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Conference on religious freedom continues Sussex links with Georgetown

A conference this week at Georgetown University was the latest event in Washington DC since the University of Sussex signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the US institution to facilitate ongoing dialogue in research.

A photo of Dr Fabio PetitoDr Fabio Petito

On Thursday (8 October), a day-long seminar at Georgetown explored the potential for transatlantic co-operation in policy on religious freedom.

This conference was the second leg of a ‘policy dialogue’ - the brainchild of Dr Fabio Petito from the Department of International Relations at the University of Sussex.

The first event in the series took place at Wilton Park near Steyning in West Sussex in February 2015 and produced a Wilton Park/University of Sussex report entitled ‘Developing a multilateral approach to Freedom of Religion or Belief: A European perspective’.

The second, which featured some high-profile participants, was hosted by Georgetown’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs.

Daniel Philpott, Professor of Political Science and Peace Studies at Indiana’s University of Notre Dame, described Dr Petito as “a leader in the study of religion and international relations” and added in a blog post: “One of the most interesting aspects of the conference is its formidable coalition of sponsors.”

Dr Petito secured a Bridging Voices grant from the British Council, which seeks to promote transatlantic dialogue on policy issues.

“The Center for Civil and Human Rights at the University of Notre Dame teamed up with him on the grant and they took on as additional partners the European University Institute and the University of Milan,” explained Professor Philpott.

The policy dialogue is part of a larger project that involves leading foreign policy makers, religious personalities and experts from all over the world, who have come together to discuss how to protect freedom of religion and fight religious discriminations through foreign policy.

Sussex signed an MoU with Georgetown in November 2013 to facilitate staff, post-doctoral and doctoral student exchanges as well research projects. The partnership builds on a long-standing link that goes back to the first student exchanges in the 1970s and officially to 1986, when the two universities signed an agreement to exchange American Studies undergraduates. The exchange continues to this day.