On November 1, 2016, The Review of Faith & International Affairs, quarterly journal of the Center on Faith & International Affairs at the Institute for Global Engagement, sponsored a lively panel discussion focused on the question, “Can the Politics of Religious Freedom Stop at the Water’s Edge?” The event was hosted by Pepperdine University’s Washington, DC campus. Click here to view the video of the entire panel.
The panel was derived from a special election-year issue of The Review of Faith & International Affairs titled “Faith, Freedom, and Foreign Policy: Recommendations for the Next President.” The special issue and panel are part of a larger series co-sponsored with the Religious Freedom Project at Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs, and the Institute on Culture, Religion, and World Affairs at Boston University. The series is supported by a generous grant from the Bradley Foundation.
The overall goal of the series is to encourage and provide resources to help U.S. foreign policy leaders and influencers hit the ground running on international religious freedom (IRF) policy early in the next presidential term. Unfortunately past administrations, both Republican and Democratic, have tended to get off to a slow start. For instance, it took the George W. Bush administration took 14 months to nominate an Ambassador at Large for IRF. The Obama administration took even longer, 17 months, to fill that key post.
Adding still more to the challenge is the fact the domestic disputes over religious freedom have become much more intense and polarizing in recent years. A question hanging over all the detailed IRF policy nuances is whether a workable degree of nonpartisan consensus can still be found.
Three stellar panelists provided their extensive expertise and insight on these issues: Judd Birdsall, Thomas Farr, and Lisa Curtis.
Judd Birdsall is Managing Director of the Cambridge Institute on Religion & International Studies, Cambridge University. He is also the executive director of the Transatlantic Policy Network on Religion and Diplomacy. A former U.S. diplomat, he served in the U.S. State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom and on the Secretary of State’s Policy Planning Staff. He was also the founding chair of the State Department’s Forum on Religion & Global Affairs. His commentaries have appeared in the Washington Post, Guardian, Huffington Post (US and UK), and Christianity Today, and he is also an editorial fellow and frequent contributor at The Review of Faith & International Affairs. Tom Farr is President of the Religious Freedom Institute, Director of the Religious Freedom Project at Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs, and Associate Professor of the Practice of Religion and International Affairs at Georgetown’s Walsh School of Foreign Service. A 28 year veteran of the U.S. Army and Foreign Service, he was founding Director of the State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom from 1999-2003. He is a prolific author whose works include the influential 2008 book, World of Faith and Freedom: Why International Religious Freedom is Vital to American National Security, published by Oxford University Press. He is also a Contributing Editor at The Review of Faith & International Affairs. Lisa Curtis is Senior Research Fellow on South Asia in the Asian Studies Center of the Heritage Foundation. Her research has centered on the U.S.-India strategic and defense partnership, U.S. counterterrorism policies in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and trends in Islamist extremism and religious freedom. Curtis has testified before Congress on 18 occasions on topics related to India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Islamist extremism. She has appeared on major broadcast networks, including CNN, Fox News, CBS, MSNBC, PBS, and BBC, and her commentary has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, U.S. News and World Report, Foreign Policy, and The National Interest.
The panel was moderated by Dr. Dennis R. Hoover, Editor of The Review of Faith & International Affairs.