|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
The Earl of Carlisle: My Lords, I thank the noble Earl. I do so, and I do so partly because I wish to assist the process of reconciliation in that region, as did the noble Earl between 1946 and 1950 in Germany. I try to follow his example. I have for him the Estonian Bible here.
I am also delighted to follow the noble Earl, Lord Carlisle, with his huge enthusiasm. I shall not follow him into the internal depths and differences of the Christian Churches--I believe that we have enough
While the noble Earl, Lord Carlisle, was speaking, I was thinking that most probably he, together with a large number of other noble Lords in this Chamber, take for granted that people of their religion can sit in this Chamber. I do not take that for granted at all. I was thinking of Baron Lionel de Rothschild, who was not permitted to enter the other place and take his oath because he could not take it on the Hebrew Bible. It is not so long ago that Jewish people were not permitted to take part in the public life of this House.
Lord Janner of Braunstone: Yes, my Lords, but I believe that the Roman Catholic disabilities ended perhaps a little earlier. They were accepted rather more than Jewish people in most places--not least, if I may say so, in Estonia and Latvia, to which the noble Earl referred. Again, he went there, most correctly, to try to achieve reconciliation. I went there to try to find some record of my family, and found none--only mass graves. That is all that is left of my family in Eastern Europe.
We are deeply privileged to serve in this House, as some of us were in the other place. We are especially privileged, I have been thinking all day, to serve with people who are devoted to the diversity of this society. Indeed, with noble Lords who are Roman Catholics--the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and I have disagreed on many matters most happily over many years, and remain friends because there is huge common ground between us. Many years ago, the noble Lord, Lord Shaughnessy, who is from Canada, and I went to the same school across the water, where anti-Semitism was in those days part of the way of life of the school.
I do not take any of that for granted. I have always believed that religion should be the base from which we create tolerance, friendship and understanding, and that that base lies in a Hebrew expression. Some of your Lordships knew Chief Rabbi Brodie, who was my late wife's uncle and who often used to say: Derekh Erets Kadma Le'Torah". Those of your Lordships who speak Hebrew will know that that means, Respect goes before the law". Yes, one must obey the law; yes, one must carry out the precepts of one's religion but never in such a way as to be disrespectful to other people who have other religions and with whom one disagrees.
That is the basis of tolerance; it is respect. A man called Sir Moses Montefiore--a great leader of the Jewish community--once said, We Jews do not wish to be tolerated but we do wish that there should be tolerance". There is a difference between tolerating other people--putting up with them--and extending that tolerance, which makes life diverse, happy and rich for us all, with each person contributing in his or her own way, through his or her own religion. It is that which I salute in this House.
I have just returned from Russia where I learned once again in four fascinating days that those of us who believe in acceptance of others have the same enemies. We have the same friends, but we also have the same enemies. Russia is a xenophobic society. At the moment the main hate is Chechens. Chechens are Muslims. Next in line come the Caucasians, who are dark of skin. The Jews come next. But if the Russians get them, the Christians will not be far behind. Russia is a country which is still unable to accept in the depths of its society that it is tolerance which makes life worth while. I went there partly because of a very useful organisation called the Inter-Parliamentary Council against Anti-Semitisim, which we want to see working there. I also went there partly because I believe that anyone who attacks Jews today will attack Christians tomorrow, Muslims the day after, and then Catholics, as my noble friend Lord Longford, said. We are all minorities in one way or another and if we are not prepared to accept and respect other minorities, we shall be attacked next.
I wish to say what a marvellous asset to this House is my noble friend Lord Ahmed. How fortunate we are that at last there are Muslims in this House. There are some 2 million Muslim citizens in this country. Is it not extraordinary that it has taken until now to have a Muslim Peer and my noble friend Lady Uddin, a Muslim Peeress? That should not have happened. However, at last we are starting to move, and my noble friend and I work together.
When a newspaper has headlines such as, Islam dangers", Muslims on the march" and The flames of the Muslim world are feared", which happens nearly every day, I say to myself that if it had been Muslims today, Jews or Roman Catholics tomorrow, we would all have been protesting. I have worked with my noble friend Lord Ahmed to try to get the press to understand that those kinds of headlines cause harm. The religion of people should not be used to denigrate; people should not be picked out because of their religion in order to attack. Because some people who are members of a religious faith may be fundamentalist, extremist or even criminals, one does not denounce all of them. One should not refer to the Muslims" because there is a fundamentalist, extremist sect, whether in Watford or anywhere else which could cause trouble. The Muslim community of this country is a major part of our decent diversity. I know that because today the Muslims are where the Jews were not so long ago.
