Page 36 - Foreign Service Journal - September 2013

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36
SEPTEMBER 2013
|
THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
ENGAGING
MUSLIM
LEADERS
TO PROMOTE
PEOPLE-TO-PEOPLE TIES
Efective outreach must engage individuals representing
a wide variety of viewpoints, not just those already sympathetic
to our values and policies.
BY THEODORE LYNG
A
mericans are schooled in the
separation of church and state from
a young age, and the United States
has a long history of religious free-
dom. In this context, U.S. govern-
ment ofcials, including Foreign
Service ofcers, are appropriately
cautious about discussing religion
in an ofcial capacity.
In recent years, however, the United States has begun to
engage foreign audiences more forthrightly on religious free-
dom, interfaith dialogue and tolerance. We also often engage
religious organizations and leaders on issues of general foreign
policy and as audiences for people-to-people outreach.
Tis focus on the religious sphere grew in part out of eforts to
refute false claims that United States foreign policy is inimical to
Muslims, and that U.S. military engagement in Iraq and Afghani-
stan sought to undermine Islam. On a more positive note, the
high level of religiosity in the United States has proven attractive
Teodore Lyng, an FSO since 1986, is political counselor in Jakarta.
His previous assignments include Jakarta, Beijing, Kuala Lumpur,
Guangzhou, Moscow and Washington, D.C. For his tireless eforts
to persuade the State Department’s leadership of the need to engage
with all groups within Indonesian civil society, he is this year’s win-
ner of AFSA’s William R. Rivkin Award for constructive dissent by a
mid-level Foreign Service ofcer. Te views expressed in this article
are solely those of the author and do not necessarily refect those of the
Department of State or the U.S. government.
FOCUS
AFSA’S AWARDS PROGRAM
in forging people-to-people ties in Indonesia.
As the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation, and a vibrant
democracy, Indonesia is a natural partner in our dialogue on
religion. An extraordinarily high percentage of Indonesians wor-
ship regularly and say religion is important in their daily lives.
At the same time, the vast majority of Indonesians believe in
religious pluralism and tolerance.
Many Indonesians who have visited the United States remark
positively on the large number of houses of worship and the