Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair spoke in Montreal today about the importance of promoting a better understanding of the world’s religions during an event to officially mark the participation of McGill University in the Faith and Globalization Initiative launched by the Tony Blair Faith Foundation.
McGill is one of a select group of universities around the world – and the only university in Canada – that have so far joined the initiative as a way of promoting multi-disciplinary research into significant questions about the effect of religion in a globalized society. Other universities include Yale, National University of Singapore, Durham University in England, Tecnológico de Monterrey, the University of Western Australia and Peking University.
“It is vitally important that our current and future world leaders understand the role and impact of religion in our globalized world,” Mr. Blair said. “We believe McGill, with its international connections and broad diversity of research abilities and expertise, is an ideal venue to help us achieve this. That is why we have turned to universities around the world to stimulate research and the exchange of ideas on so many different levels.”
Principal and Vice-Chancellor Heather Munroe-Blum welcomed former Prime Minister Blair and said McGill is keen to participate in a meaningful way in such an important project. “The impact of religion on the world today transcends the narrowly defined academic studies of the past,” she said. “Today, we need to bring expertise to bear from such diverse fields as law, economics, political science, the environmental and other sciences, in conjunction with religious studies. Globalization has changed the nature of our society and in order for us to better function within these altered dynamics, we need to learn how to more fully understand each other and gain insight into our complex spiritual heritage.”
As part of its contribution to the Initiative, McGill has developed a new, multi-disciplinary course and will participate in academic exchanges, research conferences, public lectures and other campus activities, said Professor Ellen Aitken, Dean of Religious Studies. “This partnership has already provided opportunities for our students to connect with some of the best minds in the world engaged on important issues that reach into so many aspects of our lives. We look forward to our students developing their own leadership capacities and supporting them with new research and far-sighted teaching – all with sensitivity to our own Canadian context."
About McGill University
Founded in Montreal, Que., in 1821, is Canada’s leading post-secondary institution. It has two campuses, 11 faculties, 10 professional schools, 300 programs of study and more than 35,000 students. McGill attracts students from more than 150 countries around the world. Almost half of McGill students claim a first language other than English – including 6,000 francophones – with more than 6,800 international students making up almost 20 per cent of the student body.
About the Tony Blair Faith Foundation
In an increasingly globalized world, religion is at the very core of life for billions of people and it cannot be ignored. The Tony Blair Faith Foundation aims to promote respect and understanding between the major religions. We empower, support and train young people to take multi-faith action against extreme poverty in over 100 countries, providing them with a positive alternative to those who try to use faith as a means to divide. We provide emerging and current leaders with the education and analysis to understand the role of religion in the modern world and we break down barriers between young people of all faiths and none by using new technology to connect them.