A recent report found that US-UK governments could benefit from enhanced religious engagement on issues of social justice. The report, which details the proposed engagement, clarifies that "in a world where religious ideas and institutions are increasingly salient factors in politics–for good and ill–all diplomats must 'do God' whether or not they believe in one." While the suggestion may receive knee-jerk reactions from some, the brief insists that the move should not imply a coalition being formed between the two. Rather, it speaks the monumental role faith plays in issues of social justice, such as climate change.

In many ways, this shift has already been instituted by the U.S. government who designed and implemented the US State Department's Office of Religion and Global Affairs and its Office of International Religious Freedom, respectively. In doing so, the U.S. government has changed its approach to religious engagement, often calling on faith leaders to influence positive climate action in their respective communities.  

 


Faith in the Special Relationship: A New Report Argues the US-UK Alliance is Strengthened by Diplomatic Cooperation on Religion

Judd Birdsall | Huffington Post Blog

Transatlantic cooperation on issues of religion and foreign policy can help to advance American and British interests–and strengthen the 'special relationship' between the two countries. That's an underlying argument in a new report, Toward Religion-Attentive Foreign Policy: A Report on an Anglo-American Dialogue.

The report, which we co-edited, highlights the significant progress on religious engagement on both sides of the Atlantic. Whereas both the US State Department and the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) previously had reputations for indifference toward religion for being institutionally averse to religion, times have changed. Both foreign ministries have had to jettison simplistic theories of secularisation and adjust their structures and strategies in order to promote their interests in a stubbornly and pervasively religious world.

The attitude expressed in Alistair Campbell's famous quip, 'we don't do God,' is now outdated and out of step in an era of international affairs that some scholars have labelled 'God's Century.'

Analysing religious dynamics and engaging religious actors are simply no longer optional. As the report argues, "in a world where religious ideas and institutions are increasingly salient factors in politics–for good and ill–all diplomats must 'do God' whether or not they believe in one."

Whether it's protecting religious minorities from ISIS and its extremist allies, empowering faith-based development organisations, or partnering to with religious communities to address issues like climate change and human trafficking, the opportunities abound for doing good by 'doing God.'

The report offers 15 policy messages for the how the US and UK can enhance their religious engagement. It recommends that American and British diplomats should, for instance, leverage religion expertise that already exists in their diplomatic services, recognise that 'religion' means more than Islam, and know when not to engage with religious issues. They should look for 'lived' as well as 'official' religion, and be aware of problematic labels–such as 'radical', 'extremist', 'fundamentalist', and even less emotive terms like 'conservative', 'liberal', and 'moderate'–that are often underpinned by a politics of power and can be interpreted in very different ways.

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