they led with the non-governmental organisations against the burden of international debt. It is no good lecturing the countries of sub-Saharan Africa or of west Asia about how important it is that they follow orthodox financial policies—although of course that is right if one begins by shackling them with inherited debts. Many of them, as we know, inherited those debts following wild spending of earlier dictators on arms and so-called "defence". Democracies in Africa and Latin America, such as Nigeria, Argentina and Paraguay, are fighting against a legacy that could drown and destroy them. We need to help them to struggle towards establishing democratic institutions.
In that context, I should like to make one other reference. It was mentioned by my noble friend Lord Carlisle and others. One other side-effect of globalisation on the former Communist countries of Russia and central Asia has been, tragically, to bring profound poverty to some sectors of their populations—notably the elderly, whose pensions have simply dissolved in the storm of inflation. In addition, women, especially rural women, have effectively been driven out of the labour market. In many cases, such women have literally no alternative sources of income, and many of them are desperately trying to raise hungry children with not much help from the rest of us.
Another effect is what I might describe as the response and reaction to globalisation of some troubled societies. I refer to those particular societies which simply have not been able to take on, adapt to and live with globalisation; societies like many of those in sub-Saharan Africa, and in countries like Sudan, Yemen and many others. There, the reaction to the forces of an internationalising world is to climb back into what one might describe as a fierce and aggressive belonging to oneself. That is what we saw with the Serbs in the Balkans, and that is what, I believe, we are seeing to some extent among the Indonesians. Having grown rapidly wealthy, they suddenly suffered a dramatic and drastic decline in their standard of living. I find it hard to believe that the deep political troubles in Indonesia have nothing at all to do with the fact that last year their standard of living fell by over 26 per cent per capita, with many Indonesian peoples returning to villages that could not sustain them.
The point is simple: trouble, unrest and violence in the world are not unrelated to people's expectations of what globalisation, economic advance and the scientific revolution will bring to them. In that context, I want to make one more point. Belonging carries with 724 it a certain set of values. Noble Lords may have read a marvellous book by Michael Ignatieff called The Warrior's Honour. It states that warriors, in what one might describe as "traditional" states, be they Islamic, Christian, Hindu or Buddhist, had their own ethic. It was the ethic of not attacking women, children and unarmed civilians. It was also an ethic of revenge; an ethic opposed to reconciliation; an ethic that carried from century to century a sense that one had to revenge the sins committed against one's own people. I believe that, tragically, we see a little of that even today in Northern Ireland.
Yet belonging is essentially a challenge to the spiritual resources of our societies. That is where I believe that the Churches have an immense contribution to make. One of the great weaknesses of the response of economists and politicians to the problems of the developing world is that many—not all—of them fail completely to understand that many of those societies have deep spiritual roots and that one has to address those spiritual roots by trying to speak to the people in a language that they understand.
In that context, I have one more remark to make before I move to a conclusion. I agree absolutely with what noble Lords have said about the white revolution in Iran. There was an almost complete failure by Western experts to understand that one of the underlying sources of that white revolution's opposition was precisely because the Shah refused to allow simple villagers to practise their religion. In the end, by doing so he created a huge backlash on himself and on his own efforts on modernisation.
I conclude by saying that I believe that the end of the Westphalian system, which essentially is what we are now looking at—I refer to the system of sovereign nation states—gives a huge opportunity to all our spiritual traditions. We now have to find a new moral law, a new structure of order, no longer based on the power that one or two nation states can exercise over others. In a sense that is almost a return to the global concept of religion that applied throughout the centuries where people like Dun Scotus, Aquinas and many others ruled intellectual thought. I believe that it is perhaps the greatest challenge that all our faiths can seek.
We Christians have a lot to answer for: centuries of aggressive and dominant behaviour, as the noble Viscount, Lord Brentford, stated movingly a few moments ago.
Islam brings us, among other things, a very powerful sense of faith. As the noble Baroness, Lady Nicholson, and the noble Lord, Lord Ahmed, both pointed out, we have to learn it, come to terms with it and understand it.
Hinduism and Buddhism bring us a sense of fragility and the preciousness of our planet which too often in the Western world we have simply begun to forget and which, to some extent, we have allowed ourselves to despoil.
