As BRIN bring to us the grim – but expected – news of the decline of Religious Education due to the Government’s introduction of the English Baccalaureate (EBacc), the following snippet taken from the first ever course run by the Foreign Office on religion and foreign policy, signals the danger of this development:
I personally believe that an understanding of the dynamics of religion and faith in global society is not only a legitimate and important tool of foreign policy practice, but an increasingly essential one for our diplomats and foreign policy advisers in a modern world in which religion is ever more important as a driver of political, social, cultural and even economic motivation. In the same way that we expect diplomats to develop a keen knowledge of international economic issues, or the intricacies of multilateral negotiating techniques in areas from disarmament to climate change, we cannot ignore religion. Unlike in much of the world, most British school children or students do not regularly attend a place of worship, even if a large majority of British people still express a religious affiliation. So our new recruits, and more experienced diplomats, need training to engage a world where faith and religiosity is more common and evident than at home. Whether a diplomat agreed or disagrees with the values expressed by faiths, not understanding them puts him or her at a great disadvantage across the globe, from Khartoum to Karachi, Rio to Riyadh.
And of course, it’s not just diplomats that need this knowledge and understanding in our increasingly interconnected world.
And note this is not an back-door argument for Christian evangelism in our schools, as this should be handled by the Church and family, and not an arm of government. This is an argument for religious literacy in order to more fully understand and appreciate the cultures we work with economically, politically, and in all ways.