Tony Blair is to launch an interfaith foundation early in the new year to combat religious extremism.
The former prime minister has held secret meetings with a number of religious leaders to finalise plans for the international organisation.
He believes it will help to ease tension between the world’s major faiths and tackle common misunderstandings, particularly over Islam.
His friends suggest he may use the occasion to make his first public reference to the aims of the foundation.
Mr Blair, who was reading the Koran before the September 11 attacks on the US, has declared: “The tragedy is that Christians, Jews and Muslims are all Abrahamic religions.
“We regard ourselves as children of Abraham but we have fought for so long.” The black-tie Al Smith dinner in New York will be Mr Blair’s first big public speech in the US since leaving Downing Street and will allow him to rub shoulders with many of the richest and most powerful people in New York, as he prepares to embark on speaking engagements that could pay him ?100,000 a time.
It is thought the interfaith project will attempt to foster religious harmony in the Middle East and elsewhere across the world, including Britain.
Mr Blair’s advisers have held talks with the office of Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor, head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, and representatives of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
The Muslim Council of Britain has also given its support, as has Labour supporting Jewish business leader Sir Sigmund Sternberg.
But many are sceptical that the architect of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan could launch such an initiative with any degree of credibility or success.
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