Lord Shaughnessy: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, I have to say that I cannot agree with his opening remarks. I attended the school he mentioned several years before he arrived there. There was no evidence of anti-Catholicism, anti-Roman Catholic bias or any anti-Jewish bias during my career there.
Lord Elton: My Lords, any idea I had of making the speech I prepared last night vanished an hour and a half ago. Any idea I had of delivering the speech I scribbled 20 minutes ago disappeared 10 minutes ago. It seems that we have a debate on our hands and not a series of prepared speeches. That is an invigorating position in which to be, but is also dangerous.
The scope of the debate is so wide that I find it difficult to reduce it to sensible proportions to fit nine or 10 minutes of comment. But surely what is emerging is that all faiths in the book believe that there is only one God; that we are all children of that God in one sense or another and, therefore, that we are all equally cared for by Him. That relates to the way in which the right reverend Prelate gradually resolved my difficulties over the terms of the Motion.
Order is not, by any means, always good, and disorder not always bad. Our Lord said that he came not to bring peace; he came to bring a sword among us. Therefore, we cannot look to peace as being in itself an absolute good if it merely means an absence of war. However, it does not mean that. The right reverend Prelate prayed in aid the Dalai Lama to say that he had included other things, including a feeling of security.
You cannot have a feeling of security if you are a member of a nation in which the average income is one-seventy-fifth of that which it is in the richer countries. So, the concept of justice and peace go together. What happens when they are in conflict with each other? Are we not then in an impasse? I believe that the purpose of this debate is to resolve that impasse.
I do not have the facility of my noble friend Lord Selsdon in making an impromptu analysis, nor, indeed, his prudence in removing himself from the Chamber before I speak. However, it seems to me that we now come to the question of scale. This problem can be approached from one end or the other: first, from that of governments, international organisations, treaties and the manipulation of trade. The noble Lord, Lord Haskel, did that, following on from the noble and most welcome Lord, Lord Faulkner of Worcester. That is one way of pursuing justice and should be encouraged.
However, our Lord's description of the Kingdom of Heaven, which has relevance to every faith, was not of big battalions and international corporations but of yeast, working in the dough, and a grain of mustard seed. Faiths are made up of the faithful. Every church and faith must look to its members. Where it finds intolerance and ignorance it must remove them.
I confess to a certain amount of ignorance, and probably a good deal of intolerance as a result, through my woeful lack of knowledge of some of the other faiths in this world. Therefore, I have slightly less anxiety than I originally did with the movement that there is towards inter-faith celebrations in our country. We have to recognise that if we have the security of our faith, it is not threatened by looking at anybody else's. If we discover that what we share is greater than what we differ about, maybe we shall begin to see the face of God more clearly. Perhaps that is what will lead us towards peace.
The Earl of Sandwich: My Lords, I shall not follow the noble Lord, Lord Elton, whose skills I cannot equal. But he omitted to say that his own work in the ecumenical field has been considerable, not least in the British Council of Churches.
I presume to enter this debate as a trustee of Christian Aid and a member of the Church of England's International Development Affairs Committee. I too welcome the millennium statement on reconciliation of the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury--and who would not? I pray that it will echo around the world and bring more peace. I hope that it will rouse the Churches and the Church hierarchy into a little more activity and perhaps even criticism of government.
At Christian Aid we always look forward to Church leaders taking a stand on international issues. So it was quite an occasion. It is often the Church of England which is reticent and cautious and other denominations which have had to carry the can. But I have noticed that Anglicans are warming up and it may be the approach of Jubilee or the Christian tendencies in the present Government which are giving them courage.
Sometimes it is only when Church leaders in the Third World take a stand that our own find the confidence to confront our politicians. The South African example has been quoted and is well known. Archbishop Tutu took his famous stand on sanctions alongside Trevor Huddleston. Bishop Dinis Sengulane of Mozambique was also mentioned today as a churchman of great courage. Anti-apartheid was one of the most important campaigns for the British Churches, the Church of England belatedly included, even more than the current Jubilee debt campaign, which is important. Anti-apartheid created a unique sense of international solidarity, such as that spoken of by the noble Lord, Lord Janner. We are still groping for that sense today.
