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Fighting the Good Fight: Then and Now

  • John Gallagher
  • March 18, 2016

“The enemy is of two kinds: the tyrant dictator, and the religious fanatic. To act against the first is feasible…but to act against the second requires a credible alternative to the absolutes which he conjures. It requires us not merely to believe in something, but to study how to put our beliefs into practice.”

— Roger Scruton, The West and the Rest

In the years after IGE’s founding in 2000, subsequent to the attacks of 9/11, Ambassador Robert Seiple wrote Ambassadors of Hope, asserting that, “we have entered a new global era…one in which international conflicts and problems have ongoing repercussions at home and around the world.” Around the same time, a group of 60 U.S. scholars and ethicists — including my advisor at The University of Chicago, the late Jean Bethke Elshtain — published an open letter titled What We’re Fighting For, which affirmed “five fundamental truths that pertain to all people without distinction:

    1. All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.
    2. The basic subject of society is the human person, and the legitimate role of government is to protect and help to foster the conditions for human flourishing.
    3. Human beings naturally desire to seek the truth about life’s purpose and ultimate ends.
    4. Freedom of conscience and religious freedom are inviolable rights of the human person.
    5. Killing in the name of God is contrary to faith in God and is the greatest betrayal of the universality of religious faith.

Even a cursory glance at the current global environment reveals the prescience of these ideas from nearly 15 years ago. Poor governance that isolates and persecutes some of its citizens, failing to treat them as “equal in dignity and rights” has consequences, and can create conditions more conducive to anti-government — even anti-civilization — groups that kill in the name of God. Over the past several years, the information revolution and subsequent diffusion of power away from states has given such groups unprecedented capacity for information-sharing, mobility within and across borders, transnational sources of funding, and the ability to weave local, regional, and global events into their ideological narratives nearly instantly. Such instability is not easily contained.

Whether through the refugee crisis in the Middle East, the “migrant crisis” beyond the region, or the attacks of Paris and San Bernardino, the impact is increasingly global in scope. The Middle East’s regional powers as well as great powers outside the region are drawn toward the crisis on different sides, stoking existing rivalries and bringing them all closer to missteps or provocations that can lead to conventional conflict. In the millions displaced, hundreds of thousands killed and held captive for their beliefs and/or gender, and even more living in fear and want as the result of extremist violence — we are indeed seeing “ongoing repercussions at home and abroad.”

As I recently transitioned into my new role as IGE’s President and CEO after more than 25 years in the U.S. military, I reviewed IGE’s founding principles and Articles of Incorporation. Their profound relevance and potential to effect positive change in the world struck me. In short, the Articles describe an organization committed to helping governments and civil societies around the world — where governance is weak or predatory and civil society is marginalized or persecuted, often turning toward extremism — find pathways to constructive dialogue, rule of law, and equal citizenship anchored on religious freedom. IGE is both an NGO and think tank, and our Christian identity informs our respect for human dignity and engagement at the geo-political and grassroots levels, enabling us to be better received in places where religion is a key factor. We leverage scholarly expertise and practical policy experience to identify “sustainable solutions to challenges to religious freedom and, more broadly, to other sources of global dissention.”

On the occasion of its 15th anniversary year, IGE is leading and serving in some of the most complex contexts in the world. Whether partnering in Myanmar during its period of historic political transition; working with the Chinese to advance a more holistic and strategic approach to religious freedom and counterterrorism; helping the victims of the Iraq-Syria crisis through The Cradle Fund; developing a global conference in Kurdistan on co-existence, stability, and reconciliation (only tens-of-kilometers from ISIS’ front lines); or publishing cutting-edge research and commentary in our pioneering journal, The Review of Faith & International Affairs — IGE is boldly embarking on another 15 years of “putting our beliefs into practice.”

We are increasingly invited into trusted partnerships globally, helping governments achieve good governance and helping civil societies achieve greater inclusion, stability, and civility. In January, I was privileged to attend the Marrakech Declaration in Morocco, which brought together 250 religious leaders from Muslim communities around the world as well as 70 other experts and leaders to advance a “framework for the protection of minority rights in Islamic territories.” IGE has also helped inform and advocate for the recent bi-partisan legislation (House Resolution 75) denouncing violence against Christians, Yezidis, and others in Iraq and Syria as “genocide,” which just passed the House 393 to 0. Additionally, I was fortunate to be selected as a 2016 Presidential Leadership Scholar — a new program that provides mentorship through four Presidential Centers and partnerships across both sides of the political aisle, strengthening IGE’s strategy and mission.

We invite you to join us, whether supporting IGE through funding or collaboration in the field. Internationally, we often invite a small delegation of leaders and experts from policy, academia, the private sector, and military to strengthen and expand the dialogue. Domestically, even a cursory glance at the current political environment suggests there is value in IGE’s engagement model — integrating mediation, reconciliation, and education — nationally and locally from all sides, beliefs, and backgrounds.

In every context, as IGE’s founding Articles indicate, we remain committed to religious freedom, diplomacy, and global problem-solving through an in-depth understanding of “religion and statecraft, causes of regional and world dissention, and sustainable solutions…in the United States and abroad.” Uncertainty and turbulence in current global and domestic environments is cause for concern, but there is also cause for hope. As IGE’s founder wrote over a decade ago, “The world in which we live today can certainly be sobering. But it is also broadening, challenging, and maybe even uniting. We are living in the most exciting time in all of history. This is an adventure, the adventure of a new strategic era…”

We look forward to leading and serving with you-fighting the good fight-in the challenging yet hopeful era ahead.

About John Gallagher

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