Religion in International Affairs

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The Henry R. Luce Initiative on Religion in International Affairs


The Henry R. Luce Initiative on Religion in International Affairs, launched in June 2005, 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.

The initiative supports projects that draw on scholarly expertise to foster and disseminate more nuanced, contextualized and dynamic understandings of religion in global public life, politics and policy. We understand religion to be important in many domains, including conflict and peace, environment and sustainability, political economy and development, health and education, gender, race and sexuality, law and human rights, social movements, migration and humanitarianism.


The initiative invites proposals from a variety of institutions that work to deepen interdisciplinary understanding of the role of religion in world affairs, including academic, public policy and media organizations. We also seek to foster collaborations across these sectors. While grant-making focuses on institutions in the United States, we encourage proposals that develop sustainable conversations and relationships with colleagues and institutional partners in many parts of the world.

Support for universities may include efforts to work across disciplines and programs, bringing together faculty and graduate students in fields such as international relations, anthropology, religious studies, politics, rhetoric and communication, journalism, and area studies. The initiative also supports comparative research projects that may include collaborations across institutions and countries (see, for example, grants to the University of California, Berkeley for the Politics of Religious Freedom; George Washington University for Islam in a Changing Middle East; The New School for Sacred Landscapes and Sustainability in the Himalaya).

As the media is often a bridge between the university and the policy world, the initiative encourages collaborative work that links scholarship, journalism, and a variety of media platforms (see, for example, grant to the University of Southern California). In some instances we support media production (see, for example, grants to The Bureau for International Reporting and Faith Matters). We also invite proposals that deepen understanding of how the media and new digital technologies are shaping both religious practices and knowledge about religion and politics.

The Initiative no longer provides support for general religion reporting. In recent years we have primarily supported media projects that focus on particular issues or questions, which aligns with our work in policy and academia as well. As “religion” is a vast, diffuse and sometimes elusive term, we have found it more fruitful to work in this way.

Many of our recent media grants involve collaborations with scholars and/or academic institutions. We have found that academics are often keen to find media channels to disseminate their knowledge and insights, which can also, of course, provide deeper context and analysis to media programming.

Policy organizations are encouraged to develop proposals that reach beyond the applicant institution and engage with scholars, public intellectuals, journalists and other relevant partners, both in the U.S. and abroad (see, for example, grants to the Center for Strategic & International Studies).

Banner images: 1) The 16th century Armenian tombstone of Manuk Nazar, in the world’s largest field of medieval cross-stones, before the cemetery’s destruction in 2005. Photo Courtesy of Dickran Kouymjian Archives, Paris. 2) Tibetan prayer flags welcome travelers outside the village of Til, Nepal. Photo Credit: Chris Crews |

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Director of Policy Initiatives: Dr. Toby Alice VolkmanPrior to joining the Luce Foundation, Toby worked as Director of Special Projects at the Ford Foundation International Fellowships Program in New York. She has also served as a program officer at the Ford Foundation, where she developed and managed an initiative (“Crossing Borders”) to revitalize the field of area studies; as director of the South and Southeast Asia Programs at the Social Science Research Council; and as deputy provost at the New School. She holds a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Cornell University and a B.A. in Art History from the University of Chicago.

Program Assistant: Ms. Bridget Talone
A graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, Bridget worked in arts administration and event planning before pursuing her M.F.A. at the Iowa Writers Workshop. She joined the Foundation in 2013.

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Grant Spotlight
An overview of the Sacred Landscapes and Sustainable Futures project at The New School, a multidisciplinary collaboration exploring a uniquely diverse cultural and ecological environment in the Himalaya.

Grant Spotlight
A look inside the Politics of Religious Freedom project at UC Berkeley, a collaborative project that spanned four years, five continents, and numerous disciplines.

“The best of princes is he who visits scholars.”

—Jalal al-Din Rumi, 13th century Persian Sufi poet