The UK and US must better respond to a “stubbornly and pervasively religious world”, says a report by the British University of Leeds.
‘Toward Religion-Attentive Foreign Policy’ suggests former Prime Ministerial adviser Alastair Campbell’s quip that “We [Tony Blair’s governing Labour Party] don’t do God” is outdated, now that the 21st Century has started to be referred to as “God’s century”.
“In a world where religious ideas and institutions are increasingly salient factors in politics – for good and ill – all diplomats must ‘do God’ whether or not they believe in one,” states the report.
The US currently employs more than 40 people between its Office of Religion and Global Affairs and Office of International Religious Freedom, the report notes, whereas the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office has yet to employ a single member of staff to work directly on religious affairs.
The report’s authors (former US diplomat Judd Birdsall, ex-UK Cabinet Office adviser Jane Lindsay and religious studies lecturer Emma Tomalin) suggest the immediate employment in the UK’s Foreign Office of a Director of Religion and Global Issues, with a small supporting staff.
However, they add that it is not enough to focus only on religious freedom.
“Religious freedom is a human right, but religion is more than just a human rights issue,” they write, pointing out that the US State Department has both a Religious Freedom Office and an Office of Religion and global affairs.