With more than a decade of input from thought leaders and practitioners, the Department of State has established several mechanisms to enhance its understanding of religious dynamics and engage religious actors for a more effective foreign policy. These efforts—which complement the Department’s ongoing promotion of religious freedom—have included the development of a Religion and Global Affairs working group in 2010, the launching of a course on Religion and Foreign Policy at the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) in 2011, and, ultimately, the establishment of the Office of Religion and Global Affairs (RGA) in 2013.
To explore opportunities for enhancing the Department’s capacity to engage with religious actors going forward, the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy supported the convening of an expert working group. Leveraging the experience and insights of 14 thought leaders and practitioners, the working group developed the attached statement and recommendations for how the Department can develop a robust capacity to engage religious actors in pursuit of the full range of U.S. foreign policy and national security interests through a strong and distinctive Office of Religious and Global Affairs while maintaining its commitment to international religious freedom through relevant coordination with the Office of International Religious Freedom. The working group offered six key recommendations for the consideration of State Department leadership, highlighting the distinct but complementary roles of the two religion-focused offices and the need for training to generate greater religious literacy within the U.S. diplomatic corps.