This Monday I participated in a United States Institute for Peace half day conference on “Engaging Religious Communities Abroad.” The event brought together government leaders with leading experts on the role of religion in foreign policy, including Doug Johnston of the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy, Marc Gopin, George Mason University, Tom Farr, Georgetown University, Chris Seiple, Institute for Global Engagement, and others.
I delivered opening remarks from the White House on our Interagency Working Group on Religion and Global Affairs (RGA) and the effort we are undertaking to better understand how agencies across the U.S. government relate to religious actors and faith-based institutions in our work overseas.
After the opening remarks we broke out into groups to discuss how we can improve and increase the government’s relationships to religious organizations abroad. We asked questions like what kind of trainings are currently available or being developed to equip foreign service officers and how does religious freedom promotion relate to religious engagement and support the Administration’s priorities for development and conflict resolution?
We look forward to continuing the dialogue with these experts in this important area.
Mara Vanderslice is the Deputy Director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.