Finding nuance in religious debate? I’ve got quite a job

By Martin Bright, January 24, 2014

We all have our dream jobs, and editing a publication analysing the role of religion in conflicts around the world is mine.

I never imagined for a moment anyone would offer me the role, so I was delighted to be approached by the Tony Blair Faith Foundation to work on a new website on religion and globalisation.

I have no faith myself and have often been critical of Mr Blair in my journalism. So why did I take the job?

The point is that we share a conviction that the role of religion in the geopolitics of the 21st century remains poorly understood. At the same time, we know there are academics, intellectuals and journalists out there who can bring a profound knowledge of this field to those of us who crave a more comprehensive and nuanced approach.

This is why I was pleased to discover that Harvard Divinity School was collaborating on the project: providing in-depth reports on countries afflicted by conflicts with a religious dimension.

This is not an evangelical project promoting a single approach to conflict resolution or the “truth” of any one religion. Nor is it an attempt to promote some sort of all-encompassing world religion.

However, as might be expected with anything involving Tony Blair, the scope and ambition of this project is vast. The intention is to make this site the first port of call for anyone wishing to grasp the nature of conflicts where religion plays a part.

The audience for this resource will include journalists, policy-makers, NGOs, the academic community, the business world and the general reader.

This last category will be crucial to the success of the endeavour. Everything on the site will have to be comprehensible and jargon-free: accessible for busy people with only a few minutes to digest their news and to those who want to delve deeper into the historical context of individual conflict areas.

I would like to think that my tenure as the political editor of the JC (a job I also loved) gave me a good grounding in some of the complexities I will face in this new role. There is no room for fixed ideas and prejudices when examining the role of religion in society.

If my time at the JC has taught me anything, it is that nuance is a rare commodity in the discussion of faith and extremism. It should be treasured wherever it is found, and I certainly intend to seek it out.

Last updated: 12:09pm, January 24 2014