Religion & International Affairs in a Changing Policy Environment

by Elizabeth Eck Olchowski

PMANThe first weeks of Donald Trump’s presidency saw the new U.S. administration initiating changes likely to reshape the policy environment—perhaps quite drastically—around many issues at the intersection of religion and international affairs. From the introduction of various forms of religious discrimination with respect to immigrants and refugees, to an intensified implementation of the Global Gag Rule in the realm of international reproductive health, to talk of repealing the Johnson Amendment, it is clear that the presence and of role of religion in public life is shifting in significant ways.

With generous support from the Henry Luce Foundation, the Schar School’s Professor Peter Mandaville is initiating a discussion with leading figures from the domains of publicly-engaged scholarship, media, and civil society to evaluate the new policy environment around these issues.

“By bringing together a select group of thought leaders and practitioners—many of whom have received support from the Luce Foundation’s Initiative on Religion in International Affairs—we hope to generate concrete ideas for developing relevant research agendas and public engagement strategies suited to a new climate,” says Mandaville. In addition to new research agendas and institutional partnerships, this initiative will produce a series of blog posts on the connection between religion and international affairs for influential online outlets.

Some of the topics to be addressed include:

  • The practical impact on American and global Muslim communities of the new administration’s counter-terrorism strategy, including travel and immigration restrictions, the banning or obstruction of specific organizations, and the ascent of broad and categorical anti-Muslim sentiment within the U.S. national security apparatus.
  • The religious dimensions of new policies relating to global development and humanitarian activities, including the provision of public health services, the operations of faith-based charities, and climate change.
  • The role of religious identity in U.S. populist nationalism and its resonance with debates in Europe, including the question of how governments in other regions as well as other international actors are positioning themselves in response to perceived ideological shifts in American and European society.
  • How the foreign policy strategy of the new administration is reshaping relations within and between American religious communities, in some cases creating new and/or unconventional alliances and with potentially new roles for diaspora communities.
  • The role religious communities will play in shaping the administration’s conduct in the international space, including issues such as refugees, the proposed Wall with Mexico, and international trade.
  • How the new administration will approach the various faith-based offices that currently exist in government agencies focused on foreign policy, such as the State Department’s Offices of Religion & Global Affairs and International Religious Freedom, and USAID’s Center for Faith-based and Community Initiatives.