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

Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
November 17, 2010

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I. Summary

Under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 (IRFA), 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 curriculum at FSI. During the reporting period, DRL worked with FSI to create a new three-day course on human rights, including a module on religious freedom, which will be offered for the first time during the next reporting period. Also during the reporting period, 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 (NGOs). DRL and IRF officers regularly participate in FSI courses to brief students in area and professional studies courses, and provide 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 Schools of Professional and Area Studies (SPAS) and Leadership and Management Studies (LMS) at FSI both offer training relevant to the IRFA in a variety of courses. The following are brief descriptions of LMS courses offered by the divisions of Political Training, Orientation, Consular Training, and Area Studies in SPAS, and the Ambassadorial Seminar .


During the Foreign Service Officer Orientation (A-100) course, a senior State Department official from DRL presents a session on human rights, including international religious freedom. Students receive key background materials on human rights and religious freedom on FSI's LearnCenter and links to Web sites containing related materials.


This is a three-week course for students who have been assigned for the first time to work in an embassy's or consulate's political, economic, or combined political/economic section. Through the personnel system, officers are required to take the Political/Economic Tradecraft PG-140 prior to their first assignment in political and economic sections abroad; 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 and for promoting democracy and human rights in the field as part of the Embassy’s country team. Each iteration of Political/Economic Tradecraft includes a full session devoted to developing human rights reporting skills, and a separate session -- usually delivered by a representative from DRL -- on promoting democracy and human rights values, including religious freedom, overseas.


This three-day course was offered for the first time in October 2010. It will be offered twice a year to provide mid-level officers tools and best practices for promoting democracy and human rights, including religious freedom, in the field. FSI and DRL jointly develop the curriculum which includes at least one session specifically devoted to religious freedom in each class. Other sessions also address issues relevant to religious freedom, such as those devoted to human rights law, working with NGOs, monitoring and reporting human rights abuses, and combating anti-Semitism. This course replaces the one-day module on human rights that was formerly offered as part of FSI's course GLOBAL ISSUES (PP-510.) PP-510 will continue to be offered twice a year as a two-day course, in conjunction with PP-530.


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 module of PC-530 addresses refugee and asylum issues as they pertain to consular officers, while the Non-Immigrant Visa module addresses the interviewing for and processing of "R" visas for religious workers. Training in the Immigrant and Non-Immigrant Visa modules, as well as in the American Citizen Services module of the course, include interviewing exercises involving fictitious clients who represent religious minorities to sensitize Consular Officers to concerns and potential adjudication requirements relating to those affiliations.


FSI and the Appeal of Conscience Foundation annually sponsor a major symposium focused on religious freedom and the role of U.S. diplomats overseas. Students from throughout the Institute participate 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.


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. In introducing the variety of forms of Islam, the course discusses movements such as the Druze and Alawites. Each iteration of the course also takes on the question of inter-religious dialogue and ways of inter-sectarian and religious cooperation. The course addresses issues relating to the Middle East and North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Europe.


This is a three-day course for those 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? There are segments that deal with Iraqi Jews, as well as some discussion of the role of various Christian communities and Mandaeans. In addition, the Islamicate sects of Iraq such as the Shabak and the Yezidis are discussed.


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 or her purview. Former Ambassador Tracey Ann Jacobson, the current Deputy Director of FSI, also briefs the Ambassadors-designate on the importance of engaging religious communities abroad and shares best practices.

III. Background Material on Religious Freedom

The following background materials related to religious freedom are made available (as hard copy or through Web site 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)