At the turn of the millennium government understood that the churches could deliver powerful and effective advocacy messages in favour of development objectives: on aid, trade and debt. With Gordon Brown and myself, they were mainly knocking on an open door. We valued that commitment to making poverty history. The great London multi-faith march by religious leaders this year to promote the Millennium Development Goals was further evidence of the power wielded by faith communities when they work together.
The answer is providing help to enable faith communities to develop their capabilities. It doesn't make sense for them to do this separately. This is a core part of the vision of my Faith Foundation. When faith communities collaborate for justice and human development there is a double payoff: things get done and respect and understanding between them grows.
The role of faith in development is complex and not well enough understood. The seminar series we're running with Dfid, Islamic Relief, World Vision and Oxfam is designed to be an open, and if necessary, critical discussion about the role that faith can play in development.
It's timely. Government is taking an increasing interest in faith and development, and the faith community increasingly has a viable role alongside major development organisations in working to achieve the MDGs.
We live in a global community. The contest for scarce resources, water and oil, will be intense by mid-century. Our interdependence is manifest whether at the level of climate change or global financial markets. The daunting task of bringing 1.4 billion people out of dire poverty, feeding the 900 million who go to bed hungry every day, faces religious communities and secular humanists alike. We need the inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue that turns neighbours into friends able to work together to confront the threats to our common security.