Warning that there are "elements of extremism" in every religion, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair launched his Faith Foundation at a New York news conference.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports Mr Blair unveiled plans for an ambitious new charity that he hopes will enlist religion as a force for economic development and conflict resolution, rather than violence and strife.
In a news conference in New York on Friday, kicked off by the former US president Bill Clinton and attended by religious leaders, donors and United Nations representatives, Mr Blair said one of his goals was to support religious leaders who were working to counter extremism within their faiths.
"Though there is much focus, understandably, on extremism associated with the perversion of the proper faith of Islam," Mr Blair said, "there are elements of extremism in every major faith."
Mr Blair who recently converted to Catholicism, dates his religious awakening to his student days at Oxford University.
Mr Blair's charity, the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, is one of a recent proliferation of organisations dedicated to interreligious understanding, the Herald says.
It aims to help develop an inter-faith dialogue, and create materials to educate people about world religions. Mr Blair will teach a course on religion and globalisation at Yale University that can be reproduced elsewhere.
The foundation will also encourage religious groups to collaborate on anti-poverty projects. Its first focus is to join the growing campaign to eradicate malaria by distributing mosquito nets.
In an interview afterwards, Mr Blair said: "The purpose is action, action to do good … action to educate, because if there's better understanding between the faiths there's less potential for religious difference to become a source of conflict."
According to the BBC the Foundation will have three aims: to promote faith as a force for good, improve awareness between religions and tackle poverty and war.
Mr Blair said there was "nothing more important" than creating understanding between different faiths and cultures.
Blair charity aims to use religion as a force for good (Sydney Morning Herald, 3/6/08)
Blair launches faith foundation (BBC News, 1/6/08)