Page 74 - Foreign Service Journal - September 2013

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74
SEPTEMBER 2013
|
THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
AFSA NEWS
AFSA CONSTRUCT I VE D I SSENT AWARDS : THE WI L L I AM R . R I VK I N AWARD
Before Theodore Lyng arrived
in Jakarta, the embassy’s
previous attempts to engage
Muslim civil society, though
well-intentioned, system-
atically left out conservative
Muslim leaders. Drawing on
his lessons learned during
his previous assignments in
Indonesia, as well as excel-
lent language skills, Mr.
Lyng quickly identifed this
dynamic as something that
needed to be changed.
PROMOT I NG
D I ALOGUE
He efectively and per-
suasively pointed out that
interfaith dialogues, without
the participation of conserva-
tive Muslim leaders, would
only result in the United
States preaching to the
choir. Promoting a dialogue
of tolerance to liberal and
moderate Muslim groups, he
argued, would not change the
minds of the people we most
wanted to infuence; more-
over, the embassy would, in
efect, be taking sides in an
internal, ideological debate
among Indonesia’s Muslims.
Interfaith dialogue conducted
under such circumstances
would limit, not expand, the
number of groups with which
the embassy could interact,
the opposite of Secretary of
State Hillary Rodham Clin-
ton’s goal to create deeper
and broader relationships
with civil society through
faith-based outreach.
ENGAG I NG
COMMUN I T I ES
“As a religious person
myself, I thought it was
important to engage reli-
gious communities,” Ted
comments. “In relatively few
countries do devout religious
communities worship largely
peacefully side-by-side,
with mutual respect and
tolerance. I am proud to be a
citizen of one such country
who serves in another.”
Through countless
e-mails, meetings and o cial
communications with the
department, Mr. Lyng won
broad U.S. government sup-
port for building bridges to
non-traditional and conser-
vative Muslim interlocutors.
For him, every embassy
reception, lunch, and dinner
was an opportunity to get a
conservative Muslim on the
guest list, thereby extending
our reach to that community.
ONE AT A T IME
Every call for nomi-
nees for an International
Visitors Leadership Program
exchange was another oppor-
tunity to send a conservative
Muslim activist to the United
States—and perhaps change
his or her views a little. Coun-
tering the radical narrative
directly, one Indonesian at
a time if necessary, was Mr.
Lyng’s strategy.
As a result of Ted’s tire-
less eforts to remind and
persuade the State Depart-
ment’s leadership that there
is a need to engage with all
groups within Muslim civil
society, the embassy has
greatly enhanced the breadth
and depth of its ties in the
world’s largest Muslim-
majority nation.
CREAT I NG
L I NKAGES
Such linkages are keys
to developing meaningful
people-to-people bonds
between the United States
and Indonesia, helping to
bring about the two-way
understanding that breaks
down barriers. Mr. Lyng’s
eforts to change embassy
policy will have long-lasting
efects on popular attitudes.
Ted is quick to credit
the support of the entire
Jakarta political section
“as crucial to my success.”
When asked what the award
means to him, he responded,
“I appreciate all the awards I
have received, but I treasure
only two: the Rivkin Award
that I have just won and a
simple letter of apprecia-
tion I received for my work
supporting peace in Aceh
between 2000 and 2003.”
n
Ted Lyng’s Persistence Wins Broad Government Support
Ted Lyng (left) receives the William R. Rivkin Award from the Hon. Robert S.
Rivkin for his courage, creativity and persuasion skills in convincing others
of the need for a change in policy.
FOR A MID- LEVEL FORE IGN SERV ICE OFF ICER
Profles of award winners compiled by Donna Ayerst.