Faith and Diplomacy in the International System
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John D. Stempel
Patterson School of Diplomacy
and International Commerce
With research assistance from Catherine Jones
As modern diplomacy became systematized in the 17th and 18th centuries,
wars of religion gave way to wars of national interest in the age of nationalism.
To this day, conventional wisdom holds either that religion is irrelevant
to diplomacy in the modern secular nationalist age, or it is the source
of future conflict (Sam Huntington's "Clash of Civilizations").
This paper argues that religion generally has steadily grown more important
since the creation of the state of Israel in 1947. In the post-Cold War
period since 1990, religion has also grown more central in international
politics (and hence diplomacy). This has occurred with the increase in
religious/ethnic/national conflict on all continents, including the collapse
of governing structures (Robert Kaplan's chaos argument).
Moreover, far from being a purely negative factor, religion properly managed
has played, and may play, an even more important positive role in diplomacy
and conflict resolution. If some religious values strengthen diplomacy,
diplomacy also provides tools for managing, perhaps even resolving, religious
disagreements and easing religious conflicts. The biggest impediment to
this auspicious outcome is lack of knowledge and correct information by
all major social groups about religious/diplomatic linkages.
"It is better to know some of the questions than all of the answers."
For nearly 20 years, the international relations community has been wrestling
with the problem of the relationship between religion and diplomacy, first
pointed out by Barry Rubin in an article later reprinted in the excellent
analysis, Religion and Statecraft. Rubin was commenting on U.S. policy
failures in Iran, and noted that U.S. and other policy/decision makers
had systematically ignored the impact and influence of religion in Iran.
He, and others since, have traced this to the pervasive belief that "modernization"
has brought about increasing secularization of society. The past decade
has produced several landmark efforts to correct that misinterpretation--a
special issue of Deadalus, Summer 199l, on "religion and Politics;"
a special issue of ORBIS, Spring 1998 on "Religion in World Affairs;"
and a number of books including the above-mentioned volume. The recent
emerging discussion on globalization involves religion as well, and particularly
the importance of religion as both social and psychological base for choices
that individuals and societies make.
Concurrent strains of thought suggest that science and God may be coming
closer together, and that the reemergence of the importance of religion
in politics stems from the alienation created by aspects of modern life
such as capitalism and bureaucratization. World systems theories, including
Marxism, have likewise proven inadequate because of their focus on the
material. aspects of life. Robert Wuthnow suggests that these theories
err because they leave no room for charismatic and the spiritual elements
which defy the best efforts of rational choice theorists to create a predictable
Faith and diplomacy have been soul mates all along, it seems, and we are
currently engaged in seeking the post-Modern connections and exploring
both the empirical and normative aspects of this combination. This challenge
is particularly difficult because it cuts across scholarly categories
and severely challenges some components of current "scientific"
and pseudo-scientific orthodoxy. In truth, as James Der Derian reminds
us, diplomacy has been there all along; the first diplomats serving as
mediators between sovereigns who carried divine rights with them. Walter
McDougall carries the story further by tracing the continuing influence
through the Westphalian period down to today. A significant part of the
problem is that religion plays different roles at different times and
different places. It supplies the underlying subtext of meaning, which
may surface in domestic or international relations, sometimes on an intermittent
basis (specific human rights issues), and sometimes as the central element
of policy and action (the Iranian revolution). A quick rundown of some
cases will make the point:
The Iranian revolution placed religion at the forefront of society and
policy-making on all issues. It totally changed Iran's government from
a secularizing and modernizing monarchy to a theocratic, religiously fundamentalist
state and society. The Khomeini revolution initiated the new discussion
of the importance of religion in international affairs, and is often considered
the benchmark for religious involvement in politics. Less well known is
the role the Protestant Church played in the demise of the German Democratic
Republic, when the Federation of Evangelical churches provided provide
space for discussion of politics and privately urged the regime toward
a more open and progressive society. This culminated in church support
for a series of demonstrations across East Germany which led to the fall
of the Berlin wall and the collapse of the GDR.
