The Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, The Rt Hon Patricia Scotland, joined vice chancellors from around the world at Liverpool Hope this week, to discuss the important role that universities – and in particular faith-based universities – can play in promoting respect.
She also called for practical action from university leaders in promoting respect for different faiths, and said that understanding between faiths is possible “by focusing on the 99% that joins us, not the 1% that separates us.”
Secretary-General Scotland was speaking at the Association of Commonwealth Universities’ three-day seminar at the university, on the role of faith-based universities in promoting respect. The gathering brought together representatives of universities with a strong faith mission to share their experience of best practice, and to draw up a statement of common standards and ideals.
Secretary-General Scotland said, “Violence can be defeated, but we need the widest and most inclusive alliances of government, international agencies, civil society organisations, private sector actors, legal bodies, educators, youth workers and healthcare professionals. It’s going to take us all.
“We also need to mobilise our faith leaders alongside those of no religious belief, and unite in upholding and expressing the values of our common humanity.
“This means that there is indeed a special role – a special role - for faith-based universities, and other faith–based institutions of learning, in promoting that mutual respect.”
Issues under discussion at the seminar included how to identify common values, moral and personal development, creating an interfaith environment, extra-curricular activity and social and international development issues as a means of developing respect. This is part of a wider programme led by the Association of Commonwealth Universities to work with its diverse membership to develop practical means of promoting respect.
Secretary-General Scotland said: “One of the important things that this seminar will do is look at bringing together different traditions and faiths. Liverpool Hope University is exemplary in the bringing together of different denominations to create something wonderful. The creation of Hope University was emblematic of bridging divisions that existed in Liverpool. Through the coming together of bishops from two traditions, Bishop Sheppard and Bishop Worlock, came Hope. The University was founded on the understanding that working together on what we have in common, rather than with a focus on our differences, we can build respect, understanding, and peace.
“Professor Pillay’s offer to host this conference carries forward this mission, with Liverpool Hope continuing to build in partnership with others towards all that we aspire to achieve within the Commonwealth as a comity of nations, peoples, and cultures.
“One third of humanity are citizens of the Commonwealth. When Commonwealth countries and educational institutions come together, it is an opportunity to renew our hope and faith that a more peaceful world can be built.
“As a richly diverse family of nations, the Commonwealth is an exemplar for the rest of the world. Sixty percent of people in the Commonwealth are below the age of 30. This presents an opportunity for educational institutions in Commonwealth countries to lead the way in making pioneering impact, and reshaping the world as a safer, better, and more inclusive place for all to live in.”