Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Report Urges More US Religious Engagement In Foreign Policy

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs yesterday released a task force report titled Engaging Religious Communities Abroad: A New Imperative for U.S. Foreign Policy. The 32-member task force includes former government officials, religious leaders, heads of international organizations, and scholars. Here is an excerpt from the Foreword to the 109-page report:
Religion has been rapidly increasing as a factor in world affairs, for good and for ill, for the past two decades. Yet the U.S. government still tends to view it primarily through the lens of counterterrorism policy. The success of American diplomacy in the next decade will not simply be measured by government-to-government contacts, but also by its ability to connect with the hundreds of millions of people throughout the world whose identity is defined by religion. Religious communities are central players in the counterinsurgency war in Afghanistan, development assistance, the promotion of human rights, stewardship of the environment, and the pursuit of peace in troubled parts of the world, but the United States lacks the capacity and framework to engage them.
The report includes a dissent and response among task force members on whether the Establishment Clause imposes restrictions on the way the U.S. pursues engagement with religious communities abroad.

The report is already controversial. Writing in the Washington Post, author Susan Jacoby says: "I have rarely read a document filled with more destructive premises and recommendations...." US Catholic says that the task force co-chairs and others involved in the report were scheduled to discuss its findings yesterday with Joshua Dubois, director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.