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Nigel Baker

Ambassador to the Holy See (2011-2016)

Part of UK in Holy See

19th February 2014

Religion, Violence and Sectarianism

The Rt Hon Baroness Warsi

Baroness Warsi is the first ever British Minister for Faith in a British government. She is also Senior Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. In both roles, at home and abroad, and with the strong support of the Prime Minister, she has made religious freedom a personal priority: promoting and protecting people’s right to hold a faith, manifest their faith, or indeed to change their faith.

She is known here in the Vatican from her visit in 2012 when she led the largest ever British ministerial delegation to the Vatican, and argued passionately at the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy that Europe should be stronger in its Christian identity. That speech in 2012 was one of a series that she has given since 2010 on the place of religion in modern society. Earlier this week, Baroness Warsi delivered a further speech in the series, this time at the Sultan Grand Mosque in Muscat, arguing strongly for religious co-existence and tolerance, and against sectarianism.

In her speech, Baroness Warsi laid down a clear challenge to all those who use differences within a faith, or between religions, to generate sectarianism and violence. “Violent sectarianism isn’t just un-Islamic”, she argued, “but anti-Islamic. It is at odds with Islam’s principles and perspective and it jeopardises the future of Islam”. This reminded me of Pope Benedict’s words at Assisi in 2011: “[violence] is the antithesis of religion and contributes to its destruction”.  The obvious question is: are those who commit violence in the name of religion listening? The answer: probably not, but we can, with determination, close down their space for misusing religion for their own ends.

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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