On August 7, 2013, the U.S. Department of State announced its formation of the Office of Faith-Based Community Initiatives as “the [U.S.] portal for engagement with religious leaders and organizations around the world . . . [to ensure] that their voices are heard in the policy process and [to work] with those communities to advance U.S. diplomacy and development objectives.”
In making this announcement, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said, “there is common ground between the Abrahamic faiths, and, in fact, between the Abrahamic faiths and all religions and philosophies. . . . All of these faiths are virtuous and in fact, most of them, tied together by the golden rule, as well as fundamental concerns about the human condition, about poverty, about relationships between peoples, our responsibilities each to each other. And they all come from the same human heart.”
The Director of the new Office is Dr. Shaun Casey, a professor of Christian ethics at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C. and a Senior Advisor for Religious Affairs and National Evangelical Coordinator for Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign.
At the announcement of the new Office, Dr. Casey said, “religious leaders and faith communities . . . have an influence and shape our foreign policy concerns here in the [U.S., and it is] essential for the [U.S.] to understand them and to bring them into our diplomacy and diplomatic efforts.”
The Office already has a Strategy on Religious Leader and Faith Community Engagement to encourage “U.S. government officials to develop and deepen their relationships with religious leaders and faith communities . . . to advance the following objectives:”
- “Promote sustainable development and more effective humanitarian assistance.”
- “Advance pluralism and human rights, including the protection of religious freedom.”
- “Prevent, mitigate, and resolve violent conflict and contribute to local and regional stability and security.”
The executive branch of the U.S. federal government also has the following other agencies or offices relating to religion and faith-based communities:
- The State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom, which is headed by an Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, who serves as the principal advisor to both the President of the U.S. and Secretary of State for Religious Freedom globally.
- The State Department’s Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, who since 2004 has developed and implemented policies and projects to support efforts to combat anti-Semitism.
- The State Department’s Envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, who since 2010 has sought to deepen and expand U.S. partnerships with OIC member countries and Muslim communities around the world.
- U.S. Agency for International Development’s Center for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, which provides “a bridge for faith-based and community groups seeking to connect with USAID’s mission, . . . [convenes] faith-based and community groups to catalyze new opportunities for collaboration between these groups, and between these groups and the government [and helps] to eliminate barriers encountered by faith-based and community organizations seeking to partner with USAID on a range of global development issues, including global health, child survival and food security.”
- The White House’s Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, which “coordinates Centers for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships in various federal agencies . . . . [and] coordinates the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.”