Pakistan, Timor, Kosovo; so many countries are in the headlines that unless we have the acumen of the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, we are bewildered about the proper response. Anyone privileged to visit poor countries will know that the Churches there, whether in Timor or Sudan, can be an inspiration. They are fully committed to the struggle for human rights, health, and the alleviation of poverty day by day. In Uganda a year ago I saw many examples of the Church's involvement against AIDS. I have seen them in conflict in countries like South Africa and Mozambique or in human rights campaigns in countries like India.
The point is that the Churches have a tremendous influence in daily life alongside other faiths, and they are already engaged in politics and diplomacy to an extent that we no longer understand in this country. In Britain our involvement in international affairs is so dictated by the media--too much so--that we can hardly imagine the clergy interpreting events as they once did in the pulpit (pace the noble Lord, Lord Haskel) drawing worshippers to powerful sermons. Charismatic bishops have to find more subtle ways of communicating these days and I hope we shall hear more fire and brimstone and more oratory from our bishops, such as we heard today from the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester. May he set an example to others. It is not zeal, but enthusiasm that is needed.
As the noble Lord, Lord Haskel, said, religion must win the argument, not expect a privileged position. That applies also to our reformed House. As the most reverend Primate implied, we need more involvement of clergy in the promotion of international order. There must be more dialogue at the highest level. I am certain that the noble Baroness will agree that it cannot be left to diplomats or politicians.
Very often the Churches in the country concerned are deeply involved already. For instance, in Sudan the original Addis Ababa peace agreement was the product of tough negotiations by the Churches. It later came unstuck but the potential remains a generation later. Only last month the Sudan Council of Churches was again engaged in the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development--IGAD--process and the setting up of a new secretariat, mentioned by the noble
The Government will confirm that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has depended a lot on the work being done by the Churches in Sudan, in particular. This applies to peace and reconciliation in the South between Dinka and Nuer on both sides of the Nile, as well as to Christian-Muslim dialogue in the North.
As the noble Baroness, Lady Nicholson, said, more conflicts today are localised and it is often the local churches and mosques which have the experience of mediation and are most closely in contact with the people. I warmed to the noble Lord, Lord Gretton, who is no longer in his place, when he spoke of St. Paul and the local community which he served. In DfID-speak, this is called civil society". I hope that the noble Baroness will give us many examples of co-operation in local communities.
I am reminded today of the Indonesian concept of musyawarah--I cannot claim to spell that word. We think of Indonesia as a somewhat zealous society, but, ahead of all nations, they have the experience of negotiating at a local level for as long as it takes and until everyone falls down exhausted.
I believe that more could be done to equip our clergy, and those partner clergy overseas, for conflict resolution and mediation. I also believe that there could be international profile for our Church leaders on the Tutu-Singulane model. At present, I am sorry that only the Church media seem to cover their overseas visits or their major public statements. Some bishops have a high profile, but they are not usually the ones who are free to visit Iraqi hospitals or refugee camps in Albania, let alone take part in a peace process. Meanwhile, politicians seem to have rather more time to show their faces abroad, and one wonders why that is so.
Equally important is an understanding by congregations and the general public of what religious leaders are trying to achieve. The most reverend Primate knows well, from his own visits to Sudan, that there is a process called the Partners in Mission" network, which is supported by the Diocese of Salisbury and informs a vast number of clergy and lay Christians in the west of England on what is happening in that country.
As the most reverend Primate mentioned, this is where the staff of organisations like Christian Aid and the Catholic Fund for Overseas Development are so valuable. I pay tribute to their educational work in this country, to their advocacy of issues which face developing countries and their ability to develop a partnership with both secular and Church-related bodies around the world. There is a constant stream of visitors from the developing world into this country meeting ordinary people in the churches.
Finally, there is one group of people in our society who are under-used, and under-recognised; namely, our refugees. These are people who know so much about conflict because they have that direct experience. They are people who can help us forward
Lord Stone of Blackheath: My Lords, the most reverend Primate has initiated a wonderful debate for our time. The noble Lord, Lord Elton, has just said that religion teaches us that we are all one and the noble Baroness, Lady Nicholson, who has had to leave, referred to the development of a new internationalism. This, together with the scale, pace and clarity of electronic communication is allowing people to feel part of one community.
