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Transatlantic Policy Network on Religion and Diplomacy

Leader: Judd Birdsall

In recent decades, numerous faith-infused conflicts, political developments, and social movements have reminded us afresh that religion—in all its culturally embedded complexity—matters in international affairs. During the COVID-19 pandemic, for instance, many religious communities played prominent roles in both promoting and protesting mitigation measures and vaccination efforts.

The Transatlantic Policy Network on Religion & Diplomacy (TPNRD) is a forum of diplomats from Europe and North America who have engagement with religious and faith-based groups in their portfolios. TPNRD meets regularly, hosts briefings, commissions policy reports, manages the Religion & Diplomacy website, and pursues collaboration through working groups focused on the geopolitics of religion, religious literacy training, conflict and peacebuilding, and the fostering of inclusive societies.

In recognition of religion’s ongoing geopolitical relevance, many foreign ministries become more attentive to religion—establishing new units or envoy positions focused on analyzing religious dynamics and engaging religious groups around the world. The diplomats who are the designated point people on issues of religion and international affairs within their respective ministries often face similar challenges: resource constraints, insufficient training, bureaucratic resistance, and leadership that may make too little—or too much—of religious engagement.

The Transatlantic Policy Network on Religion & Diplomacy was founded by officials from the European External Action Service and the U.S. State Department in 2015. The network has four interrelated aims:

  1. Foster transatlantic communication, coordination, and collaboration among officials;
  2. Enhance the ability of participants’ foreign ministries or multilateral organizations to analyze religious dynamics and engage religious actors in the pursuit of a broad range of policy objectives;
  3. Promote policy-relevant scholarship and deeper engagement between policymakers and non-governmental experts working on issues of religion and international affairs; and
  4. Encourage greater public awareness of the complex role of religion in international affairs by sharing with a general audience the insights generated by our distinctive model of real-world, scholar-practitioner collaboration.

In 2018, the TPNRD established a transatlantic Advisory Council, comprised of top experts from the North Atlantic region, which provides advice to the diplomatic network and serves to deepen connections between scholars and practitioners working on religion and international affairs. Members of the TPNRD Academic Advisory Council also serve as editorial advisors to Religion & Diplomacy.

Over the course of the 2022-2023 academic year, the TPNRD will arrange:

  • a three-day conference in November in Strasbourg hosted by the French foreign ministry to be followed by public webinars launching the papers commissioned for the Strasbourg event, 
  • a spring 2023 conference to be hosted by another participating foreign ministry,
  • and periodic public webinars and private meetings on issues related to religion and diplomacy.

Publications commissioned by the TPNRD and recordings from TPNRD webinars will be published on the Berkley Center and Religion & Diplomacy websites.

Globe centered on the Atlantic Ocean between the United States and Europe

Project Leader

Judd Birdsall headshot

Judd Birdsall

Senior Fellow
Department of Theology and Religious Studies

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