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Thursday, February 23, 2017
Profile: Anthony Bailey
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¬†Anthony Bailey, KCSS, 37, advises the Government on education and interfaith understanding. He has raised more than eight million pounds for the City Academy programme and is a director of the United Learning Trust, which operates the largest group of academies in Britain. Long active in interfaith work, he advises several philanthropic organisations in the Arab world, including the King Faisal Foundation. He is chairman of its sister project, Painting & Patronage, which organises educational and artistic exchanges between Arabs and Europeans. He has participated in delegations to many Middle Eastern and European countries attended by religious and state leaders and holds senior posts with several bodies including the Three Faiths Forum, the Maimonides Foundation, the Foundation for Reconciliation in the Middle East and the Forthspring Inter-Community Group in Northern Ireland. He is Patron of the All-Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group. Bailey has received many honours for his interfaith and education work . Bailey was born in London in 1970, studied Contemporary East European Studies at University College London and further studied at Budapest and Sofia Universities. You were made a Knight Commander of the Pontifical Order of Pope Saint Sylvester by Pope John Paul II in recognition of your interfaith work. Does that make you the world's youngest papal knight? That I don't know, but it was a huge honour for me. Pope John Paul II remains one of the greatest inspirations in my life. I was studying the history and politics of Central and Eastern Europe as the Soviet Union was unravelling. Those were exciting days and it was even more impressive as a Catholic to witness the vital role John Paul II played in it all. It was his insistent call for freedom which sparked the peaceful Polish protest that led to the dismantling of totalitarianism through Central and Eastern Europe. Without John Paul II as the spiritual guardian of that process, I doubt it would have been peaceful. He was summoning people to faith ≠ faith in themselves, and in human freedom and solidarity. It made a deep impression on me. So to be recognised by him, of all people, for the work I had done was incredibly humbling and moving. I'll never forget it. Did you meet him? Many times. The first was in 1989, when my mother was seriously ill with cancer and a distant cousin of mine arranged for the two of us to attend a general audience. My mother is convinced this meeting played a significant factor in her recovery. Later, after university, I had a job with the international PR firm Burson-Marsteller, which was handling some of the communications for Pope John Paul II's pastoral visit to Poland in August 1991. As a 21-year-old, to see him at work at first hand was a kind of masterclass in communication. The last time I remember meeting him was when I acted as chief witness at the wedding of his goddaughter, Stefania Kluger, which His Holiness celebrated at his summer residence outside Rome some nine years ago. These were all-too-brief but intimate encounters, which brought me spiritually very close to him. You come from an Anglo-Irish Family. Can you tell me something of them? "Anglo-Irish" usually describes the English gentry which owned the land in eighteenth-century Ireland ≠ that's not me at all. I was brought up in Britain by an Irish mother and British father who together taught me to be equally proud of both being both British and Irish. So my natural home is somewhere in the Irish sea. I live and work in London, but travel regularly to Ireland. I see no contradiction in singing both national anthems at sporting events; or, for that matter, in being a fiercely loyal republican in Dublin and a supporter of constitutional monarchy in London. Only in Northern Ireland many years ago did that present a problem for me; the experience made me think a lot of about divided loyalties and conflicting identities, an awareness which I think helps me in the community reconciliation work I do there today. My mother was born in Dalkey, outside Dublin, to a Catholic family of six whose generation before had a good few priests and nuns among them. My father, an engineer, was born to an Anglican family from London and the West Country and converted to Catholicism before his marriage. For the past 17 years or so they have lived in County Waterford where they continue their lifelong work in fostering young children from difficult backgrounds. My sister, Suzanne, lives close by them with her own family now. My eldest brother Paul is a married banker living in Ickenham in Middlesex. My middle brother Mark emigrated with his wife some years ago to New Zealand. My uncles and aunts are mainly in Ireland and the UK with one in Canada. You are a director for numerous Christian, Muslim and Jewish inter-faith bodies. Where did this interest in inter-religious matters come from? I think the British-Irish split within me made me more aware than most people of a young age of international conflicts: the ugly situation in Northern Ireland during the 1970s and 1980s, the Israeli-Palestinian squabble, the Chinese invasion of Tibet, the suppression of faith in Eastern and Central Europe and the rise of religiously motivated acts of terrorism at home and abroad ≠ I followed these, and reflected on them. The Prince of Wales has said it, and various popes have said it: "those things which we commonly share are so much more important than those things which divide us". That's really the point of interfaith work. People often assume that conflicts between religions arise out of religious differences. In reality, the opposite is true. People of faith have more in common with each other because they are religious. The word religion comes from the Latin ligare ≠ what binds people together. Religion is basically a force for unity. Where religion becomes caught in the net of national identity or political ideology, then conflicts arise between groups ≠ but these are not religious conflicts. Protestants and Catholics were not fighting each other in Northern Ireland over questions of transubstantiation, any more than Israelis and Palestinians