Since the inception of the Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, President Obama has asked us to find ways to encourage inter-religious engagement and cooperation both at home and abroad, and examine the federal government’s engagement of religious institutions and actors in our foreign policy. Recognizing the positive impact partnerships and cooperation with religious leaders can have on our diplomatic and development goals, our Office has been very active at the intersection of religion and global affairs.
We asked the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships to make specific recommendations on religion and global affairs, as well as partnerships for development. You can read their reports here; we’re excited that many of the recommendations have already been implemented.
Partly in response to the Council’s recommendations, our office launched the first-ever Interagency Working Group on Religion and Global Affairs (RGA), co-chaired by the Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships and the White House National Security Staff. This groundbreaking working developed a comprehensive map of how our government currently engages religious actors in foreign affairs through USAID Missions, Embassies, and Departments across government from the Department of Defense to the Department of Health and Human Services. As a result of this work, we’ve seen new courses in religious engagement at the Foreign Service Institute, new efforts on religion and global affairs at the State Department, and a renewed focus on the intersection of religion and foreign policy across the United States Government.
We also work closely with the National Security Staff to make sure that the administration is supporting the protection of religious minorities. We formed a first-ever interagency working group towards this end, and meet regularly to ensure that federal agencies are working with one another towards a comprehensive approach to religious minority protection.
You will hear more about this topic from us in the coming weeks. The engagement of religious leaders and organizations in our work abroad is something of deep importance to the President and central to the mission of our Office. So stay tuned!
Joshua DuBois serves as Special Assistant to the President and Executive Director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.