CIRIS Co-sponsors 2-day Workshop on ‘Islam and Space in Europe’

IMG_1836CIRIS Research Associates Tobias Muller and Chris Moses organised a workshop, “Religious? Secular? Re-thinking Islam and Space in Europe”,  together with Adela Taleb (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin). CIRIS was one of the sponsors of the two-day event, which brought together twenty scholars from a diverse range of fields, including anthropology, political science, music, architecture, geography, sociology, criminology, and religious studies. The workshop featured keynotes by Dr Marian Burchardt (Universität Leipzig) and Professor Riem Spielhaus (Georg-August-Universität Göttingen), a public lecture by Professor Kim Knott (Lancaster University) on “Thinking Spatially About Islam in Europe”, along with five panel-based discussions.

Three CIRIS Staff Participate in Trento Conference on Religion and Violence

IMG_0510CIRIS was well represented at a 10-12 October conference in Trento, Italy on Exiting Violence: The Role of Religion. From Texts to Theories. CIRIS Managing Director Judd Birdsall presented a paper on religion and American diplomacy, CIRIS Senior Research Associate (and FBK Associate Researcher) Pasquale Annicchino moderated several panels, and CIRIS Graduate Research Associate Matthew Rowley was awarded a scholarship to attend. The conference was hosted by Fondazione Bruno Kessler (FBK) in collaboration with Reset Dialogues on Civilizations and Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs.


CIRIS Research Associate Margot Dazey Awarded Fellowship at Yale

image_normalCIRIS Graduate Research Associate Margot Dazey has been awarded a Fox International Fellowship to spend the year at Yale University. Fox Fellows are selected for their potential to offer practical solutions to the problems which stand in the way of the world’s peace and prosperity. Hosted at the MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies, Margot will be completing her doctoral dissertation on Islamic moral entrepreneurs in France.






Clare College’s CIRIS Awarded $330,000 from Luce Foundation

Cambridge, UK – The Cambridge Institute on Religion & International Studies (CIRIS), a research centre based at Clare College, Cambridge, has received a three-year grant of $330,000 from the Henry Luce Foundation in support of its role as the secretariat for the Transatlantic Policy Network on Religion and Diplomacy (TPNRD).

The TPNRD Secretariat facilitates communication, coordination, and collaboration among North American and European diplomats whose portfolios include religion-related foreign policy issues. The network is co-chaired by officials from the US State Department and the European External Action Service.

Officially established with support from the Luce Foundation in 2015, the TPNRD builds on the momentum of several antecedent initiatives, including the British Council’s Luce-funded ‘Bridging Voices’ programme. This new grant will enable the TPNRD Secretariat to continue organising biannual conferences and commissioning research papers for the TPNRD whilst also deepening engagement between diplomats and scholars by developing an academic advisory council and creating an online library of resources on religion and diplomacy.

CIRIS Managing Director Judd Birdsall also serves as Executive Director of the TPNRD. A former US diplomat himself, Birdsall received his PhD in Politics and International Studies at Clare College where he is currently a College Research Associate.

“In a world where religion continues to be a pervasive and politically salient force, for both good and ill, the TPNRD is helping our participating foreign ministries enhance their capacity to understand religious dynamics and engage religious communities,” Birdsall said. “I am grateful for the Luce Foundation’s generous support for the TPNRD’s efforts to foster transatlantic conversation and partnership in the field of religion and foreign affairs.”

Clare College Bursar Paul Warren said, “Clare College is delighted to host CIRIS and to facilitate its important work, including its role as the Secretariat for the Transatlantic Policy Network on Religion and Diplomacy.”

About the Luce FoundationThe Henry Luce Foundation seeks to bring important ideas to the center of American life, strengthen international understanding, and foster innovation and leadership in academic, policy, religious and art communities. Launched in 2005, the Henry R. Luce Initiative on Religion in International Affairs, aims to provide intellectual leadership, develop new paradigms for research and teaching, create new resources and networks, and enhance public understanding of and discussion about religion in the international sphere.

About the Cambridge Institute on Religion & International StudiesCIRIS is a multi-disciplinary research centre based at Clare College, Cambridge that provides students, policymakers, and the general public with credible and engaging insights to shape new scholarship, sound policy, and constructive debate on the role of faith in global affairs. For more information, please visit

CIRIS contact:


CIRIS Research Associate Tobias Müller Contributes Chapter to Report on Muslims in Europe

13 July 2017 – CIRIS Graduate Research Associate Tobias Müller recently contributed a chapter in a report on Muslims in the UK and Europe published by the Centre for Islamic Studies at Cambridge University. Müller’s chapter, ‘Constructing Islam and Secularism in the German Islam Conference,’ argues that beyond the intentions expressed by government officials, the aims of the Conference and the expectations towards Muslims prescribe major restructuring measures of the Muslim community, cooperation with security agencies, and alignment with an undetermined set of “German values.” The full report, co-edited by Paul Anderson and Julian Hargreaves, presents papers from a symposium the Centre for Islamic Studies held in May 2016.

CIRIS Facilitates Diplomatic Network Conference in Helsinki

2 June 2017 – This week CIRIS facilitated a conference in Helsinki, in collaboration with the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, for the Transatlantic Policy Network on Religion and Diplomacy (TPNRD). The network met with the Lutheran Archbishop of Finland, the Orthodox Metropolitan of Helsinki, and with a range of Helsinki-based scholars and practitioners active at the intersection of religion and international affairs. CIRIS’s role as the secretariat for the TPNRD is supported by a generous grant from the Henry Luce Foundation.


The TPNRD with the Archbishop of Finland, Kari Mäkinen.


