Introducing Religion & Diplomacy

Welcome to Religion & Diplomacy. This new website intends to provide insightful original content and serve as a portal to the wealth of online resources on religion and international affairs.

When Douglas Johnston and Cynthia Sampson released their seminal volume Religion, The Missing Dimension of Statecraft in 1994 there was a dearth of resources for diplomats and other practitioners who wanted to better understand religious dynamics and more effectively engage religious actors.

Thankfully, what was once missing has now been found. Over the past quarter century there has been explosion of scholarly and practical interest religion and statecraft. Much of the literature, and the policy attention, has been generated by 9/11 and the ongoing struggle against violent extremism. But there has also been a growing recognition of the powerfully positive contributions religious groups can and do make to education, health, environmental protection, women’s empowerment, and range of other global issues.

The amount of material now available on religion and diplomacy can now seem overwhelming. There is a huge range of government offices, multilateral initiatives, think tanks, research centres, websites, faith-based organisations, policy reports, books, and articles offering insights on matters of faith and world affairs. The establishment of the Transatlantic Policy Network on Religion & Diplomacy (TPNRD) in 2015 was yet another development in this broad movement toward taking religion seriously in international relations.

Now at a time when a Google search for ‘religion and diplomacy’ generates over 27,000,000 results, the diplomats involved in the TPNRD have asked whether the TPNRD Secretariat could create a curated online library of the most useful, authoritative, and policy-relevant resources on the topic. Religion & Diplomacy is our attempt to address this real-world need.

Our Library page to leads visitors to variety relevant and timely resources under the headings of Thematic Issues, Regional Studies, and Religious Literacy. We also seek to make an original contribution to the literature by posting TPNRD-commissioned research papers as well as blogs and interviews showcasing the work of cutting-edge practitioners and academics.

If you would like to suggest a resource or contribute an original piece (e.g. blog or interview), please get in touch with us using our contact form.

Religion & Diplomacy is non-partisan and non-sectarian. Our aim is not to advance any particular political or religious agenda or even to make diplomacy more ‘religious’ in any sense. Rather, we aim to help foreign ministries become more attentive to the diplomatic relevance of religious ideas, institutions, and individuals. That is not to say we advocate for prioritizing religion over other factors in diplomatic analysis and engagement. Religion should always be considered embedded within a complex web of socio-political dynamics.

We should further note that posting third-content on the site does not constitute an endorsement by the TPNRD or any related entity.

The content here is principally intended for TPNRD participants, but should be of interest to a broad range of governmental and non-government actors who share the TPNRD’s interest in fostering a more nuanced and productive engagement with religion in world affairs.

The TPNRD is a forum of diplomats from the UN, US, Canada, the EU, and about a dozen European countries. Co-chaired by the US State Department and the European External Action Service, the TPNRD fosters communication and collaboration among these officials and diplomats.

The collective work of the TPNRD, including Religion & Diplomacy, is managed by a non-governmental secretariat based at the Cambridge Institute on Religion & International Studies (CIRIS) at Clare College, Cambridge. This website, along with the Secretariat as a whole, is generously supported by the Henry Luce Foundation Initiative on Religion in International Affairs.

Thanks to the support of donors like the Luce Foundation and the pioneering scholar-practitioners like Douglas Johnston, diplomats can now access an amazing array of materials on faith and foreign policy. Religion & Diplomacy is an attempt to make the very best of those materials all the more accessible.

Judd Birdsall, PhD is the Editor in Chief of Religion & Diplomacy and the Executive Director of the Transatlantic Policy Network on Religion & Diplomacy. He also serves as the Managing Director of the Cambridge Institute on Religion & International Studies at Clare College, Cambridge. He previously served at US State Department, in the Office of International Religious Freedom and the Policy Planning Staff.