Shaun Casey (centre) in his role as the US Special Representative to Cyprus for Religion and Global Affairs, speaks during a press conference in March 2016.

The elimination of the Office of Religion and Global Affairs within the US State Department by the Trump administration is “devastating”, writes Shaun Casey, and shows its failure to understand the importance of the role of religion in diplomacy.

In his article forReligion and Politics, Casey, former US special representative for religion and global affairs and director of the US Department of State’s Office of Religion and Global Affairs, says he fears the current administration is turning away from engaging with religious actors and communities, as well as engaging with the Muslim world on a broad global scale, to an almost exclusively conservative Christian and primarily Protestant engagement.

Casey’s former office worked on many issues, including combating Islamophobia globally and assisting with post-conflict reconstruction in Iraq.

“There is no such thing as religion in the abstract, no essence of religion to be isolated abstractly and then applied to the world,” he says. “Religion needs to be understood in specific social, political, and historical contexts, interacting with myriad social and political dynamics. It is phenomenally complex, and policymakers are constantly tempted to follow stereotypes.”