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Nigel Baker

Ambassador to the Holy See (2011-2016)

Part of UK in Holy See

8th August 2013

Promoting Mutual Respect

The British Ambassador to the Holy See Nigel Baker talks to students and staff of the Cambridge Muslim College

The following is a guest blog by Steve Townsend, Deputy Head of Mission. 

Pope Francis has signed the Holy See’s traditional message to the Muslims around the world who are celebrating the Eid al-Fitr, the end of Ramadan. The theme of his message is Promoting Mutual Respect through Education, and in it the Pope calls on people of all religions to build their relationships on the foundation of mutual respect.

Respect is a very significant concept. My trusty dictionary defines it as “a feeling of admiration for someone or something because of their good qualities or achievements”. Pope Francis has defined it slightly differently, as an “attitude of kindness towards people for whom we have consideration and esteem”.

But in both cases, the word implies that you have to have a level of knowledge about the other person – how can you have admiration or esteem for people of whom you know nothing?

So a key part of respecting a person must therefore be getting to know them, what makes them tick, and why do they act in certain ways.

Education has a role, not only in teaching honestly and openly about different religions and cultures, but also in sharpening children’s natural curiosity. People should be encouraged to mingle freely, and to be able to go out to discover other points of view. It is this free exchange of ideas and knowledge that is the best confidence-building measure, to show that the person on the other side of the road/hill/wall/sea does not have two heads, but instead has similar wishes and fears.

Pope Francis’ message was to the Muslim communities of the world. Perhaps I could finish by quoting from another religion. The Buddha is quoted as saying: “You should respect each other and refrain from disputes; you should not, like oil and water, repel each other, but should, like milk and water, mingle together”.

1 comment on “Promoting Mutual Respect

  1. Respect is a sign of honour and meekness and must be given to one another, either young or old. We should all be lowly to each other. These are parts of mutual respect. There should be ‘self respect’, this is what will give room to mutual respect within and between the people, nation and nations as a whole. Thus, facilitates unity.

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About Nigel Baker

Nigel was British Ambassador to the Holy See from 2011-2016. He presented his Credentials to Pope Benedict XVI on 9 September 2011, after serving 8 years in Latin America, as…

Nigel was British Ambassador to the Holy See from 2011-2016. He presented his Credentials to Pope Benedict XVI on 9 September 2011, after serving 8 years in Latin America, as Deputy Head of Mission in the British Embassy in Havana, Cuba (2003-6) and then as British Ambassador in La Paz, Bolivia (2007-11). In July 2016, Nigel finished his posting, and is currently back in London.

As the first British Ambassador to the Holy See ever to have a blog, Nigel provided a regular window on what the Embassy and the Ambassador does. The blogs covered a wide range of issues, from Royal and Ministerial visits to Diplomacy and Faith, freedom of religion, human trafficking and climate change.

More on Nigel’s career

Nigel was based in London between 1998 and 2003. He spent two years on European Union issues (for the UK 1998 EU Presidency and on European Security and Defence questions), before crossing St James’s Park to work for three years as The Assistant Private Secretary to His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales. At St James’s Palace, Nigel worked on international issues, including the management of The Prince of Wales’s overseas visits and tours, on the Commonwealth, interfaith issues, the arts and international development.

Nigel spent much of the early part of his FCO career in Central Europe, after an initial stint as Desk Officer for the Maghreb countries in the Near East and North Africa department (1990-91). Between 1992 and 1996, Nigel served in the British embassies in Prague and Bratislava, the latter being created in 1993 after the peaceful division of Czechoslovakia into the separate Czech and Slovak Republics.

Nigel joined the FCO (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) in September 1989. Between 1996 and 1998 he took a two year academic sabbatical to research and write about themes in 18th century European history, being based in Verona but also researching in Cambridge, Paris and Naples. The research followed from Nigel’s time as a student at Cambridge (1985-88) where he read history and was awarded a First Class Honours degree, followed by his MA in 1992.

Before joining the Foreign Office, Nigel worked briefly for the Conservative Research Department in London at the time of the 1989 European election campaign.

Nigel married Alexandra (Sasha) in 1997. They have one son, Benjamin, born in Bolivia in September 2008.

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