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Doubling Down on Dignity: Three Updates from IGE

  • Chris Seiple
  • May 29, 2013

One look at the headlines these days and there is every reason to despair about the role of religion in global affairs. Muslim and Buddhist killing each other in Myanmar, B’hai persecuted in Iran, Christian and other religious minorities harassed in the Middle East … the list goes on.

What is the common denominator to these situations? We humans cannot live with our deepest differences, especially those that are religious. A simple choice looms anew. We can stereotype people and religions not like us or our own tradition, creating the context for hatred of and violence against the other. Or we can take the faithful but difficult road of engaging and loving someone who does not believe as we do.

This latter choice begins with a space for dignity: a space for people to meet who would not otherwise. How simple. How painstakingly difficult.

A space for mutual respect of each other’s faith is not only the right thing to do, it serves everyone’s self-interest. But it requires an intentional strategy. Such a strategy recognizes that if people can meet on a regular basis — if they can be in relationship with each other — slowly, honestly, stereotypes will begin to dissipate as tolerance emerges, eventually yielding to mutual respect. In the process, deepening relationships reveal a new and increasingly common thinking about citizenship, community, and governance.

This thinking understands that if there is space for believers to study their holy scriptures, then there will be an opportunity for them to live it out. If two or three believers can meet freely and regularly, and be taught by someone learned in their faith, these believers will want to live out their faith by serving their fellow citizens. Indeed, if there is a space to live out one’s beliefs — socially-owned and legally-protected — there is less potential for someone to manipulate religion into violence against others or the government.

In short, all begin to recognize that only a changed mindset changes behavior. And the only way to change a mindset is through educating and training government and faith leaders — together — to understand that religious freedom is a win-win-win: for the state, the society, and the faith group.

Again, the strategy for this thinking to emerge begins with a space for dignity.

And so, amidst these sometimes terrible and tragic times, we at IGE are doubling-down on dignity with these three updates. First, we launched a new website. This website is not about us, but about all of us who care about religious freedom. Through its calendar1, blog, press releases and writing, the website is foremost a resource for people of all faiths and none who care about respecting the dignity of the other. The website is a space of and conduit to mutual respect.

Second, we hired Christy Vines, who will coordinate the development of IGE’s institutional partnership and global initiative strategies, and oversee IGE’s external outreach and communication. Simply, her job is to build partnerships across traditions, politics, geography, gender, and nationality in a manner that embodies and therefore deepens and expands this space with strategic intentionality.

Third, we have created a four-minute video to remind all of us — especially Americans — about the scriptural and historic necessity to steward this space. Combined, we believe that these efforts will re-inspire and re-ignite practical discussions and action that build sustainable religious freedom worldwide, through local partners. We welcome your frank and ongoing feedback.

Finally, a word about our own motivation and foundation as these three changes push us toward a new season in the life of IGE. We are motivated by the example of Christ. As much as humanly possible, we are trying to embody and encourage the inclusive invitation of His exclusive claim. In every situation, Christ created a space where He could love His neighbors, and enemies, in a language and logic that they understood. It was their choice to follow Him. How can we do less?

Today also happens to be the 47th wedding anniversary of IGE’s founders, Bob and Margaret Ann Seiple. They set the above example for me, in their marriage, our family, and in the ministries God gave to each of them, locally and globally. And they gave me an opportunity to choose such a faith-inspired example as my own. We at IGE are grateful for their vision in founding IGE. We trust that we honor that vision through these three initiatives, which foremost honor the inherent dignity of each human worldwide.

Footnotes

1. We welcome your recommendations for public events related to religion and global affairs that we can post on our calendar. Please email details to Lindsay Kuntz at lkuntz@globalengage.org.

About Chris Seiple

Chris Seiple is Principal Advisor for Templeton Religion Trust’s Covenantal Pluralism Initiative, and President Emeritus of the Institute for Global Engagement. He is widely known and sought after for his decades of experience and expertise regarding issues at the intersection of geopolitics, US foreign policy, Asia, conflict resolution, human rights, and religion. He earned his Ph.D. in International Relations at The Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy at Tufts University. His books include The Routledge Handbook of Religious Literacy, Pluralism, and Global Engagement (Routledge 2023), co-edited with Dennis R. Hoover.

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