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UN Urged to Endorse Tolerance Programs

FILE - Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his wife Cherie arrive for the annual Remembrance Sunday ceremony at the Cenotaph, in central London, November 2013.
Former British prime minister Tony Blair has urged the United Nations Security Council and governments around the world to fight terrorism by supporting tolerance programs for young people.

Blair said the world faces extremism based on what he calls a perversion of religious belief, a fanaticism that abuses faith to justify violence against innocent civilians.

In remarks to the U.N. Security Council’s Counter-Terrorism Committee, Blair called for support for educational programs that open young minds to what he described as the “other,” people who are culturally and religiously different.

“The challenge then is to show our young people, who are vulnerable to appeals from terrorists, that there is a better way to live your life, a better path to having your voice heard, a more meaningful way to engage with the world. And we must address the extremists’ funding and support so that they have less ability to teach and promote hate, persecution and murder,” said Blair.

Blair is head of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, which provides support for the prevention of prejudice, conflict and extremism. He told the Security Council committee that governments should take seriously their responsibility to educate young people to cultural acceptance and respect between people of different faiths and cultures.

“Let the young people in your country experience firsthand an opportunity to learn about the world and to form a relationship with someone far away who may not look like them, but for whom, once they have been schooled in cross-cultural education, they may see themselves in,” he said.

The former British prime minister urged each country to establish a pilot program in such cultural understanding. Education in the 21st century, he said, is a security issue.