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Baroness Warsi Speaks On Promoting Religious Freedom

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On Monday 2 December, Archbishop Vincent Nichols chaired a Benedict XVI lecture by Baroness Warsi, Foreign and Commonwealth Minister and Minister for Faith and Communities, while Dr Arthur Naylor, Interim Principal at St Mary’s University College, Twickenham, moderated the question and answer session. The first Benedict XVI lecture, given by Rabbi Johnathan Sacks in 2011, was established by the Bishops’ Conference following the historical meeting that took place at St Mary’s University College between the Pope and leaders of other faiths during a state visit to the UK in September 2010. The inaugural lecture centred on the growing inter faith dialogue between Christians and Jews and Rabbi Sacks largely reflected on the Pope’s visit to St Mary’s. Baroness Warsi’s lecture, the second in the series, focused on religious freedom and was held at the University of Notre Dame. Entitled Freedom of Religion in the Public and Private Sphere, the Baroness discussed the importance of inter faith relations and called the persecution of Christian in overseas countries a “global crisis”. At the beginning of her speech, Baroness Warsi paid tribute to Archbishop Nichols, whom she called a great friend whom she admired. She went on to say that the success of the Papal visit to Great Britain in 2010 encouraged her to set up her own meeting with the then Pope. The lecture stressed that it was imperative that different faith groups worked together to face challenges and strengthen communities. She said, “People that do God do good. There is a noticeable impact on communities when faiths join forces. It proves that faiths are not on a collision course. Working with other faiths doesn’t make me less of a Muslim but more of a Muslim.” Baroness Warsi used a number of examples to support her points; the Good Samaritan who helped a beaten victim regardless of his faith and the less publicised act when people of all faiths donated blood during the bombing of a Christian church in Pakistan. While Baroness Warsi spoke on the case for inter faith, noting that both the Benedict XVI lectures were delivered by non-Christians, she also clarified that it was not “motivated by self-interest but of the interests of everyone. Some of the most powerful voices come from other communities.” During the lively question and answer session, academics, and other religious leaders expressed views on a wide range of issues associated with inter faith relations. When questioned about young people and extremism, Baroness Warsi said, “The problem with extremism is not too much religion, it’s too little religion”, a sentiment echoed by Archbishop Nicholas in his closing remarks.
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