Diplomacy & Religion

Diplomacy & Religion

by guest contributor Joe David
Photo credit: Joe David and Ben Barber

“By dealing with the ideas behind the guns, the work that we do is every bit as strategic as anything else that is taking place on or off the battlefield.” Dr. Douglas Johnston, Founder and CEO International Center for Religion and Diplomacy.

An eclectic mix of religious leaders, businessmen and women, ambassadors and believers came together and filled the grand ballroom of the Army Navy Country Club for a gala Faith-in-Action Award fund-raising dinner, honoring Dr. Madeleine Albright for her pioneering work in the field of religion and world affairs. Over 200 people attended to hear her – and hear special guest speaker, Dr. Bob Roberts, senior pastor at Northwood Church, Dallas. Like The Honorable Albright, he too has dedicated his life to being a global leader by building a coalition of trust between different faiths at home and around the world through diplomacy.

T.H. Madeleine Albright

Sitting together, even praying together, Christians, Jews, Catholics, Muslims, and a few atheists, shared with each other a camaraderie rarely seen today among people of different faiths. United by one thought, achieving world peace by uniting religion and diplomacy, the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy (ICRD), which sponsored the gala fund raiser, and its many supporters maintain as their highest priority the task of preventing conflict rather than dealing with its consequences. Its approach is to focus on the ideas behind the guns by drawing on the role that religious leaders and institutions play in building trust by accepting differences.

HE Hamdullah Mohib, Ambassador of the Embassy of Afghanistan; and Dr. Bob Roberts, Special Guest Speaker and Sr. Pastor, Northwood Church, Dallas, Texas.

“ICRD has opened the door to a new avenue of diplomacy by providing us with new tools of persuasion and inspiration, and by offering us a better way to deal with the religious dimensions of conflict.” The honorable James Glassman, former Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, recently said.

Madeleine Albright, Jan Du Plain, Du Plain Global Enterprises, Inc.; Shahin Mafi, co-founder, Azar Foundation for Children Around the World; and Rev. Mark Farr, President, Sustained Dialogue Institute

The idea of preventing or resolving conflicts by acknowledging religious roots, while advancing social change based on justice and reconciliation, has become the hallmark of ICRD. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright summed up simply the urgency of ICRD’s work by emphasizing what has become a concern of everyone in the room, and what is becoming an important consideration in diplomacy: “If we don’t make religion a source of peace, it will become a cause of conflict in the future, as it has been in the past.” These words took special significance Friday night in view of the conflict today in the Middle East; its’ meaning echoed through the large ballroom, filled with a broad mix of leaders, and it was met at the end of her talk with a standing ovation.

Dr. Bob Roberts, who has distinguished himself by building coalitions of trust between Muslims and Christians – at home and around the world – reiterated her point by saying, “This can best be achieved by spending time with our adversaries – and getting to know them. By knowing them and understanding them, we will learn to love them. We must look for that special spark in all human beings that can bring us together.”

Dr. Douglas Johnston, Founder/Outgoing President, International Center for Religion and Diplomacy (ICRD); his wife Dareen Johnston; Mrs. James Patton; and James Patton, incoming President, ICRD

In closing, Douglas Johnson, the founder of ICRD, used the award dinner as an opportunity to announce his retirement from his position with ICRD and to introduce his successor, James Patton. “We must continue to prevent and address identity-based conflicts,” Patton said, “which is often overlooked by traditional diplomacy, by capitalizing on commonly held religious values to bridge differences between adversaries. Where religion holds authority above all else, faith leaders are the front line of change.”

The money raised for the evening festivities will be used to support the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy (ICRD), which has dedicated itself to the altruistic cause of bridging religious considerations with the practice of international politics in support of peacemaking.

Rafat Mahmood and HE Elin Suleymanov, Ambassador of the Embassy of the Republic of Azerbaijan

There was a silent auction, and one of the prizes was a private lunch with the Honorable Edwin Meese III. The winner of this luncheon with the former Attorney General during the Reagan Administration, was the Honorable HP Goldfield, Vice Chair of Albright Stonebridge Group. Some of the guests included former Congressman and Executive Director of the National Policy Council Bob McEwen; Ambassador Elin Suleymanov of the Republic of Azerbaijan; Ambassador Mohib Hamdullah of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan; Farhan Latif, President of the El Hibri Foundation; and former Ambassador at Large to the United States from Pakistan Rafat Mahmood.