Blair to lecture Yale students on faith and globalisation

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The Independent US

Tony Blair is to expand his interest in inter-faith relations by taking on a part-time role teaching about "faith and globalisation" at Yale.

The former prime minister, who is the Middle East envoy for the Quartet of the EU, Russia, the UN and the US, will lead a seminar at the prestigious American university next year.

News of Mr Blair's latest role comes after he was awarded Yale's Howland Distinguished Fellowship, created in 1915 for any "citizen of any country in recognition of some achievement of marked distinction in the field of literature or fine arts or the science of government". Richard Levin, Yale's President, said: "The appointment of Mr Blair provides a tremendous opportunity for our students and our community. As the world continues to become increasingly interdependent, it is essential that we explore how religious values can be channelled toward reconciliation rather than polarisation.

"Mr Blair has demonstrated outstanding leadership in these areas and is especially qualified to bring his perspective to bear. We are honoured that he is planning to join the Yale community."

Details of the course are being discussed with Yale's School of Management and Divinity. A spokesman for Mr Blair last night emphasised that the new role would not affect the amount of time the former prime minister spent on his Israel-Palestine role.

"He remains committed to his role in the Middle East and the amount of time he will be spending on that will be unaffected," the spokesman said, adding that Mr Blair is returning to the troubled region this weekend and held talks with President Bush on Tuesday.

The spokesman told The Independent that the teaching job "is something Tony is looking forward to doing" but pointed out that it would be done within "part of the time he has set aside for the Faith Foundation."

Mr Blair, 54, is known to take an interest in encouraging understanding and dialogue between the three monotheistic religions – Judaism, Islam and Christianity – and has held talks with senior representatives of all three, which he regularly points out commonly derive from the patriarch Abraham. A practicing former Anglican, he converted to the Roman Catholic Church, to which his wife, Cherie, belongs, at a private service in December after months of speculation.

Since then, Mr Blair has been associated with a number of differing jobs.

He is set to make millions from consultancy work with the American investment bank JP Morgan, the Swiss insurer Zurich, and his own Downing Street memoirs, in deals signed since he left office in June last year.

And he earns thousands from the lucrative international lecture circuit, though some of his speeches are unpaid.

Meanwhile, he has pursued his passion for Africa, agreeing to help Rwanda pull in private investment also on an unpaid basis.

But he has refused to confirm reports that he is interested in the EU Presidency, a role being created by the Lisbon Treaty.

The former prime minister likes to joke that he is more popular in America than he is back in the UK, and he is likely to draw in the crowds at the Yale campus.

Although the US appears to be turning against the 2003 invasion of Iraq supported by Mr Blair, many Americans remain grateful that he was able to articulate the so-called "war on terror" in more diplomatic way than Mr Bush. Both the current President Bush, and his former president father, were Yale graduates. Mr Blair's son, Euan, is an undergraduate at the American university.

Last November, Mr Blair added to his prolific portfolio by launching the "Tony Blair Sports Foundation" to help children gain coaching in the north east of England, Mr Blair's political base while he was an MP.

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