The American Academy of Religion (AAR) has awarded Evan Berry, associate professor of philosophy and religion at AU and co-director of the Ethics, Peace, and Global Affairs Program, the first-ever AAR-Luce Fellowship in Religion and International Affairs. Berry will work in the Office of Religion and Global Affairs as a Franklin Fellow at the US Department of State.
The fellowship was established to bolster the State Department’s expertise on religions around the world. Fellows will contribute religious perspectives to the analysis of contemporary international issues and the shaping of US foreign policy. Berry will focus primarily on climate change and sustainability issues.
“Religion is an important, complicated, and sometimes poorly understood dimension of modern societies,” said Berry. “Although religion can be a source of violence and repression, the shrill tone of contemporary political debates can make it difficult to remember that religion can also be a foundation for peace and justice. I am proud to have this opportunity to work in the State Department’s Office of Religion and Global Affairs, which works to make sure that religious considerations are folded into the full array of US foreign policy.”
Religion and the Environment
Religion and religious institutions have a big presence in many countries where the State Department does its work, according to Berry, and part of the fellowship’s mandate is to identify areas in which a better understanding of religion can aid foreign policy decision-making. Having religious experts and stakeholders at the table can lead to more informed policies about a wide range of international issues, from disaster relief to environmental sustainability to refugee crises.
Trained in both the sociology of religion and in religious ethics, Berry says he is looking forward to focusing on the engagement of religion with climate change, working with religious NGOs, and analyzing the way that religious beliefs shape opinions about climate change around the world.
“One of my primary tasks will be to liaison with religious groups to discuss the historic climate agreement in Paris last year,” says Berry, “and to understand how such groups are working to get involved with climate change solutions in their communities all around the world.”
The AAR-Luce Fellows Program is made possible by a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation. For more information, visit the website of the American Academy of Religion.
For more information on Berry’s book, Devoted to Nature: The Religious Roots of American Environmentalism (University of California Press, 2015), visit the website of the University of California Press.