February 24, 2010
Report: Foreign Policy Must Engage Religious Communities
A new report recommends that the Obama administration should make religion an important part of the United State's foreign policy.
"The success of American diplomacy in the next decade will be measured in no small part by its ability to connect with the hundreds of millions of people throughout the world whose identity is defined by religion," the Chicago Council on Global Affairs states in the release.
Notre Dame's Scott Appleby said in a Washington Post video that some people in government feel hand-cuffed in dealing with religion.
"Many scholars and policy makers are very wary of engaging religious communities abroad because they fear that our Constitution prohibits such engagement, and that fear is not well-founded," he said. He also said that for security reasons, the U.S. is engaged with countries that also repress religion.
David Waters blogged and covered the report's release for the Washington Post, reporting that the council met with officials from the State Department and Joshua Dubois, head of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
American foreign policy is handicapped by a narrow, ill-informed and "uncompromising Western secularism" that feeds religious extremism, threatens traditional cultures and fails to encourage religious groups that promote peace and human rights, according to a two-year study by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.
The council's 32-member task force, which included former government officials and scholars representing all major faiths, delivered its report to the White House on Tuesday. The report warns of a serious "capabilities gap" and recommends that President Obama make religion "an integral part of our foreign policy."
Appleby points out on The Immanent Frame that the Obama administration has yet to fill the position of ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom.
“Religious freedom” is perceived by many peoples around the world, not least Muslims of the Middle East, they argued, not as a universal human right, but as a superpower-charged means of advancing hegemonic U.S. (read: Christian or, worse from their perspective, Judeo-Christian) interests. This particular strain of anti-Americanism is inflamed by isolated episodes of Christian missionaries proselytizing defiantly (or clumsily) in settings where they were manifestly unwelcome, and thereby igniting riots and sometimes deadly violence.