Written by Don Byrd
At an event earlier today, Melissa Rogers – former Baptist Joint Committee General Counsel and current Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships – joined with Secretary of State John Kerry and Dr. Shaun Casey to announce the opening of the State Department’s Office of Faith-Based Community Initiatives. The purpose of the Office was described succinctly by Casey, will direct it.

The answer to the “why” question is straightforward: As religious leaders and faith communities shape their environments, they also have an influence and shape our own foreign policy concerns here in the United States. It’s essential for the United States to understand them and to bring them into our diplomacy and development efforts.

Secretary Kerry added:

[W]e need to recognize that in a world where people of all faiths are migrating and mingling like never before, where we are this global community, which we always talk about, we ignore the global impact of religion, in my judgment, at our peril….

And that’s why I am very proud today to announce the creation of the Office of Faith-Based Community Initiatives here at the State Department. Its mission is as clear as it is compelling: It is to engage more closely with faith communities around the world, with the belief that we need to partner with them to solve global challenges, and there is an enormous partnership, I believe, there for the asking.

All 3 speakers emphasized the importance of carrying out this mission while remaining true to our own constitutional mandate of government neutrality with respect to religion, and an institutional wall of separation between church and state. This is an effort not of promoting faith but of understanding and honoring its role in our diplomatic relationships around the world.

You can watch video of the event with Secretary Kerry, Shaun Casey and Melissa Rogers, here.