On September 18, 2013, the Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, Suzan Johnson Cook, convened 80 participants for a roundtable on Women Religious Leaders and Conflict Prevention. The roundtable facilitated discussion among 30 NGOs, eight Department of State bureaus, and six U.S. government agencies on the intersection between religious freedom, conflict, women religious leaders, and peace. This is the third in a series of roundtables the State Department has hosted on Religion and Foreign Policy.
Ambassador Johnson Cook emphasized that governments that neglect or willfully restrict religious freedom pave a path for political instability, extremist ideology, and sectarian violence. She also noted that women are disproportionately affected as a result of being victimized for their beliefs. The Ambassador called for the inclusion of women of faith at the decision-making table when seeking peaceful solutions.
Guests and panelists explored the role of women religious leaders in conflict resolution and peace-building efforts in global contexts. They also examined how women religious leaders and women of faith can be agents to promote religious freedom and peace. This is in line with the U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security. Non-Governmental Organizations also shared success stories from their work in Nigeria, Afghanistan, Indonesia, and Burma. During breakout sessions, NGOs and government officials assessed the potential for collaboration and resource sharing, and discussed how diplomacy and foreign assistance could be leveraged to further the inclusion of women religious leaders in fostering peace. Participant suggestions for government-civil society next steps will be shared with the Strategic Dialogue with Civil Society’s Religion and Foreign Policy working group.