Unfortunately, and possibly as a reaction to all this globalisation, individuals within all this search for their own identity, and in many a passionate sense of their own ethnicity re-emerges and ferments to the point of conflict. Ethnic groups develop hatred for one another. There is a view that ethnicity will supersede ideology as the single most important source of conflict in the next century. Religion, together with politics, science, trade and the media, certainly can be used within all this in the promotion of international order.
Last week I was privileged to host an evening's discussion on conflict resolution. It was being proposed that the international community could, and should, create new structures that would intervene earlier in the gestation of ethnic conflict. We could see that with a peaceful, pragmatic and palliative stepped-set of initiatives, introduced in stages, escalation to war might be averted. We realised that this would be a massive undertaking and would need international co-operation and global consensus. But since I spoke in your Lordships' House in May on this very subject many eminent people in this field have encouraged me to continue to hold this view that a new mechanism is possible.
A group of us sought the views of 45 of the world's most pro-active organisations in this field. They also agree that, although many of the tribal conflicts currently being fought have religious elements, they are not religious in the sense of rival dogmas competing for dominance. In most cases they are carried along on ancient hatreds with roots and causes that over time somehow have become mutated into national, racial, lingual or territorial hostilities.
What was agreed was that, first, although conflicts are often deep-seated and multi-dimensional, there are certain recurring initial signs and symptoms easily detected by an objective observer. I am told it is clear that at present there are at least 22 such conflicts throughout the world that could go critical" at any
Nineteen ninety-nine has already been exceptional in that it is probable that two successful interventions into countries have been accomplished. Times are changing and a principle is being established that there are limitations to sovereignty. This year also saw two other global issues; namely, debt relief, which has already been mentioned, and the terminator gene, in which NGOs, with press support, have had pragmatic effects. That is action brought about on a global scale above and beyond conventional democratic control. It is time for new global institutions to be formed to act on issues of this nature and scale. All these issues have a moral dimension. The leaders of religions should play a part in the new world order. However, it is crucial that they ensure that their role is one of tolerance and pluralism.
I saw a new production of Antigone" at the Old Vic on Monday. Sophocles was grappling with these issues over 2,500 years ago. The laws of the state oppose those of the gods in most Greek tragedies and these unholy decrees lead to death, disorder and destruction for all. In the last three lines of the play the chorus encapsulates the issues we are discussing; perhaps my self-satisfaction at the words I have spoken; and my impending early retirement. The chorus states,
As I have already spoken for five minutes, I hope your Lordships will allow me one final quote. I will not quote from the Bible in such company, but in Perkei Avoth, The Sayings of the Fathers, Rabbi Hillel, in urging the Jewish community world-wide to act in cohesion and immediacy, said:
Viscount Montgomery of Alamein: My Lords, I very much hope that the noble Lord, Lord Stone, will continue the work that he is undertaking on the resolution of conflict and extend it into the prevention of conflict.
The House is very good at debating philosophic subjects; nowhere has this been more clear than today, starting with the brilliant introduction of the most reverend Primate. Obviously religions play a great part in the world and exercise great influence. Presumably that is why the Soviet Union, when it was under Communist rule, went to great lengths to suppress religion. I was therefore saddened to hear in the maiden speech of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester--sadly, he is no longer in the House--that these difficulties are still continuing in the former Soviet Union. I hope that they can be resolved.
At this stage of the debate, as always, there is very little more that can be said. Like others who are privileged to be here--a privilege which in my case is very rapidly turning into the past tense--we have had a very wide-ranging debate.
Understandably many speakers--notably the noble Lords, Lord Faulkner and Lord Haskel--have spoken about the problem of poverty, which is a very serious problem in the world. But I doubt that the Churches can solve this problem. Poverty does not necessarily cause war; it rarely does so. War is instigated by politicians imbued with an excessive ambition to dominate others and to abuse their power--and power has always been a great source of evil.
The most reverend Primate accepted that in the past religious movements had been guilty of causing conflict. In some places, unfortunately, they still do, partly because in historical terms Church and state have often been intermingled and intertwined. Rulers have frequently carried out belligerent acts in the past, frequently under the cloak of proselytising the Gospel. The Crusades are a good example.
Another instance occurred in a part of the world with which I am familiar. When Spain conquered the New World of Central and South America, great barbarities were committed in the name of religion. Some of those barbarities were as great as those which had previously been the practices of the indigenous population and which Spain suppressed. Fortunately, these populations merged by intermarriage and, in due course, an almost homogenous Christian society emerged.
