The Cambridge Institute on Religion & International Studies (CIRIS) is a new multi-disciplinary research centre at Clare College, Cambridge. We aim to provide students, scholars, practitioners, and the general public with credible and engaging insights that will shape new scholarship, sound policy, and constructive debate on the role of faith in international affairs.
Religion is an increasingly salient force—for good and ill—around the globe. News headlines daily remind us that religious ideas and institutions play a critical role in shaping war and peace, poverty and prosperity, oppression and liberty, hatred and harmony. Countless global issues require us to take religion into account in our reflection and response. Faith matters.
The name CIRIS (pronounced “Cyrus”) is evocative of the role religion has played in human affairs for millennia. Cyrus the Great is credited with enshrining religious toleration throughout the Persian empire and he remains a positive historical figure for Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike. Not surprisingly Cyrus’ legacy has been invoked by numerous statesmen, perhaps most notably by American President Harry Truman who declared “I am Cyrus” when expressing his support for the establishment of the modern state of Israel. To this day, as ancient yet dynamic religions continue to shape international affairs, there is pressing need for generating new knowledge of the faith factor in geopolitics—and for communicating this knowledge in ways that are accessible to government officials, religious actors, and other practitioners.
Cambridge provides an ideal platform for creating synergies between rigorous analysis and strategic action on global religio-political issues. Cambridge University is consistently ranked among the very best universities in the world and boasts outstanding Politics, History, and Divinity departments as well as a wide array of outward-facing centres and programmes germane to CIRIS’s mission. Our institutional home at Clare College (est. 1326), a prestigious college in the heart of the city, provides us with an ideal venue for events. By leveraging the world-class reputation and resources of Cambridge University, CIRIS aspires to be an internationally respected hub of innovative thinking and collaborative scholarship.
Goals and Activities
As a university-based, practitioner-focused, public-minded institute, CIRIS has three mutually reinforcing goals. First, we will equip students and scholars in Cambridge with a robust appreciation for the role of religion in international politics that they will take with them into their future research and/or practice around the world. To this end, we host public lectures and pursue research projects that draw on the contributions of Cambridge-based academics.
Second, we use our platform at Cambridge to influence the global conversation on matters of faith and politics. We believe informed policy and discourse are vital to empowering the best—and mitigating the worst—of religion’s influence on global affairs. This website and our Facebook and Twitter platforms provide a dynamic space for disseminating and discussing the contributions of our staff and partners.
Third, we equip the diplomatic community by serving as the secretariat for the new Transatlantic Policy Network on Religion and Diplomacy (TPNRD), a community of diplomats from Europe and North America who have a responsibility for religion-related issues within their respective foreign ministries. CIRIS’s role with the TPRND is a partnership with George Mason University funded by the Henry Luce Foundation, with additional support from the British Council.