CIRIS Research Associate Edits Special Journal Issue on Religion and Violence

2 May 2017 – CIRIS Graduate Research Associate Matthew Rowley recently edited a collection of essays for the journal Transformation. The special issue, coedited with Dr Emma Wild-Wood, focuses on religion, hermeneutics and violence. Central to each essay is the relationship between readers, texts, and killing. Key questions addressed in the volume include:

  • What causes religious violence? 
  • What is the relationship between beliefs, texts and violence done in the name of God? 
  • How should one respond to historical violence within their own tradition? 
  • How should one respond to acts of violence performed by those in another faith community? 
  • How are harmful beliefs formed and what can be done to prevent believers from doing the unbelievable? 

Rowley contributed two articles to the collection. The co-authored introductory article summarises ‘the state of modern scholarship on key debates concerning religion and violence, [and] encourages the careful study of how individuals or groups in peculiar historical circumstances interact with their sacred texts and beliefs in a way that facilitates violence or oppression’.

Rowley’s second article examines how people come to ‘inhabit’ a particular sacred text and frame their violence through that text. As case studies, the article looks at individual violence (child sacrifice), communal violence (conquest), and eschatologically oriented violence (cosmic war). It ‘examines one common practice among many who believe their killing pleases or is willed by God—inhabiting biblical texts. Focusing on the Abrahamic and Mosaic narratives and on eschatology, [it explains] part of the process whereby individuals and groups come to believe that they are participating in killing patterned on or prophesied in scripture. Finally, this article [suggests] a scripture-based approach aimed at moving an individual or group away from the harmful habitation of sacred texts’.


  1. ‘Religion, Hermeneutics and Violence: An Introduction’ (Matthew Patrick Rowley and Emma Wild-Wood).
  2. ‘The Use of Violent Biblical Texts by the Lord’s Resistance Army in Northern Uganda’ (Helen Nambalirwa Nkabala).
  3. ‘Early Modern Religious Violence and the Dark Side of Church History’ (John Coffey). 
  4. ‘Christian Responses to Islamism and Violence in the Name of Islam’ (Colin Chapman).
  5. ‘Child Sacrifice, Conquest and Cosmic War: On the Harmful Habitation of Biblical Texts’ (Matthew Patrick Rowley).
  6. ‘Christian Hermeneutics and Narratives of War in the Carolingian Empire’ (Robert A.H. Evans).

Sage has made articles 1, 3 and 4 open access.

Birdsall Addresses Tbilisi Conference on Religion and Soft Power

16 March 2017 – CIRIS Managing Director Judd Birdsall presented a paper this week on ‘Religion, Politics, and Soft Power: Examples from U.S. Diplomacy’ at a conference at Tbilisi State University exploring ‘Religion and Soft Power in the South Caucasus’. The conference was coordinated by the Georgian Institute of Politics (GIP) and the University of Fribourg, and made possible by the financial support of the Swiss National Science Foundation (SCOPES-Program). The conference showcased the publication of a new compendium of policy memos on religion and soft power in the South Caucasus region.




Photo credits: Georgia Institute of Politics

Birdsall Speaks on Washington Panel on Future of US Religious Freedom Policy

1 Nov. 2016 – Today CIRIS managing director Judd Birdsall participated in a panel discussion on the topic Can the Politics of Religious Freedom Stop at the Water’s Edge?: Faith, Freedom, and Foreign Policy in the Next Administration. The event was hosted by Pepperdine University in partnership with the Institute for Global Engagement. The panel also featured Tom Farr, President of the Religious Freedom Institute, and Lisa Curtis, Senior Research Fellow on South Asia at the Heritage Foundation. All three speakers contributed articles to a recent issue of The Review of Faith & International Affairs.

Video of the entire event will be posted when available.


CIRIS Commissions Report on the Marrakesh Declaration

cover3 Oct. 2016 – CIRIS has co-published a new report with the US Institute of Peace (USIP) on the Marrakesh Declaration on the Rights of Minorities in Predominantly Muslim Majority Communities. The report explores how policymakers and practitioners can further the aims of this seminal declaration.

Susan Hayward, director of Religion and Inclusive Societies at USIP, authored the report and presented it to the Transatlantic Policy Network on Religion and Diplomacy at the network’s consultation in Washington in June 2016. Hayward attended the January 2016 conference in Marrakesh that produced the Declaration and has closely monitored its impact and implementation.

Summary from the front page of the report:

  • In recent years, ethnic and religious minorities around the world have faced new threats due to the rise of violent extremist groups and exclusionary nationalist movements. In areas where movements associated with the self-declared Islamic State operate, religious minorities have been treated with particular brutality.
  • Motivated, in part, by concern for this reality, over three hundred Islamic scholars, politicians, and activists, as well as a small group of interfaith observers, gathered in Morocco in January 2016 to affirm the rights of minorities living in Muslim-majority contexts.
  • The conference’s Marrakesh Declaration and the legal framework that informs it draw from Islamic tradition, particularly the seventh century Charter of Medina, to affirm equal citizenship as an Islamic principle and traditional form of governance prescribed by Prophet Muhammad.
  • The Marrakesh Declaration is a powerful response to a pressing global human rights concern and a model for how religious tradition and international human rights law can be mutually reinforcing. This initiative can serve as a powerful resource for legitimizing and advocating for minority rights and equal citizenship more broadly within the Muslim world.
  • Its true test of impact will be in its implementation—the extent to which the ideals, principles, and actions envisioned in the Declaration can spread beyond its purview as an elite enterprise to ignite and mobilize a broad-based movement for social, legal, and political change.
  • Those from non-Muslim majority contexts wishing to support the Marrakesh Declaration must be careful not to undermine its legitimacy as a Muslim-led initiative, particularly in contexts where minority rights and religious freedom have historically been used as pretext for colonialism and Christian missionizing.