Secretary-General Patricia Scotland has underscored the need to build trust and understanding between people of different faiths – and those with no faith – to find common solutions to today’s global challenges.
Speaking at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies yesterday, the Secretary-General highlighted the power of religion as a force for good.
“Increasingly, we see faith motivating the leaders of the great religions to meet, to engage in dialogue, to listen, and to try to understand each other in greater depth – strong in their own belief, yet willing to be channels of peace,” she said.
However, she also acknowledged that a lack of respect for other faiths and beliefs can lead to radicalisation and violence. In light of this, the Commonwealth is implementing several initiatives to promote intercultural understanding.
For example, Faith in the Commonwealth, a collaborative project with the Khalili Foundation, is working to improve global citizenship and religious literacy among young people.
“Where ignorance is the problem, education is the solution,” the Secretary-General said.
‘Training-of-trainers’ workshops have been held in Bangladesh, Trinidad and Tobago and Kenya over the past year, and the impact is already visible. Participants have delivered more than 100 community projects, reaching more than 7000 community members through their activities.
The Secretary-General gave the example of a young Kenyan named Ogle from the pastoralist tribes of Tana River County, who used skills learnt through a ‘Faith in the Commonwealth’ workshop to train women and young people in conflict management. They now solve conflict-related issues in their communities.
She touched on other Commonwealth programmes to build peace and counter violent extremism, including the ‘Peace at the Crease’ cricket initiative.
Dr Farham Nizami, Director of the Centre for Islamic Studies noted: “The Commonwealth is a forum which brings people from different backgrounds together in a voluntary forum to promote the common good, something the world could frankly do with more of.”
Closing the lecture, Baroness Royall of Blaisdon, Principle of Somerville College Oxford, said: “This complex world has got so many intractable challenges that it’s wonderful to hear of all the initiatives that are being taken in the Commonwealth to ensure that we do find solutions to these difficult problems.”