In conclusion, I do not believe that this is a time of despair or pessimism, but one of immense challenge and hope, as pointed out by the noble Earl, 725 Lord Sandwich, and other noble Lords. I am grateful to the most reverend Primate for allowing us to bring these matters to his attention, and to his fellow Bishops and. the other Churches and faiths represented in this House.
§ 3.33 p.m.
§ Lord Moynihan
My Lords, from these Benches we would also like to congratulate all three maiden speakers on providing your Lordships with three exemplary contributions. Given the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner of Worcester, to sport in particular, it is right that he should be addressed as a noble friend, not only from the Cross Benches today but from these Benches also. Many years ago when I had the good fortune to be Minister for Sport we worked closely on football policy. I have always respected him. Today he won the support and respect of your Lordships' House.
Similarly, my noble friend Lord Gretton provided clarity of thought in a speech which came from the heart and one reflecting on the contribution of the first Lord Gretton. It was another first-rate maiden speech, worthy of a wider audience.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester was refreshingly energetic. If I could apply a new maxim to his conviction, faith, undoubted enthusiasm and connection in his speech to the everyday challenges which he faces, it would be "Living your vision is essential".
Today's debate has been utterly fascinating. I hope that it will receive an even wider audience when it is available in the Official Report. I, too, would like to take the opportunity to pay tribute to the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury for enabling us to discuss this pertinent and highly-absorbing subject. To my mind, an historic debate such as this shows your Lordships' House at its very best. Its scope has been enormous.
This topic not only touches on but travels directly to the very heart of complex questions involving human identity, culture and philosophy. One has only to look at the contents page of this week's Economist, which has articles on "Russia and Islam", "Israel's religious-secular split" and "Pakistan's politics of religion", to realise how inextricably religion is linked to our daily lives, both public and private.
Today we have heard those far more eloquent than I outline movingly the ways in which religion as a matter of private conviction, private conscience and private philosophy can be a big tent under which many nations with differing cultures, spiritualities, devotional practices and theologies can gather in peace and harmony.
The case for religion to be allowed to teach its doctrine of peace and understanding is overwhelming. As the noble Baroness, Lady Richardson of Calow, pointed out. such teaching includes an understanding of the faiths of others so that an end may be brought to those conflicts all over the world which are inflamed by a poor understanding of religion and exacerbated by ethnic, cultural and historical differences.
726 I shall limit myself to the central theme of the debate; namely, the role which religious leaders can and should play in world affairs, in particular in conflict prevention and conflict resolution. It goes without saying that religion has always been a powerful force in the tide of human affairs, not least in the arena of politics and international relations. Men, women and children find in religion a code of moral conduct, a sense of meaning and personal or collective identity. Religious institutions should provide far more than opportunities for worship: they should provide leadership and systems of law and adjudication.
One of the most interesting aspects of this debate for me has been the examination of the role that religious leaders should play in the political domain and the ways in which an appropriate balance can be achieved which does not constitute an interference in the policies of democratically-elected governments but which makes full use of this vast well of resources, expertise and understanding of humanity.
Today's debate asked us to look at the role which religion can play in the promotion of international order and the avoidance of international disorder. However, it would be all too easy to argue the opposite and to make it a compelling, if superficial, case for the part that religions have played in the tapestry of the world's conflicts, tyrannies and atrocities over the past two millennia.
In our century we have witnessed the spectre of religion fighting religion; we saw the violence between Hindus and Muslims in 1947 at the time of partition; we saw the ongoing conflict between the Jews of Israel and the Muslim Palestinians since the birth of the state of Israel in 1948; we know all too well the sectarian violence that has characterised Ireland's recent history; and in our own decade the ethnic cleansing of recent years in the Balkans has, without doubt, had a religious component.
Throughout history wars have been fought in the name of religion. Over the centuries religious fanaticism has been called upon to inspire armies to believe that they were fighting for the only true faith, and thus the concept of the "holy war" was born, illustrated by the Crusades launched by Christian Europe in the 11th to the 13th centuries to recapture the Holy Land from the Muslims—an example used in this debate by my noble friend Lord Brentford.