The Catholic and Protestant traditions have been well documented in diplomatic
history and literature, forming the basis as they do for the Western Westphalian
diplomacy of the past 400 years. Catholicism's impact today stems from
tradition and doctrine reflected in the Catholic Church as an institution
(the only one that has diplomatic representation), Catholics as a community,
and catholic thought and ideas, including the "Liberation Theology"
found a decade or two ago in Latin America. Protestantism has played a
major role in the United States. The Protestant rejection of hierarchy
and focus on individual salvation became mingled with and driven by the
American democratic experiment, and even today fuels American idealism
and universal human rights aspirations. Given the predominance of both
traditions in Europe, it is probably useful to consider the traditional
Westphalian Balance of Power as a product of a Christian philosophy of
restraint a balance, rather than merely secular alternative to religious
The Eastern Orthodox Church has always played a significant role in the
context of the states where it was the dominant force --10 countries in
Eastern Europe, all but one of whom (Greece) were communist for much of
the past 50 years. The newly-acquired independence of the Eastern European
region, including Russia, has channeled Orthodox religion activity along
nationalist lines, with residual criticism of free market economics and
open political debate, which it sees also as a challenge to its monopoly.
Some historians count the revival of religion as a development in international
politics with the creation of the state of Israel and the Arab-Islamic
political response to what they considered a dismaying event. Islam and
the West have been at odds since the time of the crusades, 800-plus years
ago for geopolitical more than religious reasons, though the two reinforce
each other throughout history. As this state of affairs became enmeshed
with colonialism and the Arab nationalist response, religion took a back
burner until the establishment of Israel. For the Jews, however, particularly
in the post-Holocaust world, it became a unique and special beacon to
Jews all over the world. This and the hostility of the Arabs in varying
degrees over time, created the present geopolitical configuration in the
Middle East. The Arab-Israeli Peace Process of the last 30-plus years
has involved as much diplomacy in that time as any other set of issues.
Less familiar to Americans, and perhaps to others, are the roles of religion
in Japan and China. Because of its particular geographic isolation, religion
in Japan has had little effect on, or connection with, diplomacy by comparison
to may other states in which monotheistic traditions deeply affect ethical
norms. Religion there tends to function at familial and communal levels
rather than at a level of universal beliefs in strongly held ethical imperatives
or articles of faith. Only during the pre-World War II ascendancy of state
Shintoism were patriotism and religion melded into a creed deeply impressed
into the populace. Both the academic and popular press in Japan warn against
the possibility of a turn toward religious nationalism, and there is tension
between secularism and fear of revived militarism fueled by religion.
Religion in Japan, however, does not mean the same thing that it does
In China, the communist government which came to power in 1949 began eradicating
religion from political and social life. Today, the CPP government energetically
patrols religious activities and organizations such as the Falan Gong
because it fears the growth of independent authority and civil institutions
beyond its control. Nevertheless, religious views will play a role at
the personal level and in the growing debate about personal rights. Political
authoritarianism has always been absolute, and religion/Confucianism was
always controlled and coopted more completely than in the West. Religion
may yet turn out to be a greater factor in foreign than domestic politics,
since Beijing is fending off penalties for violating religious and other
human rights, and seeking to remove the Vatican mission from Taiwan.
This resurgence of religion in foreign policy has been obvious not only
in the Middle East, but in ethnic and religious struggles in Bosnia, Kosovo,
and the emergence of a Slav/religious component to Russian foreign policy.
This has been acerbated by the "collapse of the categories"
at the end of the Cold War, the end of bipolarity, and emerging chaos
in much of the developing world which Robert Kaplan so distressingly outlined
in his book, The Ends of the Earth.
The Impact of Faith and Religion
A major change in diplomacy and international politics has been the
creation of new states over the last five decades which brings the number
of U.N. members to 185 instead of the 50 which formed the organization.
Add to this the rapid increase in communications, transportation and the
combination of non-governmental organizations (NGO's) with the power of
the internet, and the cacophony in both religion and diplomacy can be
deafening. How are these effects to be best analyzed? The following four-category
table is an initial cut:
1) Faith and religious beliefs of politicians, statesmen, and diplomats.
