Former U.K. Prime Minister Blair speaks in favor of education to combat terrorism

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair said on Thursday to the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate at U.N. Headquarters in New York City that cross-cultural education is pivotal to defeating terrorism.

"There is little disagreement now about the nature of this scourge," Blaid said. "It is extremism based on a perversion of religious belief, a fanaticism that abuses faith to justify violence against innocent civilians."

Blair said security measures have not been enough to combat religious extremism, which leads to terrorism, and people must be taught about diversity, difference, tolerance and respect.

"We see it in the Middle East of course; in Central Asia; in many parts of Africa; most recently in the terrible events in Kenya; but also in countries in the Far East," Blair said. "And here in the USA, in the U.K. and most of Europe we have either experienced terrorism or are spending vast amounts of money, effort and energy to prevent it."

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's Chef de Cabinet Susana Malcorra said education plays an important role in combating extremism.

"The images have come to us at an almost incomprehensible pace: markets, schools, places of worship, neighborhoods and communities torn apart by senseless acts of violence," Malcorra said. "We must work together for strategies to confront this terrible phenomenon - and, in particular, to reach young people and to help them see a world of fairness and justice, of opportunity and empowerment."

Blair said terrorism is bred in ignorance and a distorted and false view of religion, and education can help to open the minds of young people to show people should be respected whatever their faith or culture.

"This is most frequently viewed in relation to Islam, although I do think it's important that we acknowledge that within other faiths as well, the Christian faith, the Jewish, Buddhist, Hinduism there can also be extremism," Blair said.

Blair spoke as the head of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, which works to prevent religious prejudice, conflict and extremism.