Likewise, the Reformation in 16th century Europe, which saw the division of Christendom into Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant, saw conflicts between Christians tear the countries of Europe apart: the wars of the Schalkaldic League in Germany; the murder of 2,000 Huguenots in the St. Bartholomew's Eve massacre; the French wars of religion; the Swedish civil war; and the extended campaigns between the Russians and the Poles in the 16th and 17th centuries. Why are they so important? It is because they all took on the trappings of a holy war, the latter one between the Russians and the Poles in the 16th and 17th centuries between Catholic and Orthodox. They are the preserve of historians, but the carnage wrought by 727 them still today demonstrates the lengths to which men have been prepared to go in the name of their religion. In the fight against terrorism, wherever it is, it is critically important that we never forget that Islam, like Christianity, preaches peace and non-violence.
Today, although numerous human rights instruments such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights guarantee freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief as inherent and inalienable human rights, tragically, as was pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool, we still find multiple examples of religious liberty infringed by governments throughout the world. To that challenge we in this Chamber have a duty to respond.
How can we respond? There are many different kinds of policy tool, both negative and positive, which can be used to promote international standards of religious freedom and other human rights to bring about a peaceful resolution of conflicts. In some cases, incentives can induce governments to change their behaviour. Incentives can be as simple as diplomatic engagement or high-level visits or as complex as the provision of foreign assistance, trade and investment.
Negative inducements, or sanctions, are also an important foreign policy tool. On this subject the House will be aware of the work of the US Secretary of State's Advisory Committee on Religious Freedom Abroad. Since 1997 it has been engaged in the process of analysing three things and it is important to learn from its experience. Those three things are the status of international religious freedom, the role religion plays in conflict and conflict resolution and the actions the US Government might take to further religious freedoms abroad. When religious freedom is denied to anyone, freedom for everyone is threatened.
I ask the Government to assess the work of the US Advisory Committee on Religious Freedom Abroad and the Office on International Religious Freedom with the view to consider plans to establish similar opportunities for dialogue, information gathering and parallel action by government and religious institutions in this country in order to address persecution and promote conflict resolution and respect for humans rights all over the world.
There are many different reasons why religion is a factor in conflicts. As we have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Janner, persecution is one, and fears of "foreignness" is another. Ethnic or nationalist conflict among groups who are identified with a common religion, or political conflicts between a state and a religious movement, particularly in countries where religious political movements and parties are becoming more involved in the political process, are other common factors.
However, it is equally important not to minimise the religious aspects of conflict situations; or, indeed, the potential for religion to play a role in resolving conflict. From these Benches, we share the views expressed in the House this afternoon that it is 728 important to remember that while religion can be a factor in stimulating conflicts, it can also be a factor in resolving them and preventing them. While the involvement of religion in conflict resolution is as varied as the involvement of religion in exacerbating conflicts, religious leaders and groups have long played a significant role in reconciling hostile factions, fostering the peaceful evolution of civil society and promoting human rights.
Indeed, one has only to look at the list of Nobel peace prize winners to see the importance of religious leaders in promoting and facilitating peace. Let us think of Archbishop Desmond Tutu in the protracted fight against apartheid in South Africa; the Dalai Lama, the religious and political leader of the Tibetan people, who was awarded the prize in 1989; or Martin Luther King, who led the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, for his campaign for civil rights. Most topically, let us think of Bishop Carlos Belo, who was awarded the prize in 1996 for his work towards a just and peaceful solution of the conflict in East Timor. His work in that strife-torn province will continue to be vital in the many months ahead as the East Timorese seek to reconcile and rebuild their society from the maelstrom of violence into which it has been plunged.
I should simply like to state from these Benches the important point made by my noble friend Lord Gretton. We believe that religious groups across the spectrum of religions can offer an important contribution to foreign policy debates—be they large, trans-denominational entities or small, local churches, synagogues, mosques or temples. Many religious groups undertake vitally important work to assist victims of religious persecution, to monitor and report on human rights violations (which are of enormous value to us in terms of access to information for debates in this House), to educate and defend universal human rights, including the right to religious freedom, and to mediate conflicts and promote reconciliation.
We believe that it should be a priority for officials from British embassies and high commissions to engage in dialogue with religious leaders and advocates of religious freedom and to maintain, as I believe they do, a high level of dialogue with religious leaders, religious groups and experts on local religious life.
