The Huffington Post | By Yasmine Hafiz
Secretary of State John Kerry introduced the first Special Advisor of the new Office of Faith-Based Community Initiatives, Shaun Casey, at the State Department on Wednesday. The creation of this office indicates the State Department’s interest in religious engagement, which began in earnest during Hillary Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State.
According to a notice by State Department:
The new office will set Department policy on engagement with faith-based communities and will work in conjunction with bureaus and posts to reach out to those communities to advance the Department’s diplomacy and development objectives. It will also work closely with faith communities to ensure that their voices are heard in the foreign policy process, including through continued collaboration with the Department’s religion and foreign policy working group. The office will collaborate regularly with other government officials and offices focused on religious issues, including the Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom and the Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom.
Casey served as a Senior Advisor for Religious Affairs and as National Evangelical Coordinator during President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign, and has been serving as a special adviser to the Secretary of State for faith-based community initiatives on July 15, according to Wesley Theological Seminary, where he usually teaches as a professor of Christian ethics.
Melissa Rogers, the Director of the White House Faith-Based Office of Neighborhood Partnerships, explained the three primary goals of the office during Casey’s introduction, which will be pursued through engagement with religious communities. First, to promote sustainable development and a more effective humanitarian response, second, to advance pluralism and human rights, including the protection of religious freedom, and third, to enhance global and local security.
The new office has been met with a mix of excitement and apprehension from noted policy analysts and religious scholars, who realize the important role that religion plays in civil and political society while questioning the role of government in such circles.