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A major new series on Faith and Religion launched to mark the 2015 commemorations of Sir Winston Churchill

last modified Mar 05, 2015 03:36 PM


London – 3 March 2015: To mark the 50th anniversary of Sir Winston Churchill’s death and 75 years since he became Prime Minister, a major new series of work examining the role of faith and religion will take place this year as part of the Churchill 2015: 21st Century Statesmanship Global Leaders Programme, it was announced today.

This work will be led by four organisations - The Von Hügel Institute, Cambridge Interfaith Programme, St Mary’s University in London and think tank Theos. Together they will examine the role of faith and religion in today’s world and how it can help provide solutions to some of the major issues faced.

Nigel Hall, Project Director:The issue of faith and religion tends to be polarising.  It is either dismissed as irrelevant with no bearing at all on the modern world; or seen as contentious and an inherent driver for conflict, as evidenced by recent events in France and the ongoing situation in Syria and Iraq.

Rather than view religion as part of the problem, the four organisations involved in this work want to bring a new perspective and show how faith and religion can provide solutions.”

The four organisations will be undertaking a range of activity including an independent and in-depth analytical report of the key religious issues facing modern statesmanship.  In addition:

  • Theos a Christian think tank will examine the resurgence of identity and the case for religion.  This will include interviews with leaders about this new world situation where identity politics and particularly religion are resurgent. This work will also look at how suited our current politics and leadership are and what might need to change in the future.
  • The Cambridge Interfaith Programme will hold a symposium in May 2015 as part of their new initiative, the Global Covenant of Religions. This Covenant is a commitment among religious communities to draw on the depth of their traditions to prevent violence in the name of religion and to enable peace. It will advance principled collaboration between inter-religious organisations, governments and civil society, and will facilitate coordination around four priority areas: protection, mediation, education and service.
  • The Von Hügel Institute is currently running a major series of debates on 'Ethical Standards in Public Life'. The final seminar of this series will form part of the Churchill 2015 leadership programme and will examine: 'Is the Just War theory still relevant in the 21st century?'. Speakers include Field Marshall Lord Guthrie and Professor Nigel Biggar of Oxford University.  It will be co-sponsored by the Churchill Archives Centre at Churchill College, Cambridge.
  • The work at St. Mary's University in London will explore what is meant by secular in contemporary society. Researchers will produce a comparative account of secularism in its various philosophical forms, from the French Enlightenment to the English Enlightenment and the American constitution, bringing it into the modern day with more recent forms secular traditions, such as that found in modern India.  This research programme will examine why some secular constructs have been more successful at integrating religion than others.  Ultimately it will ask if the best response for contemporary society is greater pluralism rather than a rigid dogma and rhetoric of a narrow secular creed and the role of religion in the state and wider society.

Notes to Editors

1. 2015 is the fiftieth anniversary of Sir Winston Churchill’s death and the seventy-fifth anniversary of his “finest hour” in 1940 when he became Prime Minister. The various organisations that have been created in his name have come together in a unique Churchill Alliance to mark this date with innovative programmes that look to support education, leadership and public engagement. The aim of this 21st century statesmanship program, with Sir John Major as the Patron, is to provide a fitting tribute to Churchill’s memory and which puts the finger on today’s top level strategic issues, see

2. Panel Formation.  To date the following have agreed to participate and to produce eminent panels and reports:

  • The Royal College of Defence Studies (established by Churchill) – “The use of the military instrument” (Lieutenant General Sir David Bill).
  • Churchill College Cambridge (established by Churchill) – “Joined-up scientific advice for 21st century leaders” (Dame Athene Donald).
  • King's College London - “Instability and conflict in the 21st century” (Chair: Professor Sir Lawrence Freedman).
  • The Ditchley Foundation – “Democracy in the digital age” (Sir John Holmes).
  • The Royal United Services Institute – “Leadership in conflict and war” (Professor Michael Clarke).
  • The Met Office - a “science managing climate risks” theme (Chair: Sir David King, Chief Scientist : Dame Julia Slingo).
  • The London School of Economics – “21st century power: geographic shifts, diffusion away from state actors, and corrosion of the traditional instruments of power” (Professor Michael Cox, LSE IDEAS).
  • UNDP Global Centre for Public Service Excellence (Singapore) - “Vision, Foresight and Statesmanship” (Patron - Helen Clark,  ead of UNDP and former Prime Minister of NZ).
  • The Royal Institute of International Affairs, Chatham House – theme to be confirmed (Dr Robin Nibblet).
  • Von Hugel Institute, Cambridge Inter-Faith Programme, St Mary's University Twickenham - "Faith and religion in the 21st century" (Vice Chancellor Francis Campbell, Professors John Loughlin and David Ford).

3. The Global Covenant of Religions follows on from a gathering in Jordan on 8th-9th February 2015 convened by HRH the Prince of Wales and HRH King Abdullah II of Jordan, at which 30 religious and inter-religious leaders, diplomats and heads of NGOs met to endorse a draft United Nations Security Council Resolution on religious related violence, and to develop the content of the Global Covenant of Religions. 

4. The Von Hügel Institute is a research institute based at St Edmund's College, Cambridge, founded in 1987 to preserve and develop the Roman Catholic heritage of the College which was originally founded as a house for Catholic priests reading for degrees in Cambridge. The VHI is committed to high level research and outreach programmes, carried out from the perspective of Catholic Social Teaching, and dealing with the relationship between religion and society. Its aims include the establishment of a more just society and, to achieve this aim, it works in collaboration with other Christian denominations, other faiths and, indeed, all people of good will. Its current research programmes include research on immigration, human trafficking, illegal trafficking in human organs and the problem of patenting of traditional knowledge and intellectual property.

5. St Mary’s University is the largest Catholic University in the UK and this year will celebrate 165 years since its foundation in 1850. The University recently appointed former Irish President Mary McAleese as Distinguished Professor in Irish Studies, while leading barrister Cherie Blair and renowned theologian Monsignor Roderick Strange were appointed as Visiting Professors.


Bronagh McCloskey - Lexington Communications

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