In my closing remarks, perhaps I may just touch briefly upon the modern relationship between Church and state. Beyond the role that religious leaders can play in the theatre of conflict resolution and prevention, the question of how pro-active religious leaders should be in world affairs generally must be asked, for whatever answer is decided upon could have substantial repercussions and implications in the decades to follow. From time immemorial, Church and state, religion and politics, have been bound together in a deep-rooted relationship—a relationship sometimes of hostility and sometimes of complicity.
In Europe, we have a long tradition of Christian democracy in our political groupings. In Islamic countries there is a long tradition of clerics in politics and, in this country, the very presence of the most 729 reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury in this House and that of the right reverend Prelates who share with him the Benches of the Lords Spiritual testify to the role that religion has and can play in our political affairs.
Accounts of the Witan in the 11th century describe an early example of strife between Church and state when William Rufus attempted to force Archbishop Anselm to accept the supremacy of English law rather than the supremacy of Rome. The noble Earl, Lord Longford, was right to intervene on that point. For a later example we need only to look at Henry VIII's defiance of Rome in the 16th century which ultimately led him to declare himself the sole supreme head of the Church of England and presaged years of blood-stained struggle. I think that your Lordships will all agree that we have come a long way since those days, certainly in the case of the relationship between Church and state, although on the question of European supremacy, from these Benches, I am not wholly sure!
However, in conclusion, let me say this. The Vatican, for example, has continued its long tradition of the expression of its political views with the assistance of the Pope's diplomatic corps made up of the Secretariat of State and its nunciatures. This year the Vatican has intervened on behalf of the detained former Chilean president, Augusto Pinochet, while the Pope has met Yasser Arafat at the Vatican, as well as the Iranian President, Mohammad Khatami. In January last year the Pope made an unprecedented visit to Cuba. This is no isolated example; it is a trend in our political evolution. Delegates from the parliaments of 40 Islamic countries—as was rightly pointed out in an earlier contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Ahmed—including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bosnia and Turkey, met in Tehran at the Organisation of the Islamic Conference to set up the first interparliamentary union among Islamic states at which the President of Iran urged Islamic countries to exert a greater influence on world affairs.
There will be an awareness that one of the challenges for us in politics is that we must seek to ensure that the role of religious leaders complements and assists democratically elected governments, and does not compete with them. On that note I very much look forward to hearing the Minister's response. I am deeply grateful to all those who have participated in this debate. As happened to the Minister earlier this week I am losing my voice although it has just held out after what has been an exceptionally busy week for both of us.
§ 3.51 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal)
My Lords, it is a great privilege for me to close this debate on the role of religion in the promotion of international order and the avoidance of disorder. I am grateful to all noble Lords who have contributed to today's debate on this important and perhaps under-explored issue. I am particularly 730 grateful to the most reverend Primate for initiating this debate and for his thoughtful and thought provoking contribution.
I join with others in complimenting the three noble Lords who made their maiden speeches today. We were treated to a feast. We had the advantage of the erudition and sagacity of the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner of Worcester, the youth, energy and enthusiasm of the noble Lord, Lord Gretton, and the wisdom, balance and truth of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester. It must be rare indeed for us to have been delighted in this way and in this House.
I wish also to echo the comments made by the noble Earl, Lord Longford, and the noble Lord, Lord Janner, that it is a great privilege and pleasure to listen to the contributions made by so many noble Lords who hail from the diverse richness of the world's great religions. We should and do celebrate the fact that noble Lords who have spoken in this debate have spoken with one voice as to the need for tolerance, understanding and reconciliation and the rejection of greed, as so eloquently expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, in her most excellent speech.
But I hope that, notwithstanding the great benefits from the Indonesian practice and example which the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, outlined to us, I shall not go on for so long that we all in this Chamber fall down exhausted. I shall try to respond to many of the issues raised in the debate. If I am unable to do so., I will of course write to the noble Lords concerned.
The promotion of international order and the prevention or resolution of international disorder are at the heart of the Government's policies. In his first few days in office, my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary set out his mission statement detailing four benefits which we aim to secure for Britain through our foreign policy: security, prosperity, quality of life and mutual respect. I am sure that all sides of the House will agree that working towards the creation of a world in which governments are based on democracy, decency and justice is not only in Britain's narrow national interest but is a goal towards which any British government should strive.
