World of Faith and Freedom: Why International Religious Liberty Is Vital to American National Security

World of Faith and Freedom: Why International Religious Liberty Is Vital to American National Security

World of Faith and Freedom: Why International Religious Liberty Is Vital to American National Security

World of Faith and Freedom: Why International Religious Liberty Is Vital to American National Security

Synopsis

Virtually every trouble spot on the planet has some sort of religious component, from Iraq and Afghanistan to Israel and Palestine. All of these conflicts are of great geo-political importance and of intense interest to the United States. Yet, argues Thomas Farr, our foreign policy is gravely handicapped by an inability to understand the role of religion in these places and indeed a strong disinclination to consider religious factors as important. In this engaging and well-written insideraccount, Farr offers a closely reasoned argument that religious freedom, the freedom to practice one's own religion without fear or interference, is an essential prerequisite for a democratic society. If the U.S. wants to foster democracy, he says, it must focus on fostering religious liberty. Although we ourselves have developed a remarkably successful model of religious freedom, our foreign policy favors an aggressive secularism that is at odds with the American model. It is essential, says Farr, that we take an approach that recognizes the great importance of religion in peoples' lives.

Excerpt

My interest in the issue of religion as an object of U.S. foreign policy began late in my career—in 1999, to be precise, after sixteen satisfying years in the American Foreign Service. Until then my work had involved the typical pursuits associated with diplomacy. I had issued and denied visas to people seeking entry into the United States. My family and I had been quickly evacuated from a foreign country after a terrorist threat (alas, not all that unusual for diplomats these days). During the Cold War I helped develop U.S. nuclear arms control policy, parried with Soviets over President Reagan’s “Star Wars” initiative, and negotiated agreements with the Greek and German governments. in the 1990s I taught foreign policy at the U.S. Air Force Academy and served in the State Department’s intelligence bureau. It was there I first read—in highly classified reports—about the activities of a man named Osama Bin Laden.

As the millennium closed, the rhythms and norms of diplomatic life began to shift dramatically for me. Nearing the end of my assignment in the intelligence bureau, I was scanning the list of available positions when my eyes ran across a word rarely seen in State Department personnel documents: “religion.” a new office had been created by the 1998 International Religious Freedom (IRF) Act, and it was seeking a deputy for Robert Seiple, the man who would become the first irf Ambassador at Large. I became Seiple’s deputy and the first director of the State Department’s office of international religious freedom. Thus began a new chapter in my career: crafting and implementing a policy concerning religion in one of America’s most avowedly secular institutions.

During the next four years (1999–2003) I worked with Seiple, his successor, Ambassador John Hanford, and many others to plant a solid religious freedom policy in the infelicitous soil at Foggy Bottom. We and our staffs traveled . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.