But these things are in the past. As many speakers have said, we need to look to the future. As we approach the millennium a key factor must be the reunification of the Christian Churches. While they remain divided in practice it is difficult for a clear message to be sent to world governments. The ecumenical movement must continue; it is vital to the success of the message and the propagation of peace.
Surely the key messages which go out in this trumpet call are tolerance, reconciliation and respect for minorities, to continue with the analogy that my noble friend Lord Selsdon used in always working on triple connections. Nowhere perhaps is this more necessary than in Ireland. I hope that as we pass into the next millennium the Christian Churches will reunite and send out a clear clarion call about the inequities of conflict.
Today the absence of conflict does not mean that people live in justice and peace or that they enjoy human rights; far from it. Some of the most unjust societies in the world are dictatorships where there is no conflict. The secret police see to that.
Conflict arises and order is destroyed when the oppressed become strong enough, or brave enough, to start to fight back. At that point it is always a question of whether the conflict may not be better than the order that was enforced previously.
The most reverend Primate has asked what contribution religions can make to reducing conflict. I believe that there are things religions can do. However, with great respect I shall differ from the most reverend Primate on what those things are.
Many speakers have referred to globalisation. The great revealed religions of the world were all founded at times long, long before the days of globalisation. Their founders and the teachers who followed them interpreted the one eternal inexpressible truth in ways which were at the time as accessible to the people of that time and place as they could be.
Throughout history there have been times--and there still are--when religious leaders have emphasised the differences between the faiths in order to rally their faithful. Alas, that is still the case today. The main concern of some religious leaders seems to be to emphasise their differences.
Has not the time come for the great religions of the world to recognise that the rich diversity of outward forms conceals a unity of inner truth; to recognise that people can attain to the transcendent truth by any one of a diversity of paths? I know that much has been done to bring together religions. I am not urging some kind of mishmash of religions, such as, alas, that which is being taught in some of our schools today; far from it. I believe that each of the great religions, properly understood, is complete and integral in itself. You cannot pick and mix". There may be several paths to the top of the mountain, but if you want to get there safely, you have to choose one or the other.
People want to see that religions are on the same side. The fact that, as a Christian, I choose to follow a somewhat different route to the truth than, say, a Muslim does not mean that we cannot march shoulder to shoulder with them when it comes to challenging oppression or the excesses of the me first" society. The fact that I may think that my religion is the best does not mean that I need to be in conflict with the others.
Viscount Brentford: My Lords, I wish to congratulate the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury on introducing this interesting debate on order. I should like also to commend him because he practises what he preaches. I know from my own experience how well received have been his visits to different troubled parts of the world. The fact that he is and acts as an ambassador for international order is something for which we are all deeply grateful to him.
There is a law of quantum physics, of which noble Lords will be aware, that things exist on a line between order and chaos. Order talks of a fixed structure that tends to mean boredom. Some consider that the point of equilibrium in religions falls much nearer the order of boredom than chaos, though how actually a personal relationship between a person and Almighty God can be found to be boring rather beats me. But it may be that some of your Lordships have more experience of religion being boring than of being exciting. No, the point of equilibrium does not fall half-way between order and chaos; it falls much nearer chaos than order. That means that there is plenty of scope for exciting activities and ventures. That is what we are thinking about today.
In discussing this Motion we have to face two great problems concerning international disorder. Both have already been mentioned. First, how does one actually disentangle in disorder religion from ethnicity, politics and the desire for power, which I equate with what my noble friend Lord Selsdon referred to as prosperity? How does one measure the balance of blame in the conflicts in the Middle East, the Balkans and Northern Ireland as between all these different motivations? I do not know the answer to those questions.
I happened this morning to be reading the story of the Good Samaritan, as told by Luke with his usual accuracy. Primarily the purpose of the story is to show that all people are our neighbours and are to be loved and served, which is what we are talking about as regards international order. Incidentally, the story shows also that it is wrong to consider anyone as racially, socially and religiously inferior to oneself. The theme of mutual respect has already arisen in the debate.