Since their inception, Her Majesty's Government have made strenuous efforts to put their principles into practice. As many noble Lords have said, it is a sad truth that we continue to see graphic examples of the horrors of conflict. A number of noble Lords have rightly highlighted that we need only recall from this year alone what has happened in Kosovo and East Timor to see that. In both cases Britain has been at the forefront of international efforts to build lasting solutions based on respect for the rule of law and human rights. We have also played the key role in making significant progress towards a satisfactory solution to the long-standing disputes between the international community and Iran and Libya.
As the most reverend Primate and other noble Lords have mentioned, during the Cold War we saw a pattern of ideologically-driven confrontation between states 731 or groups of states. I agree with those noble Lords who said that this has largely disappeared and that as the threat of war between states has receded we have seen an increase in internal conflicts. These conflicts are often difficult for the international community to anticipate, manage or resolve: difficult because they are the product of sets of circumstances that are often unique to a country or to a part of a country; difficult because underlying tensions can simmer for years before being triggered by a seemingly extraneous event; difficult because intervention by outside governments is often constrained by disagreements among the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council about the relative importance of sovereignty and human rights; and difficult because often no amount of external support or encouragement alone can resolve the deep-seated problems that drive peoples within a state to fight each other.
Along with many other noble Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Haskel, emphasised in his thoughtful speech that we live in an increasingly interdependent world. As such, we must recognise that there are limits to what national governments can achieve alone. The old ways of settling conflicts without resolving the underlying causes are no longer tenable. We need a new model which works. Whether we are talking about resolving armed conflicts, about reconstructing societies and building lasting arrangements after conflict, or about forestalling conflicts, the best chance of success comes from the combined, concerted and mutually supportive effort of all those involved—most particularly, governments and parliamentarians. If I may say so, we have in the House some very fine examples of parliamentarians who have walked the extra mile for peace. I name but a few of those who are making efforts at the moment: the noble Lords, Lord Stone, Lord Alton, Lord Elton and Lord Ahmed—noble Lords, who hail from each side of the House, speaking with one voice. It does our hearts good to hear those voices and we rejoice in them.
§ Baroness Scotland of Asthal
My Lords, there is a role too for community leaders, trade unions, businesses and the faith communities.
Which brings me to the theme of this debate. In my introductory remarks I said that this subject was possibly underexplored. Perhaps I should qualify that: it definitely was not "underexplored" from the 12th to the 18th centuries. But it has been for most of this century, having become, in the words of the volume published by the American Center for Strategic and International Studies, the "missing dimension" of statecraft. But there are signs that this and other things are changing.
§ Lord McNair
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness. I believe that it is the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy. Dr Douglas Johnston used to work for the Center for Strategic and 732 International Studies, but the new organisation he has set up is the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy.
§ Baroness Scotland of Asthal
My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord. My understanding is that when the book was written he was in his former incarnation. However, I shall bow to the noble Lord's superior knowledge on the point.
As I say, there are signs that things are changing. For all the reasons of interdependence I spoke of previously, faith communities can and will have an increasing impact on the promotion of stability and the avoidance of conflict. There is a clear coincidence between the principles upon which we base our approaches to these issues and the tenets of many, indeed most, faiths. The noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, described these as the "overlapping circles of belief". The challenge both for governments and for faith communities is to give fuller expression to the enlightened self-interest that lies at the heart of the UN Charter; in other words, to recognise that the actions of the international community must in future, to quote my right honourable friend the Prime Minister,be guided by a more subtle blend of mutual respect and moral purpose in defending the values we cherish".How can that be done? Recent academic surveys of this issue—and there have been remarkably few—have brought home to those of us interested in the relationship between foreign policy and religion the magnitude of the obstacles facing faith communities.
Part of this is the weight of history: the perceptions that religion can have as much a malign influence as a good, of which we have heard so much in our debate today from a number of noble Lords. Today's reality is no less daunting. There are still too many areas of the world where inter-communal hatreds based on religious differences are fuelling conflict.
The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, raised the issue of religious persecution in Tibet. I wish to assure noble Lords that human rights issues form an important part of the regular dialogue we have with the Chinese Government and will be raised during President Jiang's visit next week.
The noble Lord, Lord Alton, raised the predicament of James Mawdsley and Rachel Goldwyn, who have both been detained because of their attempts to express their beliefs. I hope that in this House there is no doubt of this Government's grave concerns about the nature of the regime in Rangoon. That was why this Government ended official support for trade promotion to Burma. Of course we shall keep under review with our international partners the possibility of taking further measures.
