Religion in Foreign Policy (2017)

in: Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics


Most states' foreign policies are secular in orientation and focus. A few make religion a prominent component of their ideological approach to foreign policy. States whose foreign policies are consistently or irregularly informed by religion include Egypt, Iran, India, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United States. In each case, these states' foreign policies feature domestic religious actors seeking to have regular or intermittent involvement in foreign policymaking. The impact and capacity of such religious actors is linked to the ideological and/or national interest priorities of incumbent governments. That is, religious actors may have an input into foreign policymaking, which reflects a concern more generally with the association between material concerns—including national security issues—and religious and ethical ideas, norms, and values.In addition to states with input from religious actors in foreign policymaking, there are several important nonstate actors whose religious beliefs centrally inform their foreign policies, which often focus on activities in the United Nations, the world's largest and most comprehensive organization with near-universal state membership. The United Nations is a key focal point to pursue such policies, and three such actors are discussed: the Holy See/Vatican (and, more generally, the Roman Catholic Church), the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), and the World Council of Churches (WCC), whose religious orientations are, respectively, Roman Catholicism, Islam, and non-Catholic Christianity. The importance of religious actors in foreign policy, in relation to both selected states and nonstate actors, is explored.