The secondary problem that we must face is that religions have created international disorder. My noble friend Lord Montgomery spoke about the Crusades. The crusaders, on their marches to the Middle East, murdered Muslims, Jews and eastern Christians indiscriminately. I have been impressed by, and grateful for, the reconciliation walk which has retraced the path of the First Crusade a thousand years on. Western Christians travelled from eastern European through the Middle East, ending up in Jerusalem in July this year, where they expressed sorrow and regret for the evil of the Crusades. That is the way that we should be moving today. I am grateful for the fact that Muslims, including the imams, in the towns on their route warmly accepted and expressed great appreciation to the hundreds of Christians who took the trouble to walk through the Middle East a thousand years after the First Crusade. But obviously, there has also been much fighting between faiths.
I should like to touch on the subject of the Sudan. We have debated it twice this week, and I cannot resist the temptation to score a hat trick, and to talk about cricket, as we have heard references to football in this debate. Christian/Muslim co-operation could play an enormous part in bringing a just peace to Sudan. That would have a highly beneficial impact on the whole region--on other countries such as Uganda, Congo,
Noble Lords have agreed during debates this week that peace in the Sudan will never be achieved by military means. There needs to be diplomacy. There is progress through IGAD, as the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, has told us. I believe that there is tremendous scope for joint Christian/Muslim co-operation at all levels, informal as well as formal, in the attempt to bring peace to that troubled country. I am certainly involving myself in that.
I should like to offer one proposal. The most reverend Primate spoke about basic modern values and a framework of shared values; the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner of Worcester, spoke about shared common values; and the noble Baroness, Lady Richardson of Calow, spoke about core values being revealed in the 1993 congress to which she referred. I was not quite clear from the remarks of the most reverend Primate how far agreement has been reached on producing a framework of shared values on the international scene between different Churches. I wonder whether it would be helpful if the most reverend Primate were to set up a small group in this country composed of Christians, Muslims and Jews, and possibly others, to agree a common framework of values based on the Judaeo-Christian tradition which would encompass Islam as well. A set of shared or common values, well publicised, well recognised and internationally accepted, would be a great help in creating international order. By way of example, I should like to mention one such value; namely, the importance of relationships. Relationships are central to our vision of society.
The noble Earl, Lord Carlisle, said that no international order can come about without friendship, and I warmly endorse that. Peacemaking can be seen in terms of restoration of right relationships. In the 1980s and the early 1990s I was involved in South Africa, bringing people together across the racial divide, helping to build relationships and considering what a post-apartheid South Africa would look like. I can remember, after one conference, flying up from Pietermaritzburg to Johannesburg and watching in front of me the head of a very Afrikaaner university talking to a black pastor from Soweto. They talked together during the whole flight and I thought to myself: This is what we are about: creating and building relationships and friendships between people from across racial divides".
I have said enough at this hour in the afternoon but I would like to repeat my suggestion to the most reverend Primate that he should set up a group, if that has not already been done, to compile a common framework of values agreeable to all religions, and probably also acceptable to others as well. I feel that, if this could be produced, it would provide a
Lord McNair: My Lords, I am more than usually grateful to the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury for bringing this debate before your Lordships' House today. It is a subject very close to my heart.
First, I want to suggest some ideas as a framework for reconciliation and a resolution of conflicts. They can be used by those who are members of a faith community, by those who have private, individual spiritual values and by those who do not have any kind of religious belief--in fact anyone who seeks to create harmony and understanding in the communities they encounter in their journey through life.
Secondly, I want to add to what the most reverend Primate has already said about Dr. Douglas Johnston and the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy. My first suggestion is that we should make sure that we always think and operate in terms of you and me" rather than in terms of you or me". It may seem too simple to make a point of, but getting people to negotiate is a question of moving from I'm right; you're wrong" to something along the lines of If this situation is going to work, what would it look like?" or What could each of us have done to make that situation work so that everyone is a winner?" That is a very powerful kind of question to ask in a deadlocked situation.
You and me" offers a future for all participants, or actors as they are now often called, whereas You or me" only offers a future to one actor or to one set of actors. This sets in motion a cycle of alternate vengeance, such as has characterised the history of the people in the area that we now call Rwanda. In these situations we have the choice to operate on the basis of right/wrong" or on the basis of what works". This approach is so simple, but it has huge implications and possibilities. It seems to me that this is essentially a religious concept. It includes of course the concept, much stressed by Christians, of forgiveness. It also includes the thought What is there in this situation for which I can take responsibility?" And also What have I done to contribute to the mess that we are in?"
This approach extracts all the actors in a difficult situation from feelings of blame, shame and regret. It provides optimism that a solution can be found to a difficult situation, and also helps to create the feeling that the protagonists are on the same side and the difficult situation is the enemy, so to speak.
