On April 16, 2015, the British Council, the Religion Newswriters Foundation, the Center on Religion and the Professions at Missouri School of Journalism, Lancaster University (UK), and the Religious Freedom Center of the Newseum Institute assembled a panel of experts for a lively dialogue about the role of religious freedom in foreign policy.
Freedom of religion or belief is a rapidly emerging foreign policy priority for many of the world’s leading democracies. These initiatives are often easy political wins for many policymakers working on the issue. They often face little public opposition for their advocacy, and media outlets often follow suit, reporting political talking points on religious freedom as simple and obvious truths. But critical questions needed to be addressed:
- Whose freedom of religion or belief are governments protecting?
- How are governments defining religion and religious freedom?
- How does religious freedom overlap and conflict with other rights and freedoms?
- How can religious freedom policies best respect different religion-state histories and constitutions, and balance national religious self-determination with that of the individual?
- How do critical and uncritical media portrayals of these foreign policy agendas influence their overall effectiveness?
- Professor Linda Woodhead of Lancaster University, United Kingdom
- Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett, Chair, U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom
- Michael De Dora, Director of Public Policy, Center for Inquiry; President, United Nations NGO Committee on Freedom of Religion or Belief
- Brian Pellot, Director of Global Strategy, Religion Newswriters Foundation/Religion News Service
- Nina Shea, Esq, Director of the Center for Religious Freedom at the Hudson Institute
Click photo to enlarge. All photos below courtesy of Maria Bryk/Newseum.