The individual beliefs of the players affect not only their perceptions
of issues, but what they do. Studies of American presidents and statesmen
have shown this--Wilson's Presbyterian sternness and moralism; Dulles'
and Reagan's religious views about the evil of the Soviet Union. The link
between Bismarck's and Gladstone's beliefs have been spelled out by historians,
and Iranian foreign moves have been closely linked to the beliefs of key
ayatollahs. Work on leadership orientation should include analysis of
the "faith" component of an individual's beliefs. One of the
issues that will surface rather quickly is that most foreign policy officials
have scant grounding in religious/faith issues--that just isn't part of
the dialog at Foggy Bottom, Westminster, or the Qai d'Orsay, even if it
should be. Edward Luttwack once argued that embassies should have religious
attaches, but that begs the problem--to truly understand faith/religious
issues requires that ALL levels of policy/decision maker have some idea
of what's going on.
Conversely, if faith issues are important, the normative side of the equation
implies that individuals on the religious side of the equation would benefit
from an understanding of diplomatic terms and analysis and a realistic
understanding of the working elements of international relations. In any
event individual faith./belief/religious reference is certainly a category
of understanding that could use further clarification.
2) Belief structures which underlie national/international views. This
category would include philosophies, intellectual currents, and beliefs
which contribute to national/organizational views. These may be distinguished
from individual faith views, but obviously influence them. The secularist
view of modernization is one such view; individual religious doctrines
are another. Islamic radical views which see the West as corrupt and modernizing
governments as tools of Satan are an important political view, because
contained in this body of thought is a carefully worked out philosophy
of terrorism which is substantially at odds with Western as well as much
The connection between American belief structure has been one of at least
partial denial. Although separation of church and state has been one of
our enduring political myths; in fact, religious belief and religion have
played a key context-establishing role since before the framing of the
constitution. Religion has helped shape American values since the earliest
days when Americans saw the United States as the "new Jerusalem,"
the city on the hill where people could work out their destinies free
of old restraints--and as a beacon on the hill for others. Belief in a
divine creator, if not in a state religion, suffused our political life
-- and still does despite the increasing 20th century secularization.
In practical foreign policy terms, missionaries were engaging in their
own forms of "diplomacy" before the United States even had a
diplomatic service, and missionaries outnumbered American diplomats abroad
until well into the 1950's.
History may be coming full circle--over the past six or seven years, the
privatization of some aspects of foreign policy has led to increasingly
prominent roles for church-connected relief agencies such as the Catholic
Relief Service, the American Friends Service Committee, World Vision,
and the Episcopal Presiding Bishop's Relief Fund. In the past decade,
American religious fundamentalism, particularly on the right, has had
greater visibility in overseas-related activities. The creation in 1999
of an Office of Religious Freedom in the State Department as a result
of the Wolfe-Specter Bill in response to the Christian Right has already
stimulated at least one "get lost" reaction on the part of a
Such links between belief and policy can be found in almost every country,
and certainly with many NGO's. Searching out those links can improve our
understanding of policy and those who make it, as well as providing better
overall strategic understanding.
3) Organizational impact of faith issues and religious organizations.
The obvious example here is the Vatican as a diplomatic organ of the Catholic
Church. In comparison, there is no similar organization at that level
of effectiveness for any other religion. Islamic nations meet together
as a body, but internal conflicts detract from their work. Jewish Zionist
organizations are effective, but do not have their own diplomatic service.
Within nations, the situation is more structured. The State-controlling
Guardians Council in Iran may wind up in conflict with Iran's newly-elected
parliament if the reformers push liberalization. Christian Democratic
parties have dominated much of Europe's landscape since World War II.
The rise of the Hindu BJP since 1990 in India to control the government
suggest that religious involvement in politics is alive and well. Western
analysis has in the past unduly discounted religious parties because it
took only its immediate secular prowess into consideration. It is impossible
to understand the bitter ethnic/religious conflict between the Tamil Tigers
and the government in Sri Lanka unless one understands to roots of the
Buddhist/Hindu religious issue as well and the ethnic bases of the conflict.
4) Special issues that religion poses for statecraft.
religion is an intractable force that can be unresponsive
to all the instrumentalities of state power, let along the instrumentalities
of foreign policy.
