The 21st century is unlikely to see a fundamental conflict of political ideology in the way the 20th century was dominated by it. But it might well see a clash of religious or cultural ideology, writes Tony Blair in NCR Online.
The reason the study and understanding of religion matters today more than ever before is this: The world is undergoing rapid and tumultuous change. Globalization, accelerated by the communications revolution, is driving much of it, breaking down boundaries, altering the composition of whole communities, even countries.
The changing circumstances create new overlapping challenges that can only be met effectively together: terrorism, financial crises, climate change, even how we respond to the Arab Spring.
Interdependence is now the recognized human condition. Interconnectedness is the reality. Trade, migration, travel bring different people, cultures and religions face-to-face in our modern cities, sometimes not under conditions of their own choosing.
The Internet creates no less important encounters, most of which are positive. But it can also bring division and social hostility, and some of the consequences are placed at the door of religion. Today about a third of the world’s population lives in countries where government restrictions on religion and social hostility based on religious difference are increasing.
So people often find it harder to practice their faith, and faith itself can become synonymous with hatred and sectarianism, not reconciliation and justice, the core values of the world’s faiths. The right to freedom of religion defined in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights is abrogated often in the name of a spurious national security.
Restrictions on the legitimate rights of religious minorities do not add to social harmony. The evidence suggests rather that they are correlated with growing religiously linked conflict and other negative outcomes. Nor is it good news for governments, which lose legitimacy with their own citizens.
FULL STORY Faith and globalisation: The Italian perspective (NCR)