§ Baroness Williams of Crosby
My Lords. I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. In the context of what she said about Burma, can she and her noble friend consider the question of new British investment, such as has occurred in the case of Premier Oil, along 733 the lines of that adopted by the United States Congress. I do not expect the Minister to reply immediately.
§ Baroness Scotland of Asthal
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for her intervention. I am sure that Her Majesty's Government will take that matter into consideration.
I turn to the issues raised by other noble Lords. A number of noble Lords have said that those who write off the role of religion as negative do all of us a grave disservice. They ignore the huge positive impact made in some of the world's most difficult conflict zones by faith-based bodies. Anyone who has seen the work done by Christian Aid, with which the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, has such a close association, in East Timor, Colombia or Southern Sudan can only admire its dedication and bravery. I should like to reassure the noble Earl, Lord Carlisle, that all Britain's embassies are properly conscious of the great contribution made by the religious leaders in their regions and have proper access to them.
Perhaps I may cover one more general issue raised in today's debate. A couple of years ago the respected American writer and academic Samuel Huntington put forward the thesis that the next phase of conflict might well be a clash of civilisations, in particular a confrontation between Islam and Christianity. Although his thesis should have been given little credence, it prompted much discussion at the time, and some feared he might be right.
My late friend and colleague Derek Fatchett took a close interest in these matters. Anyone who knew him will confirm Derek's great personal commitment to dialogue between faiths and between minority communities, a commitment which he brought both to his work in his constituency and in the Foreign Office. Derek addressed these issues in a speech to a seminar at the University of Westminster last year. He identified five areas where, in his view, religion played a significant role internationally: as conciliator; as promoter of development; as protector of development; as a force for change; and as a force for reconciliation. I respectfully agree. And to his five points, I offer a comment. That such work be done with a low, not high profile, unless the circumstances specifically demand this. His is good advice for anyone in the conflict prevention and resolution business. It is particularly apt when one considers the past history of religion and conflict.
Derek's list is particularly appropriate when one considers the challenges to peace and stability and the protection of human rights we face today. Intra-state conflict has been, and seems set fair to continue to be, the post-Cold War norm. The power of faith to reconcile these differences before, during and after conflict, is self-evident.
Leaders of the different faiths agree on the primordial role of the spiritual dimension to life. On this rock they can build understanding. The vision they hold out of a divine purpose for mankind and of the striving for compassion and justice which 734 characterises that purpose has acted as a bridge of great strength. It is that sense of what different faiths have in common which can inspire all of us as we face the uncertainties and challenges of the future. I welcomed the sentiment that echoed to that effect from all sides of the Chamber.
That inspiration has already left its mark on the conduct of international affairs this century—not a dominant one, as in the past, but important all the same. Many states are effectively theocracies. Confessional parties feature in most democracies; and a number of influential leaders have left their mark, almost all of whom were mentioned by noble Lords, as they were by the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, in his able address. I mention their names again because they are of importance. One only has to recall the work of Mahatma Gandhi, Desmond Tutu, Martini Luther King, Pope John Paul II, and I add another, My Khan, to see how much of a contribution faith can make to bringing about peaceful and sustainable change. There are also examples of wider faith community action, from the conflict resolution work of the Quakers during the Nigerian civil war; to the Catholic Church in the Philippines during the transition from dictatorship, as mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams; to the evangelical churches in East Germany during the Cold War. So, good work—vital work—has been done. I am sure that even molt can be done. Next year's UN summit of world religious leaders is but one avenue of real promise.
When the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London addressed Chatham House on these issues in May 1998, his honesty, compassion and vision shone through. He has followed up that speech with vigour and drive, through his successful campaign to establish a multi-faith centre for peace and reconciliation at St Ethelburga's Church in the City of London. I salute his efforts, and those of the friends and trustees of St Ethelburga's, and am glad that my own department has been able to make a modest contribution to his start-up fund. I look forward to developing our dialogue with him and the centre on these important issues.
I also want to take this opportunity to pay tribute to other efforts to bring together representatives of different faith communities in this country and internationally. Such efforts send an important signal of a willingness to develop a multi-faith dialogue on peace and reconciliation. We all have an interest in seeking to encourage effective and co-ordinated dialogue in this area. I welcome the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Elton, in that regard. The noble Lord voiced his view that learning, acceptance and the widening of understanding are a consummation devoutly to be wished.
