Division Between Religion and Diplomacy

Yes or no for faith-based diplomacy

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religionReligion is, and has been, a powerful belief system for about three quarters of the world population. The United States Pledge of Allegiance (which includes the phrase, “under god”) that young kids are taught to memorize and chant in school, is a constant reminder that religion is a huge part of people’s lives. In 2010, The Pew Research reported about 84 percent of the world population was affiliated with a religious group. However, a newer study done in 2013 proposes that the number of religiously affiliated people in the world has declined to 74 percent. Therefore, considering that about three quarters of the world population is still religious, it is quite evident that religion may indirectly play a prominent role in diplomatic initiatives and policies.

The tug-of-war between the state and religion is controversial, yet imperative to discuss, especially in that the world is mostly religious. Many may argue that religion has been a driving force for creating a civilized nation. Religion has been used to inspire people and give hope, yet also as an excuse to justify war and hatred. While striping away the religiously associated traditions and stereotypes, all religions advocate generally the same ideals (at least in my opinion), including peace
and love.

Religion has been a hot topic, especially in the era of post 9/11. We do, for the most part, live in religious world. Therefore, it is no surprise that there are religious leaders and communities who demand religious input when making foreign policy decisions.

According to the Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Paris, Uzra Zeya, “President Obama and Secretary Kerry have emphasized the importance of engaging religious leaders and communities in advancing development, human rights and conflict mitigation. To this end, the Department is facilitating engagement involving citizens, faith-based organizations, and governments. The Bureau I represent, the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL), is heavily engaged in interfaith collaboration.”

Therefore, it is clear that religious leaders are considered when making foreign relations decisions. However, should religion be considered when handling diplomatic initiatives and foreign policy issues? Some may say yes, and some may say no. There are two sides to this debate.

First of all, most religious leaders and communities would probably want their religious beliefs incorporated in some way “to create a civilized and peaceful society.” On the other hand, some people may want to exclude religious input because they may not be as religious as others and wouldn’t want religious personal opinions to rule the country. These people may favor the separation of church and state.

In addition, effective arguments and decisions should be involving the public, in which everyone agrees and takes part in. According to Gary Gutting, professor of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame, “a religious argument, based on, say, the authority of the Bible or of the Pope, would therefore, be out of place in a public debate among citizens with every variety belief and disbelief.”

When considering religion into the equation, there may be an abundance of different views that come into play, in that there are numerous religions and beliefs that people affiliate with; this may eventually lead to foreign relation issues.

Although religions were originally designed for harmony, they can also indirectly lead to wars. By no means am I advocating that religions cause foreign relation issues. In fact what I’m advocating is that it may not be the religion itself, but rather some individual religious extremists that put a damper on certain religions; thus causing wars and world problems. Hence, religion is a controversial element when considering foreign policies and should be handled wisely in the decision-making process.


About the Author

Khushbu Kapadia
Khushbu Kapadia
Senior Montclair State University student diplomat, aspiring a career in public relations, women's advocate and pursuer of all-things-interesting.
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