U.S. Strategy on Religious Leader and Faith Community Engagement

Across the globe, religious leaders and faith communities are making significant contributions to sustainable development, the promotion and protection of human rights, and conflict mitigation and resolution. Despite restrictions on their activities in many countries, religious leaders and other civil society actors are deeply engaged in creating more peaceful, stable, and secure communities that are better equipped to meet today’s most pressing challenges.

U.S. officials have long engaged religious leaders and institutions, as well as other community leaders and institutions, and this Administration has worked to elevate those efforts. To build on this progress, the United States has developed a national strategy to focus engagement on key policy objectives, promote best practices, and spur greater department and agency coordination. The strategy encourages U.S. government officials to develop and deepen their relationships with religious leaders and faith communities as they carry out their foreign policy responsibilities. Specifically, the strategy seeks to advance the following objectives through more robust engagement with religious leaders and faith communities, as part of a broader effort to reach out to a diverse set of civil society actors:

  1. Promote sustainable development and more effective humanitarian assistance. Religious leaders and faith-based organizations often serve as decision-makers at the community level and oversee development and humanitarian efforts in their communities. By working in partnership with such leaders and designing programs with the religious context in mind, U.S. foreign assistance efforts can become more effective and sustainable.
  2. Advance pluralism and human rights, including the protection of religious freedom. Building on current initiatives, the Administration will increase efforts to engage a diverse spectrum of religious leaders on the advancement of universal human rights, promoting core U.S. values like respect for the human rights of members of minority and marginalized groups, pluralism, tolerance, and sensitivity to and respect for the beliefs and traditions of others.
  3. Prevent, mitigate, and resolve violent conflict and contribute to local and regional stability and security. In its efforts to break cycles of violent conflict and mitigate crises, the U.S. Government will work with religious leaders to address both religious and non‑religious causes of violence and support their ongoing initiatives to build peaceful societies.

Across these objectives, the U.S. Government will: (1) build our capacity and the capacity of our international partners to engage religious leaders and faith communities through increased guidance and training; (2) institutionalize our efforts by embedding religious leader engagement in policy and practice; and (3) further develop and improve our exchanges and dialogues with religious leaders. In implementing this strategy, U.S. officials will ensure that engagement efforts are: consistent with the U.S. Constitution and other laws; sensitive to local culture and beliefs; inclusive of a wide range of religious and non-religious actors; and mindful of the independence and credibility of the counterparts we engage.