Tapping religious fervor may be a good way to build support in a conflict,
or to do battle--but it also ties his or her hands when it comes to negotiating
a settlement. The current state of peace negotiations in Northern Ireland
merely underline the point. Diplomats generally deal with power and conflict--their
stock in trade is persuasion, bargaining and deals. Religious motivations
are transcendent and unpredicatable, often accompanied by prophetic visions,
the Mandate of Heaven, the Word of the Prophet. Those who act in their
name seek victory, historical vindication, and have a deeply hostile view
of the "others-as-enemy."
This is not conducive to settlements instead of Armageddons, and might
be very dangerous indeed when dealing with nuclear issues or weapons of
mass destruction. Indeed, during the Cold War, the Russians were very
concerned about American fundamentalism and what they saw as its propensity
for Armageddon in crisis situations. The fact that few scholars and perhaps
even fewer statesmen, theologians, or media folk are equally knowledgeable
in both fields could be a scary proposition. Those who know statecraft
often admit they are beginners in spiritual matters, while few theologians
would claim experience in diplomacy or the political scramble.
Religion and Politics
Thus the interplay between religion and politics/diplomacy can be subtle
and complex. Getting religious fervor behind a political struggle may
act as a force multiplier in a political struggle--as in Northern Ireland,
Bosnia, or Kosovo, but it can also bring the machinery of conflict resolution
to a halt. Worse, it can even leave societies in ruins as in Lebanon in
the 1970's and '80s, or Algeria, Armenia, and Azerbaijan today.
However, used rightly--and no one is exactly certain of how this works
for sure in all cases--it might also help resolve conflicts, deal with
some of the more negative aspects of globalization. Historians note that
true believers have been responsible for some of the most sordid as well
as the most sublime events in history. Richard Falk, in the paper cited
earlier, suggests that religious identity provides an important counterweight
to the relatively inhumane forces of the global economy, and others agree
that this may be the only way to stop or temper the Globalization juggernaut.
It also suggests that the modernization/ secularization thesis of contemporary
social science is either wrong or needs to be completely recast.
The emergence of a world-wide economic system means we are connected with
others elsewhere in ways our parents could never imagine. Political and
military issues and clashes are less severe in the contemporary world--but
they are still there, and still as deadly to the participants. The prospect
of nuclear and chemical-biological terrors has not been banished. The
increasing weakness of the social order in so many places, as documented
by Kaplan and others, suggests that complacency and withdrawal are inappropriate
responses to international questions on either secular foreign policy
or religious grounds.
With the advent of post-Modernism and the resurgence of both religious
and social movements, a greater diversity of spirituality and ideas about
the sacred, spurred on by modern mass communications, perhaps we are approaching
a "post-secular society" in which both normative theory and
religion be a requirement for understanding and coping with the future.
Religion as a Two-Edged Sword
If the coming age is one of reforming and recasting values, the international
system must deal with that, and diplomacy will be called into the service
of such ends. Preventive Diplomacy--heading off conflict and disaster
before they arrive--and effective conflict resolution abilities are becoming
at least as important as classical geostrategic, economic, and political
military skills. The logistics and costs of relief efforts, refugee politics
and assistance move more toward the center. Religious people of all faiths
have traditionally focused their efforts in this direction, and even today
accelerate these activities.
Perhaps more important, there must be a recasting of the intellectual
categories to get away from the fact/value separation that underlies much
of modern social science from Max Weber to the more rigid political analysis
of the fully committed Realist school of thought. Some amelioration of
this divide is necessary for the more critical task of getting religious
thinkers and international relations scholars to talk constructively with
each other. We need to get away from the kind of separation represented
the by individual who declaimed derisively "Going to war over religion
is basically killing each other to see who's got the better imaginary
Historical trends strongly show that religion is a two-edged sword: it
can been a terribly divisive force as well as a unifying feature. An excellent
assessment of the world's religions in terms of their potential for conflict/conflict
resolution concluded that "
each contains within itself an internal
tension with respect to how conflicts among human beings can best be resolved:
there are both harmonizing and confrontational elements in each tradition."
