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The Transatlantic Policy Network on Religion and Diplomacy

Connecting Religion and Foreign Policy

Religion plays a critical role in a number of international challenges, from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and global refugee crisis to peacebuilding work. Global faith communities take part in diplomatic work on issues ranging from nuclear disarmament to environmental health. The freedom of religion or belief is also a focus of foreign policymakers in the United States and abroad. Addressing these and other urgent issues is the Transatlantic Policy Network on Religion and Diplomacy (TPNRD), a forum of diplomats from North America and Europe who collaborate on religion-related policy issues.

The Network was made possible by generous funding from the Henry Luce Foundation which sought to cover multiple disciplines and sectors, and bring the “informed analysis of religion into relevant policy conversations through interaction with academia and the media.”The Luce Foundation awarded three grants to establish the TPNRD. The first in 2014 funded the establishment of the Network. Another Luce grant in 2017 supported the formation of the Secretariat at Clare College as well as the Religion & Diplomacy website —a virtual library which produces and showcases original public policy reports, interviews, and articles of the TPNRD as well as third-party materials relevant to its mission. Finally, a third grant was awarded in 2020 for the Berkley Center to host the Network as it expanded its mission and operations.  

Aside from its core group of participating foreign policy officials, the broader network also includes a global community of scholars who inform the work of the TPNRD, help organize its events, and serve on two major organizing committees. 

The first of these committees is the Transatlantic Advisory Council. This is a body of experts in religion and foreign policy that advises the network of participating diplomats. The second committee is the Academic Advisory Council, made up of researchers and scholars who guide all TPNRD publications. This body also serves as the editorial advisory board for Religion & Diplomacy. 

The major objectives of the Network are:

  • Facilitate communication between government officials in the area of diplomacy
  • Increasing public understanding of how religion and foreign policy are connected
  • Study religious dynamics in foreign policy and enlist the support of religious leaders in promoting desired policy objectives
  • Producing scholarship to inform governmental and intergovernmental policies related to religious affairs. 

Participating Governments: 

The TPNRD comprises diplomats from the United Nations, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Sweden, Spain, the Netherlands, Italy, Ireland, Germany, France, Finland, the Czech Republic, Canada, Belgium, and Austria. The European External Action Service and the US State Department serve as the TPNRB co-founders and co-chairs. 

Participating Educational and Research Institutions: 

George Mason University: Members of the GMU faculty were instrumental in the birth of the TPNRD and serve on its Academic Advisory Council. GMU political scientist Peter Mandaville was a co-founder of TPNRD. 

The Cambridge Institute of Religion—Clare College, University of Cambridge: In 2015. CIRIS was established as the administrative center of TPNRB and was the main commissioning body of its publications. 

The Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs—Georgetown University: From 2020-2023, the Berkley Center served as a host of the TPNRD and co-curator of Religion & Diplomacy content.  

Academic Advisory Council / Board of Editorial Advisors for Religion & Diplomacy:

Judd Birdsall: Judd Birdsall serves as the Director of the TPNRD, founder of CIRIS at Clare College, and Project Leader of TPNRD activities while they are hosted by the Berkley Center. Prior to his work at Clare College and Georgetown University, he served in the State Department.

Peter Mandaville: A political scientist from George Mason University, Peter Mandaville was a co-founder of the TPNRD, and currently serves on its Academic Advisory Council. 

Erin Wilson, University of Groningen

Katherine Marshall, Georgetown University 

Lori Beaman, University of Ottawa

Susan Hayward, Harvard Divinity School

Joseph Maila,  Institut de R

Marie Juul Petersen

Azza Karam

Religion & Diplomacy Portal: 

Religion & Diplomacy – A Resource of the Transatlantic Policy Network on Religion and Diplomacy

TPNRD Regional Studies: