• December 5, 2008 7:41 PM
  • - General

Tony Blair and Belinda Stronach Join in collaboration with Canadian faith and belief leaders

Tony Blair and Belinda Stronach meet with interfaith leaders to discuss the establisment of the Faiths Act Fellowship. (CNW Group/The Belinda Stronach Foundation)


    TORONTO, Dec. 5 /CNW Telbec/ - The Right Honourable Tony Blair and the
Honourable Belinda Stronach today announced that they were joining forces to
collaborate with representatives of a broad cross-section of the communities
of faith and spiritual belief in Canada in a new proposed interfaith
initiative.
    Belinda Stronach and Tony Blair had the honour to meet today in Toronto
in a roundtable with some 40 representatives of faith and belief communities,
including young people of faith, to share views and to form concretely a
steering committee that will explore the launch of a new interfaith forum
dedicated to advancement of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals
(MDGs). Similar discussions have also been held with other key faith leaders
who had not been able to attend the roundtable itself.
    In adopting the Millennium Declaration in 2000, the global community
through the United Nations committed itself to setting and meeting a series of
basic overarching goals to improve the lives of all of humanity known as the
Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The original target for reaching these
defining goals was 2015 and we are now half way along that path. Progress has
been made but it has also been slow and uneven. The MDGs need grassroots
champions the world over to push toward the targeted objectives now more than
ever and to respond to the call of the U.N. Secretary General for unswerving
long-term effort to "make up lost ground."
    "I believe that people of different religious faiths and spiritual
beliefs care about the issues of development and human justice captured in the
MDGs, and have a remarkable ability to collaborate and mobilize resources at
the community level. We are proposing here to try to tap into the energy and
capacity of the faith and belief communities and encourage them to achieve
even more together than apart," stated Tony Blair.
    "We are looking to work with Canadians of faith and belief to build a
secure and neutral public space in which to encourage and facilitate
inter-faith cooperation on practical humanitarian matters where there is a
large degree of consensus, starting with the MDGs. And the process of the
interfaith collaboration itself is also an important endeavor," added Belinda
Stronach.
    Tony Blair and Belinda Stronach also affirmed that they are supporting
together the Faiths Act Fellowship (http://faithsactfellows.org) as a first
concrete deliverable program of the proposed interfaith initiative. This
program, developed in partnership with the Interfaith Youth Core
(www.ifyc.org) based in Chicago, is an opportunity for young leaders of faith
to become ambassadors for inter-religious cooperation achieving the Millennium
Development Goals and ending deaths due to malaria. The Fellowship will allow
thirty outstanding young people from, in the first instance, Canada, the U.K.
and the United States to embark together on a ten month journey of interfaith
service. Training begins with a two month intensive initiation that includes
training in London and Chicago and fieldwork with primary health care partners
in Africa. Fellows will return to their home countries for eight months to
mobilize young people of faith to raise awareness and resources to promote the
Millennium Development Goals. They will focus on fighting deaths due to
malaria, a glaring health crisis in Africa and elsewhere, mostly among
children, and specifically called for in the MDGs. The forum proposed above
will help in identifying and supporting young Canadian participants and
seeking the best host organizations in Canada.
    The steering committee would work going forward with staff of the Tony
Blair Faith Foundation (www.tonyblairfaithfoundation.org) and The Belinda
Stronach Foundation (www.tbsf.ca) to:- develop collaboratively a mandate and strategic plan for organization
      of the interfaith project with the structure it needs to be successful;
      and,
    - create programming with the organizational resources required to have
      real impact at the community level."Believers all know our Creator made us diverse peoples, following
different paths in search of God's Grace throughout the world. Serving each
other together transforms us into a community of Faith, despite our
differences. The Faith of Life Network offers Mr. Blair and Ms. Stronach our
heartfelt congratulations and support for their bold international initiative
of positive change," said David Liepert, who represented the Canadian Council
of Imams at the roundtable and is Founding Director of the Faith of Life
Network.
    "I fully endorse this worthwhile cause. If ever there was an endeavor
worthy of the world's grassroots spiritual movements, this is it," declared
Sayone Arasratnam, President of both the Hindu Youth Network and the Hindu
Canadian Network.
    "Religion is a matter of the heart. So is human suffering, in addition to
being related to material needs. So this valuable initiative is an attempt at
encouraging a heart to heart conversation," added Professor Suwanda H J
Sugunasiri, Founder, Nalanda College of Buddhist Studies.
    "Throughout history men and women of faith and good will have proven they
can make a difference for good in the lives of others. In partnership with
Tony Blair and Belinda Stronach, we are standing up for tens of millions of
children who live in poverty, tens millions of victims of HIV/AIDS, tens of
millions of orphans whom the world has forgotten. We are calling on the
governments of the world to keep the promise of the Millennium Development
Goals and to know we will stand with them to achieve the MDG's. The poor can
wait no longer," stated The Right Reverend Philip Poole, Suffragan Bishop of
Toronto (Anglican Church)./NOTE TO PHOTO EDITORS: A photo accompanying this release is available on
    the CNW Photo Network and archived at http://photos.newswire.ca.
    Additional archived images are also available on the CNW Photo Archive
    website at http://photos.newswire.ca. Images are free to accredited
    members of the media/
For further information: Matthew Doyle, the Tony Blair Faith Foundation,
(202) 834-6442; Farah Mohamed, the Belinda Stronach Foundation, (416)
531-1919; April Kunze, the Interfaith Youth Core, (773) 983-5256