Reflection on My Time at ICRD
by Jennifer Smith
I feel incredibly honored and blessed to have had the opportunity to work with the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy. Coming to Washington, DC as an intern, I did not have very high expectations for being able to participate in very much substantial work, as many of the interns I spoke with were often tasked with coffee, copies, and spreadsheets. However, in my time at ICRD, I was given some of the most amazing opportunities to contribute to the substantial and inspiring work that ICRD is doing. I was given the opportunity to help prepare the Connecting the Dots report for the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, to help create a global map of places where identity conflict and religion overlapped, to contribute to a report on Saudi, write in-office primers for several countries, including Libya, and to attend several exciting events that pertained to the work ICRD is doing or is interested in doing.
In addition to learning more about NGO work, I gained a broader global perspective through my internship. While an international affairs major, I had spent the majority of my studies focused on Europe and the minority communities within Europe. This interest in minority communities and my faith background lead me to apply for the internship at ICRD. However, through my time at ICRD, I gained a greater understanding of Eastern Europe and the Caucasus and especially the Middle East and South Asia, because of ICRD’s current focus on both Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
The work which ICRD is doing has truly inspired me and I am truly glad to have been a part of it. There is a perception in much of the Western world that religion is irrelevant or that it furthers conflicts in many parts of the world. At ICRD, there is a belief that while religion is often times a part of the conflict, it has the power to be a key part of the resolution of conflicts and the sustainment of peace. Its work has shown that religious leaders can work together to bring about peace. Following the Arab Spring, I believe the world has seen that a great amount of attention must be focused on the upcoming, under-30 generation. In my opinion, the work which ICRD is currently doing is focused strongly, although not entirely, on this generation, which has the promise of creating a generation that has learned and will sustain peace.
Overall, my experience as an intern at ICRD has been beneficial, as I feel that I have helped further ICRD’s goals and have a greater clarity of my desire to do work in the non-profit sector. I would recommend volunteering on interning with ICRD to anyone who has an interest in how religion and politics intersect and to those who see religion as a creator of peace.