1. What does IGE do?
IGE promotes sustainable environments for religious freedom worldwide through local partnerships. It studies the impact of faith on state and society, it encourages governments to protect religious freedom, and it equips citizens to exercise that freedom responsibly.
2. What is "religious freedom"?
IGE promotes religious freedom. We think about religious freedom at two levels. First, there is its basic definition, recognized in all international covenants and most constitutions worldwide. Religious freedom is the opportunity to choose or not choose faith freely, and to share and change one's faith.
As Christians, however, we think about religious freedom in the context of loving God and loving our neighbor. We believe that we become more fully human the more we love God and the more we love our neighbor. In fact, we cannot love God without loving our neighbor; we cannot understand our own identity unless it is rooted in both God and in our neighbor's identity.
If our neighbor—irrespective of what s/he believes—is created in the image of God just like us, then we need to find a way to respect and love my neighbor as we would ourselves. Finding the language, logic, and actions that speak to that neighbor can be difficult, but we cannot shirk from the task. Thus, we believe that true religious freedom is rooted in respect and reconciliation with our neighbor.
When you get right down to it, a sustainable state and society are based on this permeating value. If we don't have the time to respect our neighbor and to understand and work across our deepest differences, then intolerance, hate, and even violence are not far behind. When people can work across deep differences-because they respect each other-then the society will be civil and the state strong, enabling prosperity and security.
3. Why is IGE's work so urgent?
Today there are hundreds of millions of people in sixty countries where religious persecution and discrimination are rampant. Common government-sponsored and government-tolerated forms of abuse include surveillance and harassment by security forces; prohibitions on freedoms of speech, assembly, and property; and even physical violence such as beatings and torture. Those who suffer for their religious convictions need to know that the rest of the world stands with them, and advocates on their behalf.
At the same time, many governments around the world are facing a wave of rising religious extremism which threatens to destabilize the social and political order. States need to find ways to respond to these threats without making the problems worse; over-regulation or repression of religious groups can often inadvertently fuel radicalism. IGE also works, therefore, with government officials to advance the view that religious freedom is not simply a fundamental right, but that it contributes to political stability and social harmony.
4. What is IGE doing to make religious freedom sustainable?
It has been IGE's great and ongoing blessing to help establish an unprecedented series of conferences and dialogues where government officials, international scholars, constitutional lawyers, religious leaders, and ordinary people can have practical discussions about the positive contribution that faith can make to their culture and country. The result is a broadening of a political culture of religious freedom, a culture in which respect becomes the norm and reconciliation becomes possible.
5. How does IGE "promote" religious freedom?
IGE uses a "relational diplomacy" approach to promote religious freedom worldwide. This approach begins by seeking to listen to, research, and understand the cultural context in which we work, in order to respectfully engage both the state and society. In the second phase, we build relationships, working simultaneously and transparently with governments and the grassroots. Over time, this top-down, bottom-up approach yields a consensus with our local partners about the role of religion in their society and therefore about how best to promote religious freedom. Agreements result that formalize our partnership while providing measurable and mutually accountable steps that we can take together. This approach of mutual respect creates a "win-win" for all parties, promoting the interests of marginalized religious communities as well as governments concerned about security and social cohesion.
6. What is IGE's motivation?
IGE is unambiguously motivated by its Christian faith. We seek to love God and love our neighbor by working for the basic human right of religious freedom. We believe that freedom of conscience—the freedom to inquire about religion, to choose or reject it, or to share it with others—is a gift from the author of life, freely given to each human being.
7. How did IGE start?
In 2000, Bob and Margaret Ann Seiple—known as the "godparents" at IGE—felt called as Christians to steward a lifetime of experiences and relationships from all over the world. This feeling took particular form through their experience with the State Department, where Bob served as the first-ever U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom from 1998 to 2000. The Seiples were concerned that religious freedom was something everyone talked about but no one really knew how to operationalize, and that Christians were too often part of the problem. They founded IGE to address these issues and to "make Christ visible and Christians relevant."
8. Why give to IGE?
Religious freedom is a foundational issue in which we all have a stake, no matter our creed, culture, or country. IGE's religious freedom programs recognize this truth, and are unique in that they bring all of the players to the table—religious minorities, government officials, civil society leaders, and scholars—to work on sustainable solutions that respect fundamental rights, but also political realities.
Since 2000, the Institute's quiet, relational diplomacy has won plaudits from a diverse array of faith leaders, diplomats, security experts, and human rights advocates. A gift to IGE not only enables these innovative programsin Asia and around the world, but also supports our work to foster a culture of mutual respect and reconciliation in the countries in which we work.
Won't you consider supporting an organization tailor-made for our tumultuous times?