Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships

Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships Blog

  • The Future of Religion and Diplomacy

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted on the U.S. Department of State's official blog. See the original post here.


    Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Special Representative Shaun Casey, Special Envoy Ira Forman, and Special Representative Shaarik Zafar speak on a panel on the Future of Religion and Diplomacy.

    Secretary Kerry’s mantra “religion matters” has been repeated on several occasions recently. In a message to State Department diplomats in Washington and overseas, the Secretary said, “In every country, in every region of the world, and on nearly every issue central to U.S. foreign policy, religious institutions and actors are among the drivers of change.” This policy priority was also the theme at a March 3 event on the future of religion and diplomacy at the Newseum religious freedom center. Because of her long belief on the important role religion plays in foreign affairs, I invited former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to be part of the discussion. She compellingly argued, “Religion is a powerful force whose impact depends entirely on what it inspires people to do. The challenge for policy-makers is to harness the unifying potential of faith, while containing its capacity to divide. That must be the ultimate goal and purpose of the efforts we are discussing today. To succeed, we will need to learn how to talk about religion in ways that do not offend the people we are trying to reach.”

    Joining Secretary Albright and me were Special Representative to Muslim Communities, Shaarik Zafar and Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat anti-Semitism Ira Forman who are also part of the Office for Religion and Global Affairs. These two colleagues and I abide by the principle of two-way engagement that listens first. In discussing some of the challenges our office faces, Special Representative Zafar noted, “We have to engage broadly with Muslim communities on climate, entrepreneurship, and a range of issues.” Yet, the fundamental question the former secretary and the special representative both raise is this: in a pluralism of religious beliefs that include the right to not believe, how does the United States engage these faith leaders?

  • President Obama Joins the Dalai Lama at This Year's National Prayer Breakfast

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted on the White House Blog. See the original post here.

    Watch on YouTube

    Continuing a longstanding tradition among U.S. presidents, President Obama headed to the Washington Hilton this morning to speak at the National Prayer Breakfast.

    Every President since Dwight D. Eisenhower has attended the annual breakfast since it started in 1953, and today marked the President's seventh appearance. Also in attendance this morning was the Dalai Lama, whom the President lauded as "a powerful example of what it means to practice compassion," and someone "who inspires us to speak up for the freedom and dignity of all human beings."

  • A Re-Commitment to Service: Interfaith Service to Honor Martin Luther King, Jr.

    MLK Day of Service 1

    In the 2015 Presidential Proclamation for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal Holiday, President Obama declares, "In sermons and speeches, Dr. King's voice rang out with a call for us to work toward a better tomorrow. As we honor his legacy, Americans across the country will join one another for a day of service, picking up the baton handed to us by past generations and carrying forward their efforts." The MLK National Day of Service is an important way millions of Americans honor Dr. King's vision and continue his dream.

    The staff of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships and Centers for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships joined the President, the First Lady, and countless others across the country in participating in community service projects. On Monday, January 19, we joined Washington Hebrew Congregation for its annual MLK Day of Service program where about 400 community members from across different faiths and backgrounds came together to put the Jewish value of tikkun olam or 'repairing the world', in to action.

    There, Jewish congregants, congregants from partnering churches and mosques, and community members at large, met for a day of interfaith service. In giving back to the community, interfaith community service works to build bridges across differences. Working alongside new friends and neighbors, we packed grocery bags, chopped vegetables, sorted donated winter clothing, and made fleece blankets. The various volunteer projects to serve those in the greater DC area benefited local partner agencies like Capital Area Food Bank, Children's Inn at National Institutes of Health, DC Central Kitchen, Hypothermia Hotline, and Martha's Table, among others.    

    MLK Day of Service 2

    We are grateful to Washington Hebrew Congregation and all those who volunteered in their communities on MLK Day. Together, let's continue to work towards the great unfinished business of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream.

    Taylor Lustig is a Policy Assistant in the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

  • Combating Human Trafficking in Supply Chains

    Secretary Kerry Delivers Remarks at the White House Forum on Combating Human Trafficking

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry delivers remarks at the White House Forum on Combating Human Trafficking in Supply Chains at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, D.C., on January 29, 2015. (State Department photo / Public Domain)

    January marks National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. As we take this time to reflect, we know that human trafficking can take many forms, including labor trafficking, and President Obama feels strongly that it has no place in our business, at home or abroad. 

    That is why today, at the White House, we hosted a forum dedicated to combating human trafficking in supply chains. The event brought together leaders from the private sector, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and the federal government to talk about what we can do together to prevent and eliminate any instances of trafficking-related activities in federal contracts and in private sector supply chains.

    Today’s Forum was part of President Obama’s sustained commitment to the ambitious agenda that he laid out in September 2012 to combat human trafficking. This year, the Administration will focus in particular on human trafficking issues in supply chains. The President spoke about this issue earlier this week at the U.S.-India Business Council Summit, where he stressed the need to “keep striving to protect the rights of our workers; to make sure that our supply chains are sourced responsibly.”

  • A Year of Progress Through Partnerships

    In a commitment to advancing opportunity for all Americans, the President pledged that 2014 would be a year of action. He has spent the last 12 months working with Congress where he could, and taking action on his own where needed to revitalize the economy. He also worked closely with leaders from businesses, nonprofits, education, and communities to expand opportunity for more American families. These efforts have helped to create jobs, provide more Americans with high-quality education, promote new sources of energy, and protect the environment. 

    To help advance this work, the Administration has formed partnerships with faith-based and community organizations. Most Americans have ties to at least one faith or community organization, and they frequently turn to these organizations when they need help. Faith-based and community groups are often uniquely positioned to match people with the benefits, services, and protections they need. Sometimes these connections make the difference between a life of struggle and one of success.

    Today, we are publishing a report that highlights a few of these kinds of partnerships as well as others that advance Administration priorities across the nation and around the globe. 

  • Global Religious Leaders Issue Joint Call for Eradication of Modern Slavery

    On December 2, the campaign to end human trafficking took a big step forward. Religious leaders from across the globe assembled at the Vatican on that day to sign a Joint Declaration of Religious Leaders Against Modern Slavery. This is the first time that leaders of the Christian Catholic, Anglican and Orthodox, as well as Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish and Muslim faiths have come together to jointly declare their intention to end modern-day slavery. Along with other government officials from around the world, we were honored to be there to witness this historic event.

    Shortly after his election, Pope Francis sent Chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, a handwritten note saying, “it would be good to examine human trafficking.” That was the spark that led to the formation of the Global Freedom Network (GFN), an initiative spearheaded by Pope Francis, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, and Mr. Andrew Forrest, Chair and Founder of the Walk Free Foundation, with the mission of eradicating modern slavery and human trafficking by 2020. The GFN organized the Joint Declaration of Religious Leaders Against Modern Slavery, and it has now invited religious leaders of all faiths and nations to add their names to it.  The Declaration reads in part:

    We pledge ourselves here today to do all in our power, within our faith communities and beyond, to work together for the freedom of all those who are enslaved and trafficked so that their future may be restored. Today we have the opportunity, awareness, wisdom, innovation and technology to achieve this human and moral imperative.

    President Obama and his Administration share a commitment to this imperative. We have been working across the Federal government and with partners in Congress, local, state, and foreign governments and civil society to deliver on an ambitious agenda to combat modern-day slavery, which afflicts far too many communities, both here at home and around the globe. The President spoke forcefully about this issue in his landmark call to action at the Clinton Global Initiative in 2012.