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Nigel Baker

Ambassador to the Holy See (2011-2016)

Part of UK in Holy See

18th November 2013

Why we need inter-religious dialogue

Sikh community leader Bhai Sahib Bhai Dr Mohinder Singh Ahluwalia invested by the Most Rev Bernard Longley, Archbishop of Birmingham, as Knight of St Gregory (April 2012)

England and Wales celebrate Inter-Faith week this week (Scotland celebrates a week later to coincide with St Andrew’s Day). When it comes to the relations between the world’s great religions, we tend to hear more about the bad news than the good. This breeds mistrust and reinforces prejudice and ignorance. So a few reminders of the vital good that inter-faith dialogue can bring:

– the remarkable coming together of British religious leaders and communities after the dreadful murder of Drummer Lee Rigby, ostensibly for religious motives, in May this year. We forget that such a united response would have been almost inconceivable 30 years ago. It was the result of years of hard graft building interfaith relations, from Bradford to London to Birmingham.

– the visit to the UK this summer of Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, President of the Holy See Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue, to see for himself the extraordinary achievements of inter faith dialogue in Britain. So much remains to be done. But the UK remains a model in this pluralistic age.

– the celebration earlier this month in London of 15 years of the Woolf Institute. It was founded in 1998 to study relations between Jews, Christians and Muslims in order, in the words of its founder director, Ed Kessler, “to better understand our society, and thus shape a more tolerant, positive and collective future together”. It has helped to educate a generation of current and future leaders in the value of inter faith understanding. As my predecessor, Francis Campbell, told the gathering at the commemorative dinner, “in its short life the Woolf Institute has become a national asset”. And an important one.

Inter faith dialogue rarely – perhaps never – leads to instant results. Setbacks, especially when we face violence committed in the name of religion, are common. All the more reason to persevere. It is a task in which all who believe in multi-faith coexistence in society can and should engage.

1 comment on “Why we need inter-religious dialogue

  1. Good to read this blog and of all the good inter-faith work that has been done. We of the Catholic community at St Davids Metropolitan Cathedral, in Cardiff, are working with many other faiths and ethnic minorities in an initiative called Citizens Cymru to improve relationships and social justice in Wales. I must admit to being inspired by the Holy Father Pope Francis I in the way he is reaching out to other faiths and communities.

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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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