The next point I should like to make in this context is that one of the problems in creating harmony where there is disharmony is that there is usually no framework or point of reference that is larger than the protagonists. May I suggest a starting point? We all have very similar needs in terms of survival. We have our own livelihoods and careers; we have our families and the groups we belong to; we have mankind as a
It is vital to establish a result to any conflict that provides a viable way forward to all the problems for all the participants across the range of the different roles they play in ensuring their survival, and at the same time to minimise the destruction of those activities and intentions directed towards survival. That provides a kind of formula to bear in mind when negotiating.
It can often be found that when two sides are engaged in a conflict that will not resolve, there is a hidden party to the conflict, keeping the conflict going. If both sides were to look for this hidden party, identify it and isolate it, a hitherto unresolvable conflict will often miraculously be resolved. This concept has been proven in practice and helps to transform a you or me" or a you against me" into a you and me" situation. The third party is often discovered to have a vested interest in the continuance of the conflict, for example from arms dealing or other financial motives.
Secondly, I wish to say a little more about Dr Douglas Johnston and the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy and also about the book which Dr Johnston co-edited. It is called Religion, the Missing Dimension of Statecraft. It sets out the stall for the international centre that he has founded. The book is now part of the training curriculum for American diplomats and I strongly commend it to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Civil Service College.
The most reverend Primate referred in his excellent opening speech to two of the case studies included in the book: the role of the German Evangelical Church in what was then East Germany in facilitating the peaceful transition from communist rule; and the role of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Manila in providing strong leadership against the dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
I must emphasise the ground-breaking nature of this book and of the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy. It focuses on what has come to be known as Track 2 diplomacy". This form of diplomacy typically takes place outside the public gaze. Often those involved in such initiatives are members of faith communities which are not specifically caught up in the conflict, but have a particular interest in seeing conflicts resolved.
Another example from the book which I find most illuminating was related to the Rhodesia/Zimbabwe conflict. I had never previously heard of the role played by members of the moral rearmament movement in the resolution of that conflict. I learnt that Alec Smith, Ian Smith's son, had, after showing little interest in religion in his early adulthood, become a member of the moral rearmament movement. He played a vital role at the suggestion of members who were in close contact with Robert Mugabe, in arranging a secret but historic and vital meeting between the two leaders. It was this meeting which Dr Johnston credits with making possible a relatively smooth transition to majority rule.
I wish to make a point about globalisation. Globalisation gives enormous power to increasingly huge corporations which live and breathe and have their being by increasing the bottom line. These vast agglomerations of businesses have a tendency to reduce each of us to a digital reference number on a supermarket reward card, whose real purpose is to facilitate more precise targeting of mass marketing campaigns.
In contrast to this tendency is the increasing awareness that we are all connected spiritually anyway. We do not or should not need electronic communication to feel part of the global village. There is a danger that the increasing conformity that is a concomitant of globalisation will make it more difficult for many small faith communities to secure their rights to worship as they please. Members of such groups are often also the same people who think holistically about matters like health, diet and rearing children. The globalisation of commerce is tending to make it more difficult for them to exercise that freedom of choice.
Finally, a number of speakers mentioned the problem of international debt. In closing, I have one observation to make about it. Most countries with advanced economies have central banks. There is a factor in debt which is so obvious that it is often overlooked.
The central bank typically gives its government the right physically to print the currency of the country but then lends the money back to the government with interest, thus creating the national debt. I briefly recount an occurrence which illustrates why this is unnecessary. In about 1888 the Government of either Guernsey or Jersey decided that the community needed a new covered market for its fruit, flowers and vegetables, for which the Channel Islands are famous. Accordingly, they printed £10,000 in currency notes which they used to pay the architects and contractors, who in turn used them to pay their employees and suppliers, who in turn paid for the means of survival. When the government of the island felt that all of the £10,000 had percolated through the economy they simply destroyed the £10,000 of currency notes. What happened? The people of the island had increased their wealth and facilities by one brand new market hall. No one had lost; everyone had gained. Many of the world's major religions enjoin against lending money at interest, which they call usury. We have been bamboozled into accepting a debt-based economy.
I thank the most reverend Primate for introducing this fascinating debate and hope that the Church of England will turn its particular attention to my last point in considering the problem of third world poverty and international debt.
Back to Table of Contents
Lords Hansard Home Page