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Under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 (IRFA), the Department of State is tasked with training Foreign Service Officers in both human rights broadly and religious freedom specifically. The Department of State's Foreign Service Institute (FSI) works closely with the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL) to do so. Training in human rights and religious freedom begins when an officer enters the Foreign Service and continues through various levels and career stages, including training for DCMs, Principal Officiers, and Chiefs of Mission.
In 2011, DRL and FSI expanded from three to five days their course on promoting human rights and democracy, which includes modules highlighting religious freedom and anti-Semitism. This course is offered three times a year. FSI and DRL also developed a new, three-day course on Religion and Foreign Policy. The course was piloted in June 2011, and expanded to a four-day version in January 2012. It will be offered at least twice a year. In addition, FSI's Leadership and Management School organized with DRL and other bureaus and agencies a two-day Interagency Policy Seminar in March 2011for senior foreign affairs professionals from across the government. The seminar was aimed at broadening dialogue, dispelling misconceptions, and thinking innovatively about engagement with communities of faith to help accomplish broad foreign policy goals. FSI also periodically consults with the staff of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom on its courses in this area.
II. Courses Offered
A. Courses on Human Rights and Religious Freedom
PROMOTING HUMAN RIGHTS AND DEMOCRACY (PP-530)
This three-day course was offered for the first time in October 2010 and again in January 2011, replacing the one-day module on human rights formerly offered as part of FSI's course GLOBAL ISSUES (PP510). As a result of DRL’s recommendation, student requests (as reflected in their course evaluations), and FSI observation, the course was expanded to five days starting in August 2011 to allow a broader overview of human rights-related issues and a deeper examination of some of those issues. The course is offered three times a year to provide mid-level officers tools and best practices for promoting human rights and democracy, including religious freedom, in the field. FSI and DRL jointly developed the curriculum, which includes a session specifically devoted to religious freedom. Other sessions address issues relevant to religious freedom – human rights law, working with nongovernmental organizations, monitoring and reporting human rights abuses, and combating anti-Semitism.
RELIGION AND FOREIGN POLICY (PP225)
FSI, working closely with DRL, created a new course entitled Religion and Foreign Policy (PP225) in 2011, which expands on modules originally offered in the PP530 course. A three-day version of the PP225 course was piloted in early June 2011, and, as in the case with PP530, the course was expanded in January 2012, based on a combination of DRL’s recommendation, student requests, and FSI observation, to examine religious engagement issues in more depth and breadth. The PP225 course exposes U.S. officials to common themes in dealing with religious and faith-based communities in the field to advance U.S. policy objectives, while giving them the opportunity to practice the tradecraft skills necessary to build productive relationships. The course also trains U.S. officials to use the annual "International Religious Freedom Report" and other tools to enhance their mission's ongoing interactions with religious communities and teaches best practices for incorporating religious community outreach into broader mission objectives. Topics focus on tools for interfaith outreach, the relationship between religion and foreign policy, the promotion of religious freedom, religion and national security, the "2012 Hours Against Hate Campaign," engaging religious actors at post, addressing anti-Semitism, and outreach to the Muslim community. There will be at least two sessions of this course per year.
B. Training on Human Rights and Religious Freedom in other courses.
In addition to the two courses focused specifically on human rights and on religious freedom, DRL has worked closely with FSI to integrate material on human rights and religious freedom into training at all levels. Officers receive training from when they enter and when they prepare for their first consular and political or economic tours through when they train to be Deputy Chiefs of Mission, Principal Officers, or Chiefs of Mission. DRL also works closely with FSI to incorporate information about human rights and religious freedom into the Geographical Area Studies courses, particularly for the Bureaus of Near Eastern, South and Central Asian, and European and Eurasian Affairs. In these courses, DRL officers cover topics such as the international basis and standards for the right to freedom of religion; theological beliefs of different religious groups; state actions against religious groups and other manifestations of violations of religious freedom; involvement of religious groups in politics; diplomatic tools used by the United States to promote respect for religious freedom; venues for protection of those who have fled religious persecution; and the relationships between religious freedom, democracy, and national security. DRL has also worked with FSI on courses for those who work or will work with Muslim communities. These courses include “Islam: Formation, Institutions, Modernity and Reform” and “Iraq: Society, Religion and Politics.” The Iraq course also discusses the Iraqi Jewish community and the role of various Christian communities; the Islam course addresses inter-religious dialogue.
FSI's School of Professional and Area Studies is working with DRL to develop a Distance Learning course to guide Foreign Service Officers as they draft the annual Human Rights and International Religious Freedom Reports. Plans call for this course to be available to all State FSOs worldwide via computer-based distance learning technology.
FSI and the Appeal of Conscience Foundation annually sponsor a major symposium focused on religious freedom and the role of U.S. diplomats overseas. Students from throughout the Institute participate in this symposium. The symposium brings together leading experts on religious freedom and related issues and foreign affairs practitioners. Together they provide practical advice to diplomats on addressing religious freedom issues.
III. Background Material on Religious Freedom provided to students at FSI
DRL constantly updates information on humanrights.gov and material distributed at FSI courses. It also has revamped the intranet Sharepoint site containing background materials on human rights and religious freedom, and created a Diplopedia site with best practices in protecting and promoting religious freedom. The following background materials related to human rights and religious freedom are made available (as hard copy or through Web site addresses) to FSI students: