After decades of viewing religion as mostly irrelevant to international relations, the Department of State continues to open a new chapter of recognizing that religious faith is integral to the lives of vast portions of the planet’s human population.
A hopeful sign of this is that considering religion and engaging religious actors made it into the 2015 Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR), issued this week by the Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
Engagement of religious actors is included as one way to pursue the QDDR’s Strategic Priorities, including “Preventing and Mitigating Conflict and Violent Extremism” and “Promoting Resilient, Open, Democratic Societies.”
To expand the capacity of the Department of State and USAID “to promote democracy, governmental accountability, and respect for human rights,” the QDDR sets forth this task (p. 33):
Assess religious dynamics and continue to engage religious actors and institutions. Recognizing the relevance of religion to our diplomacy and development objectives, the White House issued the 2013 National Strategy on Integrating Religious Leader and Faith Community Engagement into U.S. Foreign Policy. This strategy calls for engaging religious actors and institutions to promote development, advance pluralism and human rights, and mitigate violent conflict. Every overseas post and domestic bureau will seek opportunities to engage religious leaders.