kill each other because they disagree over the revelation to the Prophet Muhammad. The problem in each case is that the common bond made possible by religion has been subsumed by rivalry over land or resources. Reconciliation and interfaith work therefore go together. It's about getting each side to recognise that the God in whom we all believe is greater than those rivalries, and is known when we put aside our narrow self-interest or our tunnel vision and see what is good in the other. That's why faiths can and do act together for the common good on all levels. Faith groups must engage not only with other faiths but also come together to speak to an increasingly secularist Western world. Secularism is in many ways another faith: we engage with secularism by getting people to see that religion is not the cause of division but has to be part of the solution to it. I think that's one of the biggest challenges now to interfaith work ≠ to include secularism in the dialogue. What sort of inter-faith and education projects have you undertaken? I have led and participated in many inter-religious events and delegations across Europe and the Middle East which brought together, sometimes for the first time, religious, civil and state leaders from very different backgrounds. It's amazing what can be achieved when you get them into one room around a table. Sharing fellowship, dialoguing as equals ≠ it's what makes people realise that they are part of the human family before they are anything else. In the coming months I am hosting a conference for Bulgarian and British inter-religious leaders here in London. Bulgaria, having just joined the EU in January, has one of the most successful historic and contemporary inter-religious cohabitation policies I know and is even more remarkable if you think what happened in neighbouring Serbia. I want British audiences to hear about it and learn from the Bulgarian example. I am also supporting the Forthspring Inter Community Group in Belfast which does amazing cross community work in one of the most difficult parts of the city. On the charitable and educational side, I recently brought together an Israeli Jew, a French Muslim, a German Protestant, an Iranian Jew, a Lebanese Muslim, an English Anglican, and several British Roman Catholics to fund numerous Vatican- sponsored inter-religious, humanitarian and charitable projects in the Balkans. Later this year two City Academies will open in Sheffield which were part funded by a British Muslim through a Roman Catholic and given to an Anglican School Trust to run. Also, over recent months I have successfully piloted an individual faith prize competition in several state schools where I am a governor. Each school recommends the best essay on Christianity, Judaism, Islam and others faiths. My latest project is to set up a private foundation to support this initiative and launch it nationwide with the backing of the principal faith communities. As Patron of the All-Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group, I am keen to work among the faith communities to achieve consensus on the need to protect the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death. You are also a very successful fundraiser for good causes ≠ you are reported to have raised many millions of pounds. How have you managed this? I bring to fundraising the same principles as in the other areas of my work. Good people are good people and they exist in their many millions -- you just have to find them, then engage with potential supporters and involve them directly with the projects you are asking them to support. Multi-millionaires get asked all the time for money. I do too; but I also ask for their time and expertise ≠ to get directly involved with the project so that they can see, feel and be apart of something good that would not have happened without them. I like to seek out people and get them involved in projects for groups which on paper a least would seem unusual. I appeal to their conscience, to their faith, to their common humanity. In this we are all in the main the same even if some of us have more opportunity than others or bigger bank accounts than others. Who have been the big influences on you? I have been fortunate to have a wide group of people who have over the years acted as mentors to me in one way or the other. Among them would be my sociology teacher at school Mavis Crow; Sister Ellen Flynn of The Passage centre for the homeless; Sir Sigmund Sternberg, director of the Three Faiths Forum; the late Sheikh Zaki Badawi, Principal of the Muslim College in London; King Simeon II of the Bulgarians; Westminster Cathedral's Fr Michael Seed; and the man who gave me my first job, Bob Leaf. I'd also have to mention Robert Becker and Sam Sarr with all their African diplomatic experience, and my late grandmother Florence Riggs. There are also public figures who have inspired me in other ways. Among them would be Pope John Paul II, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Lech Walesa. What do you do to relax? Sleeping-in is my greatest luxury of relaxation. Otherwise it's reading, or ensuring that when I go on holiday to my home in Sintra, Portugal, that as little work-related stuff gets through on the telephone, email or fax. You are about to be married to a descendant of one of the most Catholic of royal families. Was that a hard decision? I'd say I've never felt so relaxed and content about making such an important life- changing decision. My mother always said that you will know when the time is right. For me, that moment happened with Marie-Therese, and I have never looked back or even questioned it. Even all the planning for the three-day event I am taking in my stride ≠ although that might change as we get nearer to the big day. We plan to marry in her hometown of Salzburg in the autumn and luckily for me I discovered it was a 7th century Irishman, St Virgil, who not only lived and died there but is also the city's Patron Saint today. So I have been offering up the odd prayer or two to him! I have known Marie-Therese for some 14 years but only started dating her a year or so ago. We have so much in common but also come from very different lives. That I think will be a great asset. I really feel blessed.
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