Faith is a civilising force - Tony Blair

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair has spoken of the urgent need to rescue religion from extremism.

Launching the Tony Blair Faith Foundation in Ukraine on Monday, Mr Blair warned that extremists were well funded and well organised.

"We need to ensure that those who are open minded recover the true meaning of religion," he said.

"I want to see faith viewed not as reactionary or redundant but for it to be true to its spirit: working for the common good and as a civilising force which pursues social justice."

Mr Blair told the audience of 400 students in Kiev that young people had the potential to effect real change and improve relations both within and between faiths if they had the will to.

“In the end things can change but not unless there are people committed to doing it. It is your generation who will make the difference," he said.

"If you don’t think the world you live in is perfect get involved and make it better.”

The Tony Blair Faith Foundation will work to enrich the religious literacy of Ukrainian students and increase understanding of religion in a globalised world.

It is partnering with the Victor Pinchuk Foundation, which equips young people to become future leaders in the fields of health, education, culture, international affairs, and human rights.

“Through our work, with Ukrainian partner schools and universities, we aim to contribute to the emergence of a cohort of Ukrainian young people and students who are critically analysing the role and influence of religion in today’s modern world and actively forging better relationships across religious and cultural divides," said Mr Blair.

“We are grateful to the Victor Pinchuk Foundation for their support, and look forward to a close cooperation with the Ukrainian government and educational system to further these aims."

The Tony Blair Faith Foundation's international schools initiative, Face to Faith, aims to develop with Ukrainian school teachers a programme to connect high school students with their peers in 17 countries via educational modules and the use of video-conferencing technology.

Its Faith and Globalisation initiative will work with Ukrainian higher education institutions to develop an academic discipline of studying faith in the modern world and which can be applied to business, politics and civil society.

Mr Pinchuk said the work of the two ministries would support the development of Ukraine as a country of true religious tolerance.

"I am happy to support a programme focused on the next generation, the core target group of the Victor Pinchuk Foundation's work," he said.

"We want to prepare them to develop the skills to bridge divides between faiths and cultures, develop a global outlook, and make diversity an asset.

"Ukraine has known long periods of peaceful living together of different faiths, this is what we need to build on, foster, and share with others."

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