A high-level task force of academics, policymakers, lawyers and religious leaders has released a report urging U.S. policymakers to rethink the role of religion in world affairs and proposing a new strategy for engaging religiously inspired people of all faiths.
“Engaging Religious Communities Abroad: A New Imperative for U.S. Foreign Policy,” is a product of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs’ Task Force on Religion and the Making of U.S. Foreign Policy, co-chaired by R. Scott Appleby, the John M. Regan Director of Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies and professor of history, and Richard Cizik, president of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good.
For too long, religion has been ignored or viewed primarily as a threat to national security, said Appleby.
“Even before 9/11, religious groups abroad were viewed primarily as adversaries, as in, ‘How do we defeat Al-Qaeda and the Taliban?’" While extremist groups use religion to justify terrorism, Appleby said, “construing the pervasive global religious presence only in terms of counterterrorism strategy is short-sighted and counterproductive.
“The reality is that religious people and faith-based organizations — Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism and others — play enormously constructive roles in the world. They are pivotal to global efforts to educate women and children, deliver health care, fight disease, resolve conflicts and promote democracy. Policymakers need to understand this, because shrewd engagement of religious communities is in the best strategic interests of the United States.”
The report provides policymakers with a comprehensive framework that allows them to “respond to religiously inspired actors and events in a way that supports those doing good, while isolating those that invoke the sacred to sow violence and confusion.”
Watch Scott Appleby’s video commentary(6 minutes).