Religious differences have been a highly divisive factor of conflicts
in Bosnia, Northern Ireland, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East. They
are not the only cause of such conflicts, yet are a contributing, often
decisive, factor in their continuance, and even in current scholarship
they are given a mere side note. In an otherwise excellent volume, Herding
Cats: Multiparty Mediation in a complex World, there is no index listing
for "religion" or religious factors. One almost has to read
between the lines to discover that major church organizations were involved
in several of the cases, most notably in Burundi.
As part of the millennial celebrations, world religious leaders have increasingly
recognized, by action as well as words, the message that we share a world,
despite differences. At a gathering of several hundred leaders from 15
faiths in Amman in January at an assembly of the World Conference on Religion
and Peace, the focus was on the "role of religion in resolving conflicts,
healing intolerance, and more effectively raising the moral issues pertinent
to economic and social change."
The more perceptive theologians recognize that religion has its dark side.
Serious efforts have been made to ease this within most faiths in recent
years -- as well as between faiths. Progress may not seem so broad because
this has occurred at a time when religious conflict has been growing,
often in connection with ethnic disturbances.
One of the key issues is how we view "others." Is the "other"
a child of God, or the "evil enemy?" History illustrates that
horrors have been perpetrated by all faiths when they have tilted toward
the dark side of otherness. For example, Christianity has much to answer
for with respect to the Crusades and the Inquisition. Moslems, Hindus,
and Buddhists all have their historical tragedies as well. The emergence
of radical extremisms in political life from all faiths has increased
concern on this point.
On the other hand, religious beliefs underlying foreign policies, have
had very positive effects in history as well. The Allied willingness to
"forgive" Japan and Germany at the end of World War II laid
the basis for over 50 years (and still counting) of peace. Contrast this
with the results of the vengefully draconian peace imposed upon Germany
in 1919-20. We take it for granted that the Cold War ended peacefully,
but such historic confrontations have not always ended as benignly--Athens
vs. Sparta, Rome vs. Carthage, for example. It might be fairly argued
that the absence of a Western revenge-motivated foreign policy, coupled
with the open hand held out to Russia and the other states of the ex-Soviet
Union, made possible the peaceful dissolution of the "evil empire,"
rather that a desperate struggle which could have precipitated a nuclear
conflict. The West's Judeo-Christian tradition was an important factor
in the emergence of such a policy.
To enter into interfaith dialog, people need to know their own faith deeply,
and be able to apply it appropriately. Concurrently learning about other
faiths gives a necessary comparative perspective almost totally lacking
in many places today. Understanding about, and communicating with, other
faiths helps significantly in avoiding or minimizing demonization of "the
other." Religious hostility is NEITHER inevitable NOR historically
mandated. Many communities have interfaith committees where this sort
of dialog is already underway. Similar discussions are growing between
regional and national levels of different faiths. Of course, theologians
have been at it for years, and the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago
prepares excellent material for study groups and serves as a venue for
religious leaders to deal with ecumenical issues and the interaction of
Fr. Bede Griffiths, an English Benedictine who ran an ashram in India
for 30 years until his death in 1993, spoke of a "Perennial Philosophy"
which is present in all religions. In his 1990 landmark book, A New Vision
of Reality: Western Science, Eastern Mysticism, and Christian Faith, he
asserts that the world's religious traditions are interrelated, and that
each has its own insights. Commenting just before his death in 1993, Fr.
Bede said, "The deeper you go, the more all religions are alike."
Such common ground as respect for the individual soul, certain (but not
all!) moral prohibitions and exhortations, and respect for God underlie
diplomacy's efforts. As a basis for planetary co-existence, Griffiths'
work provides an excellent starting point, particularly for de-demonizing
the "other" as well as exploring bases of common interest and
In fact, much practical work has already been done in this area across
religious lines, particularly among Middle Eastern groups. Some practical
implications are spelled out in the case chapters of Religion, the Missing
Dimension of Statecraft. These show that certain moral and social characteristics
of religious communities uniquely equip them to promote religious peace.
