Catholic MP becomes 'faith czar'

 Prime Minister Tony Blair has appointed John Battle, Labour MP and former Foreign Office minister to liaise between the government and religious groups in the country. Battle will advise the Prime Minister on religious issues ranging from the disestablishment of the Church of England to faith schools. He is now visiting mosques, synagogues, temples and churches in an effort to ease tensions between faiths and the outside world. One of his roles is to reassure the churches that they have the moral support of the Prime Minister, who has made no secret of the influence of his Christianity on his political beliefs. John Battle was born in Bradford, West Yorkshire and educated at St Paulinus School, Dewsbury, Upholland College, Liverpool and Leeds University, where he graduated with a BA in English in 1976. From his student days he was active politically, campaigning on social issues. In 1980 he was elected as a Labour Councillor in Leeds. After working as a researcher for the Euro MP in Leeds, he became National Co-ordinator for Church Action on Poverty in 1983. Battle was elected MP for Leeds West in 1987. During the last Parliament, he was Shadow Energy spokesman from 1995-97. In 1997 he was appointed Minister of State at the Department of Trade and Industry in the new Labour government. In July 1999 he was appointed Minister at the Foreign Office. Battle lives in his Leeds constituency with his wife Mary and their three children Joseph, Anna and Clare. Speaking of his new appointment he said he felt he had an important role, particularly at a time when tensions were high. He said: "The question I ask is, are we making space for faith traditions or is the culture shutting them down?"

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