Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs

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Logo of the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs at Georgetown University

The Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs is an academic research center at Georgetown University in Washington, DC dedicated to the interdisciplinary study of religion, ethics, and politics.[1] The center was founded in 2006 under a gift from William R. Berkley, a member of Georgetown's Board of Directors.[2][3] The center's founding director was Thomas Banchoff.[3]

The Berkley Center's mission is to explore global challenges, including democracy, human rights, economic and social development, international diplomacy, and inter-religious understanding. The Center states that two premises underlie its work: that a deep examination of faith and values is critical to address these challenges, and that the open engagement of religious and cultural traditions with one another can promote peace.[4]

Nine programs are currently encompassed under the Berkley Center, though a variety of projects have been operated by the Center in the past. The programs engage scholars from around the United States and the world. These include the American Pilgrimage Project , the Doyle Engaging Difference Program, the project for Faith, Values, and Public Life, the project on Globalization, Religions, and the Secular, the project on Islam and World Politics, the project for Law, Religion, and Values, the project for Religion and Global Development, the Religion Freedom Project, and the project on The Church and the World.

Religious Freedom Project[edit]

The Berkley Center's Religious Freedom Project (RFP) is the United States' only university-based program devoted exclusively to the analysis of religious liberty.[5] It is funded jointly by the Berkley Center, the John Templeton Foundation, and Baylor University's Institute for Studies of Religion and directed by Thomas Farr. Encompassing a team of international scholars studying everything from religious liberty in history to religious freedom's implications for democratic transitions to the economics of religious liberty, the Religious Freedom Project aims to examine and debate the meaning and value of religious liberty, its importance for democracy, and its role in social and economic development, international diplomacy, and the struggle against violent religious extremism.

Beyond independent projects and publications by members of the team, the Religious Freedom Project regularly hosts conferences which bring together scholars of religious freedom from around the world. Moreover, along with the Center for Civil and Human Rights at the University of Notre Dame, the RFP hosts a three-year research project entitled Under Caesar's Sword.[6] This project investigates how Christian communities respond when their religious freedom is severely violated. This project encompasses 14 of the world's leading scholars on regional religions who are studying 100 beleaguered Christian communities in over 30 countries including China, Indonesia, Nigeria, Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Pakistan, and India.[6]

Between 2012 and 2013, the Religious Freedom Project undertook a two-year research initiative which aimed to explore Christianity's contributions to freedom entitled "Christianity and Freedom: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives".[7] The Christianity and Freedom Project was headed by Timothy Shah, associate director and scholar in residence for the Religious Freedom Project, and Allen Hertzke, David Boyd Ross Professor of Political Science at the University of Oklahoma. This project examined ways in which Christian thinkers and communities generated new concepts and practices of freedom in interaction with other religious traditions and secular ideas and institutions. The Christianity and Freedom Project was funded by the Religion and Innovation in Human Affairs (RIHA) program administered by the Historical Society, and by the Lynde and Harry Bradly Foundation and the Witherspoon Institute.[7] Scholars involved in this project included political scientists, historians, theologians, and academics from around the world. Those participating in the project were: Zainal Abidin Bagir, Chad Bauman, Remi Brague, Richard Burgess, Elizabeth Depalma Digeser, Thomas Farr, Matthew J. Franck, Kyle Harper, Robert Hefner, Michael Hoffman, Amaney Jamal, Byron Johnson, Todd Johnson, Ian Christopher Levy, David Little, Paul Marshall, David McCain, D. Alexander Miller, Donald E. Miller, Anthony O'Mahony, Daniel Philpott, James Ponniah, Elizabeth Prodromou, Reg Reimer, John Rist, Louis Raphael I Sako, Rebecca Shah, Sara Singha, Philip Sumpter, Mariz Tadros, Marthen Tahun, Kurt Werthmuller, Robert Louis Wilken, John Witte, Jr., Robert Woodberry, and Fenggang Yang.

The Religious Freedom Project's scholars are separated into two teams: Economic and Political. Members work both within and across their groups in doing research, organizing conferences, publishing academic papers and popular pieces in an effort to analyze and critique the concept of religious liberty and promote religious liberty around the world. Timothy Shah and Thomas Farr are the project leaders for this project.[4]

Religious Liberty, Economic Freedom, and Development[edit]

The goal of the Economic Working Group for the Religious Freedom Project is to understand the impact of religious freedom on economic freedom, political economy, and development.The group's aim is to analyze the importance of religious freedom for entrepreneurship, poverty alleviation, property rights, women in the workforce, family structure and stability, social mobility.[8] Scholars on the economic team range from economists, development specialists, political scientists, and students of Islam. They analyze issues related to the West, the Middle East and North Africa, Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa.

Scholars on the Economics Team include:

Religious Liberty, Political Freedom, and Democracy[edit]

The goal of the Political Working Group for the Religious Freedom Project is to understand the impact of religious freedom on political freedom and democracy. The group's work is both qualitative and quantitative and analyzes political developments in theory and in practice around the world, examining the importance of religious freedom for reforming semi-authoritarian regimes and authoritarian regimes, the relationship between the freedom to proselytize and democratization, religious freedom in the politics of Muslim-majority countries, and the role of religious freedom in geo-political competitiveness.[9]

Scholars on the Political Team include:

Cornerstone Blog[edit]

The Religious Freedom Project operate the only blog devoted exclusively to the meaning and value of religious freedom entitled Cornerstone.[10] In the introductory article to this blog, Thomas Farr notes: "We define religious freedom as the right to believe or not, and, if one believes, to act individually or with others in public life on the basis of belief."[11] The blog aims to offer readers timeliness on this issue of global importance, principled disagreement from informed writers about the issues at hand, and clarity in relation to all aspect of religious freedom.

Cornerstone includes both posts by scholars on aspects of their own research on religious freedom and timely responses to current questions of religious freedom by various authors. Individual articles in 2015 include "Liberte, Egalite, Laicite? Understanding the Paris Attacks" by Cynthia Soliman, "Are Non-Religious Children Really More Altruistic?" by Robert Woodberry, and "Pope Francis and the Power of Ideas" by Nicholas Fedyk.Topics in 2015 have included "Refugee Policy in the West" with responses from Engy Abdelkader and John M. Owen, and "International Religious Freedom: Toward a Model of Transatlantic Cooperation" (posted after the October 8-9 Conference hosted by the RFP of the same name) with responses from Timothy Shah, Peter Berger, Mun'im Sirry, Faizan Mustafa, and Pasquale Ferrera.[12]


  1. ^ "About Us | Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs | Georgetown University". Retrieved 2012-02-04. 
  2. ^ International Insurance Society William Berkley biographical sketch Page accessed August 12, 2015
  3. ^ a b Berkley Center profile at IGG Page accessed August 12, 2015
  4. ^ a b "Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs". Retrieved 2015-11-16. 
  5. ^ "Religious Freedom Project - Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs". Retrieved 2015-11-16. 
  6. ^ a b "Under Caesar’s Sword". Retrieved 2015-11-16. 
  7. ^ a b "Christianity & Freedom: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives". Retrieved 2015-11-18. 
  8. ^ "Religious Liberty, Economic Freedom, and Development". Retrieved 2015-11-16. 
  9. ^ "Religious Liberty, Political Freedom, and Democracy". Retrieved 2015-11-16. 
  10. ^ "Refugee Policy in the West". Retrieved 2015-11-30. 
  11. ^ "Introducing Cornerstone". Retrieved 2015-11-30. 
  12. ^ "International Religious Freedom: Toward a Model of Transatlantic Cooperation". Retrieved 2015-11-30. 

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