By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
A new report issued by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs warns of a serious “capabilities gap” in American foreign policy due to an “uncompromising Western secularism” that feeds religious extremism, threatens traditional cultures and fails to encourage religious groups that promote peace and human rights.
According to an article appearing in the Washington Post, the two year study was led by R. Scott Appleby of the University of Notre Dame and Richard Cizik of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good. “Religion is pivotal to the fate” of nations such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Iraq, Iran, Nigeria and Yemen, the report says.
“Despite a world abuzz with religious fervor,” the task force says, “the U.S. government has been slow to respond effectively to situations where religion plays a global role.”
Those include the growing influence of Pentecostalism in Latin America, evangelical Christianity in Africa and religious minorities in the Far East.
This “God gap” in American foreign policy has been pointed out before, such as by former secretary of state Madeleine K. Albright.
“It’s a hot topic,” said Chris Seiple, president of the Institute for Global Engagement in Arlington County and a Council on Foreign Relations member. “It’s the elephant in the room. You’re taught not to talk about religion and politics, but the bummer is that it’s at the nexus of national security. The truth is the academy has been run by secular fundamentalists for a long time, people who believe religion is not a legitimate component of realpolitik.”
The report was delivered to the White House on Tuesday. After meeting with Joshua DuBois, head of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, the Council’s Thomas Wright said the administration was “very receptive” to the report.
It should be noted that the Council has a long-standing relationship with the president. Obama addressed the Council several times and first lady, Michelle Obama, is on the council’s board.