From October 5th-8th, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) held its first-ever Evidence Summit on Strategic Religious Engagement. Participants examined what the data shows on the relevance of religion to USAID’s mission, particularly for shaping and developing its technical assistance efforts.
USAID’s Center for Faith and Opportunity Initiatives hosted the event, which the Center for Strategic and International Studies, United States Institute of Peace, and Templeton Religion Trust co-convened.
As USAID defines it, “Strategic Religious Engagement (SRE) is the process of collaborating with religious communities and/or partnering with faith-based organizations to advance shared development goals. SRE is applied — if, when and where appropriate — with the goal of building our partner countries’ commitment and capacity in their journey to self-reliance.”
RFI staff and scholars participated in various ways. USAID invited contributors from around the world to highlight the dynamics surrounding SRE and why they are so important.
In collaboration with the Iraq Religious Freedom Roundtable, RFI’s Middle East Action Team provided a snapshot from Iraq on perceptions of religious freedom and how that might inform relevant programmatic approaches in the country: 37% of the respondents expressed a positive view toward religious freedom while 63% viewed it unfavorably.
The summary report for the Iraq case study concluded, “In designing interventions, it’s important to identify the audience perception toward religious freedom and respond accordingly. For those holding moderate views, inter-communal initiatives can increase recognition of the value of religious freedom. For those with strict views against religious freedom, intra-communal initiatives to develop religious literacy and support for tolerance from within their own tradition are important in preparation for greater engagement with other communities. For those holding positive views toward religious freedom, initiatives that mobilize multi-faith networks toward common goals can produce tangible outcomes and counter sectarian violence.