Page last updated at 19:31 GMT, Thursday, 29 May 2008 20:31 UK

Blair 'to devote life to faith'

Tony Blair
Mr Blair has recently announced his conversion to Catholicism

Former prime minister Tony Blair has promised to "spend the rest of my life" uniting the world's religions

He said faith could be a "civilising force in globalisation", bringing people together to solve problems such as malaria and extreme poverty.

Mr Blair, who is now a peace envoy to the Middle East, told Time magazine that religious belief had given him "strength" while in power.

He is launching a "faith foundation" in New York on Friday.

Mr Blair, who recently converted to Catholicism, said: "Faith is part of our future, and faith and the values it brings with it are an essential part of making globalisation work."

'Fantastic thing'

His foundation will attempt to bring religions together to tackle global issues such as the UN's eight Millennium Development Goals, which range from eradicating extreme poverty to ensuring environmental sustainability.

One of its first priorities will be to fight the spread of malaria.

Mr Blair said: "If you got churches and mosques and those of the Jewish faith working together to provide the bed nets that are necessary to eliminate malaria, what a fantastic thing that would be.

You don't put a hotline up to God and get the answers
Tony Blair

"That would show faith in action, it would show the importance of cooperation between faiths, and it would show what faith can do for progress."

He added that it was possible to "achieve a greater understanding between the different religious faiths, so that we make platforms for action by those faiths and deal with some of the biggest issues in the world".

Mr Blair's press secretary Alastair Campbell, when asked about his boss's faith, once famously remarked that the government didn't "do God".

But Mr Blair, 55, has recently spoken out on the subject far more than during his 10 years in Downing Street.

Discussing decisions he made as prime minister, he told Time: "You don't put a hotline up to God and get the answers.

"The worst thing in politics is when you're so scared of losing support that you don't do what you think is the right thing.

"What faith can do is not tell you what is right but give you the strength to do it."

Mr Blair is not being paid for his work as a Middle East envoy for the "Quartet" of the United Nations, United States, European Union and Russia.

But he has lucrative consultancy posts with insurer Zurich and merchant bank JP Morgan, on top of a reported 5m deal for his Downing Street memoirs.




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