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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 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 deputy chiefs of mission, principal officers, and chiefs of mission.
In 2012 FSI and DRL continued to offer their five-day course, presented three times a year, on promoting human rights and democracy. This course features specific modules dealing with aspects of religious freedom. FSI and DRL also continued to offer a four-day course dedicated to Religion and Foreign Policy twice a year. In addition, FSI’s Leadership and Management School (LMS) addressed religious freedom issues in some of its offerings. Within the construct of specially tailored, interagency gatherings, LMS partnered with the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs in January 2012 to conduct a one-day policy roundtable on “Islam in Secular Central Asia.” In October 2012, DRL and FSI launched a series of “Religion and Foreign Policy Seminars” with an event entitled “Operationalizing the QDDR (Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review): Working with Civil Society to Advance International Religious Freedom.” Three more religion and foreign policy seminars were in discussion to take place in 2013.
FSI also periodically consults with the staff of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom on its courses in this area.
A. Courses on Human Rights and Religious Freedom
PROMOTING HUMAN RIGHTS AND DEMOCRACY (PP-530)
Offered since October 2010, and expanded to five days in August 2011, this course provides a broad overview of human rights-related issues, and a deeper examination of some key current issues. FSI offers this course three times a year to provide mid-level officers and locally employed staff 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 – including human rights law, working with nongovernmental organizations, monitoring and reporting human rights abuses, combating anti-Semitism, and outreach to Muslim communities.
RELIGION AND FOREIGN POLICY (PP225)
FSI and DRL jointly developed the curriculum for this course in 2011 by expanding on elements of the PP530 course; this course was lengthened from three to four days in January 2012 to examine religious engagement issues in more depth and breadth. The PP225 course exposes U.S. officials to common themes in engaging 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, engaging religious actors at post, addressing anti-Semitism and promoting tolerance, and outreach to the Muslim community.
B. Training on Human Rights and Religious Freedom in other courses.
In addition to the two courses focused specifically on human rights and 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 the Foreign Service and when they prepare for their first consular and political or economic tours through when they train to become deputy chiefs of mission, principal officers, or chiefs of mission. Annual training courses for locally employed staff in political, economic, and combined political/economic sections overseas also include modules on human rights and religious freedom. DRL 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 among 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 communitiesthe Islam course addresses inter-religious dialogue.
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. In 2012, the keynote speaker was Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Four distinguished U.S. ambassadors served as members of the Ambassadorial Panel. Members of the Inter-Faith Panel came from the Presbyterian, Greek Orthodox, Muslim, Roman Catholic and Jewish traditions.
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:
• www.humanrights.gov includes:
o Annual Reports on International Religious Freedom from 1999 through the present
o Department statements on religious freedom, specific to various countries
o Policy statements of the secretary and other U.S. government officials on religious freedom
• The DRL Sharepoint site and DRL’s Intranet site, which are available only to State Department and embassy officers, provide background on human rights and religious freedom issues, including information on the designation of Countries of Particular Concern and on the Office for International Religious Freedom.
• Diplopedia: an on-line compendium of posts’ engagement with religious entities as a source for best practices in promoting religious freedom.
• Highlights from Key International Documents: Universal Declaration of Human Rights (article 18); International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (articles 18, 26, & 27)