Interfaith dialog is often aimed at an ecumenical outcome, bringing churches
together. But this tends to water down doctrine to the point that it looses
the sacred authority behind it, as the World Council of Churches tends
Contemporary World Views
Contemporary views of international affairs deserve a little analysis
also. With some exceptions, religion is not dealt with in a particularly
sophisticated manner, nor extensively. Thomas Friedman posits religion
as one of the principal driving forces behind opposition to globalization,
but gives it little other than a nod for positive contributions to the
values discussion. Robert Kaplan described the blossoming of chaos in
the world, but says little about how religion contributes or impedes that
Perhaps the most widely known world analysis, Samuel Huntington's The
Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, suggests that
future struggles will be fought out between civilizations based on religion,
equating religion with civilization, and hence the principal source of
This has a certain ring of truth, but a closer, deeper look at world religions
suggests that his broad brush fails to deal with some important differences.
For example, Christianity is not confined to his "West;" Islam
is not confined to "the Middle East;" nor are Confucianism and
Buddhism limited to a single area. Max Singer and Aaron Wildavsky, in
The Real World Order: Zones of Peace, Zones of Turmoil, posit a much more
pluralist, less platonic world, one less centralized with more scope for
individual and national initiative. Aside from a comment on the return
of religion to Russia, however, these authors do not even deal with the
larger issues posed by religious clashes-in fact, part of their point
is to suggest that these may be irrelevant.
These studies, however, may be useful in providing a general look at the
world to those of faith who are not International Relations specialists.
For if the diplomats, politicians, and many citizens know little about
religion, Many of those deeply occupied with religion are similarly uninformed
about the world of politics. Many of us in academia encounter this when
speaking before church groups, and are seldom invited to address theological
conclaves. What is clear is that we need a higher level of understanding
and interaction all around.
One's views determine how one is likely to apply one's faith and whether
and how one is likely to attempt in, and succeed at, diplomacy. In the
U.S. and some other places, Christians have had particular difficulty
coming to reasonable grips with the role of force in international affairs
and this has distanced them from mainstream public understanding. Following
Christ's admonition, "blessed are the peacemakers," some Christian
pacifists have either sought to exclude force from international affairs
or taken a perfectionist view of ethics which leads to a fanaticism that
distances them from reality. Example of this can be found in most other
religions as well.
For example, at the onset of the Gulf War, both U.S. national Catholic
and Protestant leadership strayed into ideological fields, some distance
from general religious opinion, the Christian realism espoused by Reinhold
Niebuhr and the contextualist approach to statecraft/force driving contemporary
Western statesmen.. The Niebuhrian view of situationalist ethics may simply
(and very roughly) be described as "If you argue for a given position,
you must be prepared to argue for, or at least accept, the likely consequences."
A good short review of these issues is found in George Weigel's opening
essay in Just War and the Gulf War. A broader and more diplomatically
focused treatment can be found in Force and Statecraft, by eminent historian
Gordon Craig and distinguished political scientist Alexander George.
Since the end of the Cold War, there are more discussions of these matters
in American churches, especially with respect to potential interventions,
and disaster relief for poor countries.
Just War/Just Peace
High on the list of issues that any reconnecting of religion, diplomacy
and international relations will have to deal with will be the ancient
doctrines of Just War and Just Peace, and in the Islamic world, the question
of Jihad. Over the past few years, a combined team of theologians and
scholars have taken a renewed look at earlier doctrines of Just War and
Just Peace. A group of theologians who have been meeting periodically
for about six years summarized the outcome of their work in Just Peacemaking:
Ten Practices for Abolishing War. It is a working document, at the cutting
edge of contemporary discussion, yet written for a general audience as
well as theologians and academicians and paying serious attention to Christian
understanding of key diplomacy/foreign affairs concepts.
Stassen and his colleagues have undertaken this work in order to clarify
the choices for all faiths in an era when "humanitarian interventions,"
rather than wars, have become a primary element of concern. Christians,
and others as well, have led the way in support of peacemaking as an activity
and the application of conflict resolution techniques to try and avoid
violence. They, more than secular thinkers, have pushed the notion of
"justice" into the equation of calculating the just use of force.
