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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,
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.
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
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,
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
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
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 us,
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
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:
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,
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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:
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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 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,
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,
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.
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 some 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.
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?
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
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.
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:
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.
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,
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
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:
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
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 non-believers? 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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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:
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.
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.
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 the 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
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.
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.
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,
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
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 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.
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:
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, small-time 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? That 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.
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 any 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.
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.
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:
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 peace-keeping 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,
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.
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
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
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:
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,
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:
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
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
I conclude by asking what more we can do to assist local communities. Often 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.
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