Finally, my warmest thanks are due to the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury. He has been in the vanguard of thinking on these issues for some time. The World Faiths and Development Dialogue is just one example: a meeting which he co-chaired with the president of the World Bank, bringing together representatives of nine world faiths at Lambeth Palace in February 1998. Today's debate has 735 been both timely and valuable. I could not but add my voice to all those who would seek to congratulate him on that marvellous endeavour.
I spoke earlier about the volume entitled, Religion: the Missing Dimension in Statecraft". Thanks to the efforts of many in this Chamber, and to other faith leaders, that title may yet have to be changed.
§ 4.15 p.m.
The Archbishop of Canterbury
My Lords, I rise to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland of Asthal, for her own contribution in drawing together in such an admirable way the many threads of our debate today. I hope that we have a long weekend in which to recover from much speaking this week. I am sure that your Lordships will agree that this has been a fascinating occasion and, if I may say so, one of those events in which the virtues of this unique Chamber have been very well displayed. There is so much that deserves comment, but I will not detain your Lordships for too long, you will be pleased to hear. However, once again I want to add my congratulations to those who have spoken for the first time in this House. They will by now be so embarrassed by the warm comments they have received that I will say no more.
I have been most encouraged by this debate. We may think in our darkest moments that this is only about words and words and words, but I can promise you that from today a message will go around the globe regarding our commitment to dialogue and the role of religion. What will that message be? Perhaps I can offer just two quick points. I think it will be two-fold: a challenge and an encouragement. It will be a challenge and an encouragement to the religions of the world that from the core values we share we should combat intolerance, suspicion, fear and prejudice. We must work together. There is so much "bad" religion around, but there is also a great deal of good religion, with warm humanity in our churches, mosques, synagogues and temples. We have to draw upon those resources of faith in our daily life.
This compels us to celebrate diversity and the richness of life in all its beauty. It also means that we cherish what we have in common and work from that, but I must warn your Lordships that this does not mean a wishy-washy synchronism or vague vacuity, as one speaker this afternoon described it. For example, I am passionately committed to my faith. I want a healthy, outward-looking Church of England and Anglican Communion. Indeed, I want Christianity to spread around the globe, but that does not mean that I am intolerant. If I want to proclaim Jesus Christ, 736 I have to listen to the core beliefs of other faiths. I have to be challenged by them. I have to be humble, as one speaker put it today.
I hope that your Lordships will agree that the way of inter-faith worship is not the way. Such is the respect that we have for one another that we simply cannot merge together in a wishy-washy way. Respecting distinctiveness is a very important quality and it is part of our distinctiveness as Christians, or whoever we are. May I suggest that your Lordships put in your diaries the date 3rd January, because on that day—this enlarges on what the noble Baroness, Lady Richardson, has said—there will be a wonderful interfaith celebration somewhere around your Lordships' House. It will not be inter-faith worship: it will be a way, at the beginning of the new millennium, of celebrating what we have in common.
Secondly, I believe it is a challenge and an encouragement to politicians and diplomats. The faith communities are there on the ground. We have huge networks. Let us use them and study the emerging liaisons between the great faith communities that have been mentioned this afternoon. So much is happening. One example is the small Christian initiative whereby Lambeth Palace is working much more closely with the Vatican in areas of conflict. We want to encourage other denominations and traditions to do likewise.
I should like to pay my respects to the present Government for what they are doing in liaising closely. For example, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has called to No. 11 on many occasions representatives of NGOs and faith leaders to talk about international debt. We owe him a great deal for that, and we are working closely along those lines. I should also like to pay tribute to Claire Short, the Minister for International Development, who only this week came to badger me about the role of the Church in halving world poverty by the year 2015. She has our passionate commitment to assist in all that.
So as we approach the millennium in just 10 weeks' time, we are not blind to the many challenges that the human family faces. There are over 6 billion in our tiny over-populated planet with huge ecological problems facing the human family. There are clear grounds for despair, but no believer ever does. No one who looks back over the history of our country and our world in the past 100 years should in any way take fright. We can only create a better world if we can work closely together and see religion as a potential source for change.
§ My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw my Motion for Papers.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.
§ House adjourned at twenty-one minutes past four o'clock.