Weigel's classic Christian formulation of true peace as "rightly
ordered and dynamic political community in and among nations, in which
legal and political institutions provide effective means for resolving
the inevitable conflicts that will define public life until the End of
Time," would be familiar and acceptable to mainline Islamic thought
Similarly, Christian (and of course other's) concern for the poor and
desire to build community relate very closely to the issue of combating
chaos and building a just world order. Christians accept (to varying degrees,
of course) John Donne's famous statement, "ask not for whom the bells
toll; they toll for thee," This concern has supplied one of the strongest
motives for Western assistance to those in need over the past 40 years
(despite the fact that "Christian" America has sunk to the bottom
of the list of industrialized countries in terms of per capita foreign
assistance sent abroad). In the current international environment, the
opportunities for constructive religious involvement abroad have multiplied
significantly, individually and independently as well as collectively,
through non-governmental organizations, a fact not always recognized in
the chanceries of the world.
[Take out if desired, beginning here}The following list of Stassen and
his colleague's ten practices are interesting, because unlike many theological
lists, they are keyed to "real world" problems and are easily
linked to diplomatic and other political issues:
1. Support nonviolent direct action -boycotts, strikes, marches, civil
disobedience, public disclosure, accompaniment, safe space.
2. Take independent initiatives to reduce threats -- decrease threat,
stand-alone, series best-if reciprocated can continue (arms reduction)
3. Use Cooperative Conflict Resolution (CCR) - active co-working of parties
to conflict. Arab Israeli peace example; Trust in Yugoslavia. Issues:
Cultural Barriers, degree of damage/pain, problems of scale, power inequities.
Alter perceived reality even in irreducible conflict.
4. Acknowledge responsibility for conflict and injustice and seek repentance
and forgiveness. Transcend own pride, interests: empathy, repentance,
forgiveness. US acknowledge ills-Japanese. Axis acceptance of responsibility.
Iran hostage statement.
5. Advance Democracy, Human Rights, Religious liberty - Post-Cold War
political liberalization, economic interdependence, influence of international
law/organization. Spreading Zones of Peace. Special problems of ethnic
6. Foster just and sustainable economic development. Environmentally constructive
development. Development to promote end of poverty, measure of justice.
Injustice in debt structure, conflicts in needs, resources (oil, water).
Sustainability vs. greed.
LOVE AND COMMUNIY
7. Work with emerging cooperative forces in the international system.
International System is BOTH cooperative AND conflictual. Tension among
governmental goals. Trend in system to decline in utility of war, rise
of trading state, dramatic increase in volume, density of international
exchanges, increase in democracy. "Free rider" problem in concerts.
8. Strengthen UN and international efforts for cooperation and human rights.
Collective action. Peace keeping, Peace building and peace enforcement
- even if sovereign rights are abridged in egregious cases.
9. Reduce offensive weapons and weapons trade. Nuclear, land mines. Code
of conduct for conventional transfers.
10, Encourage Grassroots peacemaking groups and voluntary association.
Network of NGO's, build sense of community. People, not just leaders.
The elements of the above list have some interesting implications for
"diplomacy," if they are taken seriously, including inclusion
of NGO's and other non-traditional forms of diplomacy such as Track II
and public diplomacy. [End section to remove]
Effective foreign and diplomatic policy also requires serious attention
to the mechanisms for conducting it. Perhaps it is not too egregious to
note that a faith-full approach to governments is needed as well. Over
the past ten years, the diplomatic budget of the U.S. Government as well
as those of most other Western countries have been under substantial pressure,
and remains so today. Individuals of faith seeking to minimize the use
of force, provide assistance to the less fortunate, and protect human
rights, for example, do and should give serious attention to mechanisms
and ways to fund adequate diplomatic, informational and assistance establishments
-- as well as maintaining a military establishment sufficient to keep
the peace. Even intelligence gathering deserves proper funding. C. S.
Lewis put the case best for effective involvement in such worldly matters
in Mere Christianity:
The proper motto is not "Be good, sweet maid, and let who can be
clever," but "Be good sweet maid, and don't forget that this
involves being as clever as you can." God is no fonder of intellectual
slackers than any other slackers.
In God/Allah's eyes, it would be no better to be a Bishop or an Ayatollah
than a secretary of state or a foreign minister who failed to condemn
nuclear or chemical/biological terrorism or refused to act against it.
Similarly, when confronting issues of policy such as support for the United
Nations, trade regulation, humanitarian relief or military intervention,
it is important to consider organizational needs over time.
