Appendix E: Training at the Foreign Service Institute Related to the International Religious Freedom Act

Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
October 26, 2009

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I. Summary

Under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 (IRF Act), the Department of State is tasked with training Foreign Service Officers in both human rights broadly and religious freedom specifically. The Department of State's Foreign Service Institute (FSI) works closely with the Office of International Religious Freedom (IRF), in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL), to integrate religious freedom issues into the regular curriculum at FSI. During the period covered by this report, members of the FSI training staff took part in conferences dealing with religious freedom, persecution, conflict, and reconciliation hosted by academic institutions, think tanks, and nongovernmental organizations. State Department officers from DRL and IRF regularly participate in FSI courses to brief students in area and professional studies courses, and individual briefings with FSI students on their specific portfolios. DRL and IRF officers routinely cover topics such as the international basis and standards for the right to freedom of religion, the theological beliefs of different religious groups, state actions against religious groups and other manifestations of violations of religious freedom, involvement of religious groups in politics, diplomatic tools used by the United States to promote respect for religious freedom, venues for protection of those who have fled religious persecution, and the relationships between religious freedom, democracy, and national security. FSI periodically consults with the staff of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom to ensure the currency of its offerings in this area.

II. Courses Offered

The School of Professional and Area Studies (SPAS) at FSI offers training relevant to the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 (IRFA) in a variety of courses. The following are brief descriptions of courses offered by the divisions of Political Training, Orientation, Consular Training, and Area Studies.


During the A-100 Course, a senior State Department official from DRL presents a session on human rights, including international religious freedom. Students are provided key background materials on human rights and religious freedom on FSI's LearnCenter. They are also directed to key websites containing related materials.


This is a three-week course. The students have been assigned for the first time to work in an embassy's or consulate's political, economic, or combined political/economic section. Political/Economic Tradecraft is a required course, in that the personnel system schedules officers assigned to political and economic sections to take PG-140 prior to their first assignment; exceptions are rare. The State Department expects that a large proportion of these officers/students during their careers will be directly responsible for preparing their post's human rights and religious freedom reports. Each iteration of Political/Economic Tradecraft includes a session on Human Rights Reporting.


This three-day course is given twice a year and is geared toward mid-level foreign affairs and national security professionals working for the Department of State and other agencies. In the fall, this course is combined with a separate module on human rights.

DRL provides a presentation in which U.S. human rights policy, including religious freedom issues, is discussed. An attorney from the Office of the Legal Advisor also presents on human rights laws, some of which pertain to religious freedom. In September 2009 the course will include a panel presentation by nongovernmental organizations working on human rights issues, including protecting and advancing religious freedom.


PC-530 is a prerequisite for serving as a Consular Officer in the Foreign Service. It is designed primarily for Foreign Service Officers preparing to go overseas to fill consular positions, dependents of U.S. government employees who will work as Consular Associates overseas, and domestic employees of the Bureau of Consular Affairs.

The Immigrant Visa portion of PC-530 addresses refugee and asylum issues as they pertain to consular officers. Training exercises in the Immigrant and Non-Immigrant Visa and American Citizen Services portions of the PC-530 course involve fictitious clients who represent religious minorities to sensitize Consular Officers to concerns relating to those affiliations.


The Foreign Service Institute and the Appeal of Conscience Foundation annually sponsor a major symposium focused on religious freedom and the role of U.S. diplomats overseas. Officers in FSI language training and area studies courses take part in this symposium. The symposium brings together leading experts on religious issues and foreign affairs practitioners who can speak to the job-related aspects of religious freedom issues to provide our officers with a clear understanding of the importance of these issues and the challenges and responsibilities they will face.

Islam: Formation, Institutions, Modernity and Reform (AR-194)

This is a week-long course for those who work or will work on issues related to Islam, Islamism, or relations with Muslim communities. Starting with the formation of Islam and the Muslim community, the course provides a background to the major historical developments of Islam, with a special focus on Islam in the modern era. The course addresses issues relating to the Middle East and North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Europe.

Islam in Iraq (AR-193)

This is a three-day course for those who are being posted to Iraq or who deal with Iraqi issues from other locales. The course seeks to explain in brief general aspects of Islam and Islamic history, as well as to focus on the contemporary religious landscape of Iraq in particular. The following questions are addressed: How is that landscape configured? Literally, what are the holy sites of Iraq and how do Iraqis relate to them? Which religious events are important in Iraq and how are they marked? Metaphorically, how does religion interact with regionalism, sectarian loyalty, religious networks, political affiliations, and class?

Islam: the Rise of Religion in Eurasia (AR-285)

This is a one-day embedded module within the Russia and Eurasia Intensive Regional Area Studies Course (AR-281).

Throughout the year, the course chairs in the Area Studies Division, in cooperation with DRL, ensure that their courses address both regional and country-specific issues of religion, religious freedom, and human rights. Participants receive substantial information encompassing the full range of issues affecting particular regions, including religious freedom and human rights, religious history, and religious traditions. Students also receive reading lists (and Internet guidance) that direct them to even more detailed material.


The Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs regularly speaks to the Ambassadorial Seminar on the importance of religious freedom and other topics within his/her purview.

III. Background Material on Religious Freedom

The following background materials related to religious freedom are made available (as hard copy or through website addresses) to FSI students:


Background Materials provided to students at FSI

  • Main Internet Web Page of the State Department's Office of International Religious Freedom,
    • Mission Statement for the Office of International Religious Freedom
    • Annual Reports on International Religious Freedom from 1999 through the present
    • Fact Sheets on the designation of Countries of Particular Concern
    • Department statements on religious freedom, specific to various countries
    • Remarks of State Department principals on religious freedom
    • History of the Office of International Religious Freedom
    • Background on the State Department's Advisory Committee on Religious Freedom Abroad
  • Main Intranet Web Page of the State Department's Office of International Religious Freedom, available only to State Department officials
    • Links to legal documents and databases bearing on religious freedom, including the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998
    • Other policy papers and resources for researching religious freedom issues
    • Instructions for preparation of the upcoming Annual Report on International Religious Freedom
  • Main Web Page of the independent, Congressionally funded U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom,
    • List of current members of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom
    • Annual Report of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom

Highlights from Key International Documents:
  • Universal Declaration of Human Rights (article 18)
  • International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (articles 18, 26, & 27)