ON-Lion Letter

In a February lecture at Roanoke College in Virginia, Georgetown University's Thomas Farr outlined the often-understated, yet important role of religious freedom in U.S. foreign policy -- especially in the face of rising religiously influenced crises caused by groups such as ISIS and Boko Haram.  In order to combat rising extremism and increase American security, religious freedom needs to be strategically integrated into American diplomacy, according to Farr.  Unfortunately, there is a "religion-avoidance syndrome" within the U.S. State Department, where diplomats purposely disregard the role of religion in shaping global issues.

Farr directs the Religious Freedom Project at Georgetown's Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs.  He was the first director of the State Department's Office for International Religious Freedom.  The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee supports the Religious Freedom Project. 

"There are many reasons for societies everywhere to embrace religious freedom, foremost among them the moral imperative to rid the world of the vile acts of persecution that are increasing with alarming rapidity, causing such terrible human suffering and darkening our future," Farr said in his lecture.  "Such human acts of evil, and the suffering they cause, will always be with us.  We should never tire of countering them, including with force when appropriate and necessary.

"But we must also rediscover the powerful, practical reasons for religious liberty, reasons that are grounded in the religious nature of man, his consequent need for freedom, and the value of religious freedom for social flourishing," he continued.  "Those reasons, apparent at the American founding, are in danger of being lost.

"And yet, they can and should be understood as reflecting the interests of all people everywhere:  stable self-governance, economic development, and the defeat of religion-based terror," Farr concluded.  "If we act to rediscover those reasons ourselves, and overcome our contemporary skepticism about engaging religious ideas and actors in American diplomacy, we can avert the momentous consequences of rising religious persecution and declining global religious freedom.

"Our own system of constitutional democracy, and our national security, depend upon it."

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