Thursday, June 19, 2014

Eating with Premiers

 It's been a week for eating with Premiers.

On Tues evening we had the honour of co-sponsoring the Banquet for Premier Li Keqiang at the Natural History Museum. I met him and his wife Prof Cheng Hong and was able to present him with a copy of my article in Harvard Business Review China about strategic leadership, based on a talk I gave at Peking University. He and his wife and daughter are all alumni of PKU. He gave a very encouraging speech about the deepening relationships between China and the UK.

Then today I was at a lunch where the guest of honour was our own Premier David Cameron (George Osborne was the senior UK politician at the Banquet for Premier Li - Cameron had had lunch with him at No 10 that day) who gave an excellent speech about the relationship between the UK and the Middle East. He emphasized that long term engagement was required and that this was an important priority of his government. He said that Islam was a religion of peace and that it was being perverted and given a bad name by extremists. And he stressed the importance of a just Two State solution for Israel and Palestine.

Clearly there are some strains of Islam which are much more peaceful than others, but I do question whether countries which have the death penalty for apostasy can be considered really "peaceful".  What does it say about a religion's intellectual self-confidence if threats of death or violence are necessary to prevent believers from falling away?

A well informed non-governmental source also told me that the situation in Iraq was pretty hopeless while Malaki remained PM, and that ISIS had received a lot of the help that was intended for the "moderate" Syrian rebels. Pretty depressing.

But in the words of Abba Eban, men and women generally act wisely ... when all other alternative courses of action have been exhausted. In the long run only a religion of love can survive.

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