I wanted to thank you for your kind invitation to the multi-faith breakfast meeting held this morning in London. I enjoyed exchanging ideas and hearing about perspectives that were new to me and my way of life.
Running a growing business communications firm in London, opportunities to view things from a faith perspective are few and far between. In actuality, it’s only when things start going wrong that we remember the big man (or woman). I would guess that if you asked, you’d find that a lot of people actually have religious views and believe in the middle path that you espouse, but its also a ‘truism’ that religion remains an intensely private affair for most of us. One where the mention of a ‘God’ makes us cringe with embarrasment.
That’s why my travels to other parts of this world are so fascinating. Take India for example, faith plays a central role for a huge number of people. From temples and mosques in the middle of busy road junctions, to spiritual blessings for every stage of human development, faith informs and determines behaviour and is a very open subject for everyone to observe – how so different to our experiences in Britain!
Your work on using faith (www.faithsacttogether.org) to eradicate global poverty and meet other millenium development goals (MDGs) is praise-worthy. Like you, I agree that if we were to focus our energies, I’m confident that illnesses like Malaria can be wiped off the face of our planet within our lifetimes. My own experience of leading a campaign on the MDGs that targeted the Hindu & Jain communities last summer, shows that despite a decline in attendance of churches and temples, religious identities still play a central role in our daily lives.
However, what I found of most interest was your Foundation’s work on faith & globalisation. Frankly speaking, I don’t think you’ll find many people objecting to your view that we need to inject the global financial services industry with and extra dose of morals and values. In my view, leadership from industry figures is at the heart of this debate. With media hype as it is in advance of the Treasury Select Committee’s face-off with the banking world this week, it’s important that the opportunity is provided for those in leadership positions to reflect on the need for values driven behaviour, at all levels in their organisations. A sensible suggestion was that each bank’s graduate recruitment programme, should encompass a module on ethics and values as part of their induction into these hallowed institutions. Only then, may we witness a shift in behaviour from the future leaders of these organisations.
Bringing the focus back to how religion is viewed as a private matter, later in the day I was invited for a meeting at the House of Lords, where I was reminded that we live in a Christian state in which the Archibishop of Canterbury and other senior Bishops sit in the House of Lords casting their eyes and commenting on Bills going through the second chamber.
It seems odd to me that at one hand we view religion as a private matter and on the other we’re ready to accept the undue and open influence of the Church on the laws of our country. At one time, I would have argued that the Bishops should be removed from the second chamber, but today, I argue the exact opposite – let’s have religious leaders from every faith in the Lords. After all, we both agree that diversity is a strength of this country, let’s follow this up by injecting a multi faith perspective to parliamentary debate which ultimately leads to the formulation of laws that provide the framework for our daily lives.
In summary, I’d like to thank you for the opportunity to meet a wider group of people who share some of my values despite representing different faiths. With the challenging times we live in, I’m confident that some of the teachings handed down through our scriptures are not only relevant but can offer solutions and choices to resolve many of the issues we watch on our news channels on a daily basis.