In the U.S., for example, the individual who calls for a dramatic reduction
in military force will have little credibility if he or she later insists
that the nation intervene militarily. The senator, whether Christian or
not, who votes consistently to cut the State Department's budget has little
complaint if the United States becomes incapable of exercising consistent
great power diplomacy and persuasive conflict resolution. One may seek
to change the State Department, reform it, make it more sensitive to different
values, but he or she can not shrink or eliminate it without being guilty
of gross hypocrisy or dereliction of duty. Extremists of the American
Christian Right who oppose abortion to the point of blocking policies
which may save live may not accept such a characterization of their narrow
view of foreign affairs, but if it walks and talks like a duck
History also tells us that one danger in an active religious focus of
the wrong kind would be to press sectarianism so far as to provoke the
religious fanaticism that has and still can prevent effective diplomacy.
From the ancient Crusades to more recent Iranian terrorism there are examples
of religion producing sordid rather than sublime results in diplomacy
and international politics. Alternatively, however, diplomacy in its negotiation
and conflict resolution modes offers patterns of behavior that may mute
or resolve religious conflict, and some have been noted above.
In a sense, that returns us to the infancy of diplomacy, and those who
argue for effective diplomatic practice and organization do so to minimize
the world's difficulties. An excellent example of this is retired U.S.
Ambassador Monteagle Stearn's Talking to Strangers: Improving American
Diplomacy at Home and abroad. Stearns argues that the best way to maintain
a friendly world order is for American Diplomacy to be competent and well
supported organizationally. Stearns identifies religion as a badly-misunderstood
area, and urges more and better training to enable professionals to better
identify and understand forces of change.
This writer would go further and insist that not only diplomats and politicians,
but journalists, business and religious leaders need to know more in this
area. From the standpoint of professional utility, this writer found that
his faith connections were more important to the Iranian officials he
dealt with in 1978-9 than his embassy status or academic attainments.
Moreover, the only U.S. Embassy officials the provisional revolutionary
government really trusted during this period were the three U.S. officers
who had regularly attended Christian worship services during their time
of service in Tehran. It may be even more necessary in the future for
diplomats to be familiar with religious issues and their intermixture
with politics if they want to be effective.
'Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves; be ye therefore
wise as serpents and innocent as doves.
To be "wise as serpents" requires effort. Better understanding
of international affairs and foreign policy making will help any person
of faith comprehend and activate an important public dimension of his
or her personal understanding. Undertaken by many, such attention also
encourages nations to come to grips with their own Niebuhrian failings
and darker sides, rather than ignoring or passing over them as we are
all wont to do with varying frequencies. The books listed in the footnotes
would make a solid beginning for such training.
If the populace at large becomes more interested in these issues, politicians
will gradually, if slowly, follow. To actively educate politicians and
government officials, however, is a different matter. As a newly elected
American government takes office next January, appointees will swarm Washington
with a mixture of joy, relief, anticipation, and not a little hubris.
Indeed, as new governments take office in any democratic society, there
are always residual problems of educating the "new kids on the block."
Most have learned about their own political system from practice, some
are competent administrators, others are not. There will be few who even
approach the requisite knowledge of the interplay of religion and diplomacy
to begin laying out effective policies.
As part of the "education" of new government officials, particularly
in the foreign affairs, foreign commerce, assistance, intelligence and
defense communities, major foundations and councils of foreign relations
as well as the U.S. Institute of Peace should support awareness training
and education in the area of religion and diplomacy. Ideally, this would
be part of an overall training program, called perhaps (and only partly
tongue-in-cheek), "The First Hundred Days: Path to Greatness or Oblivion?"
Such a program or programs would also assist in developing coordination
within the new administration team. After all, as former Baltimore Orioles
Manager Earl Weaver said, "It's what you learn after you think you
know everything that really counts."
As a consequence, perhaps diplomatic understanding, conflict resolution,
cross cultural understanding and peacemaking will come to be applied more
regularly to diplomacy and within religions themselves, both within the
structure of each faith and between faiths--thus helping to diminish the
sum total of deadly and debilitating conflict in our world. We already
have conceptual breakthroughs; what we need now are perceptual breakthroughs
on a much larger scale.
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