Monday 25 September 2017

Religion plays an important role shaping societies, values and cultures. Religious institutions and actors are at the forefront of current debates on international, domestic and local politics. The US and UK are seeing a rise in populism, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism in many communities. Meanwhile, conceptions of secularism, fundamentalism, pluralism, and other major religious ideas and movements are prominent conversations in the public sphere. The complexity of these issues creates challenges for policymakers and civil society alike.

The British Council, in partnership with The Henry Luce Foundation, is conducting an open call for proposals for Bridging Voices. Bridging Voices will be awarding grants for cutting edge research towards improved understanding of religion in international affairs. The new project will develop an inclusive transatlantic network for academics and civil society to conduct research, build capacity to advance the field and create pathways of engagement with policymakers. This network will be supported through research grants, workshops and a virtual platform for engagement. 

Leigh Gibson, Director of the British Council USA said, “British Council USA has been building a strong track record in the field of religion and international affairs for over three years. This additional support from the Luce Foundation will allow us to continue the work of building scholarship and dialogue at a time when it is more important than ever. We are proud to collaborate with the Henry Luce Foundation for a third time and lead this program that sits at the very heart of cultural relations.”

Merete Bilde, Policy Advisor at the European External Action Service (EEAS) at the European Union in Brussels participated in several discussions throughout the first three years of the Bridging Voices program. She states, “I am grateful to the British Council for being a trustworthy convenor for difficult, yet productive conversations in the field of religion and belief. From human rights and international development to violent extremism and political polarisation, religion is an important facet of culture and our lived reality. These conversations are needed and the dialogues bring new actors into the room, whose voices need to be heard.”

In July 2017, the Henry Luce Foundation generously awarded the Friends of the British Council a three-year grant of $500,000 to continue support for Bridging Voices. Since the program start in 2013, the first grant of $450,000 from The Henry Luce Foundation to the Friends of the British Council supported 40 universities, think tanks and NGOs to run 33 dialogues across the US, the UK and Europe. These dialogues engaged academics, policymakers, diplomats, journalists and practitioners to explore a range of religion and foreign policy issues.

The project seeks dynamic academic partnerships from US and UK universities to conduct research on the theme of “religion in the public sphere” and organize policy workshops exploring their new research with academics, policymakers, practitioners, young leaders and religious leaders. This research will culminate in the release of policy recommendations, which will inform governments and media globally on religious issues that affect day-to-day life. Universities located outside of the US or UK, plus civil society organizations, research institutions or think tanks operating at the nexus of religion and public life are also encouraged to join proposals in order to strengthen US and UK academic partnerships.

Three academic consortiums will be chosen to partner with the British Council over the next three years with grants of up to $38,200. Applications are due November 15, 2017 and should be sent to


Notes to Editor

For more information, please contact:

Justine Gamez – Head of Strategic Communications and Marketing

About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We create friendly knowledge and understanding between the people of the UK and other countries. Using the UK’s cultural resources we make a positive contribution to the countries we work with – changing lives by creating opportunities, building connections and engendering trust.

We work with over 100 countries across the world in the fields of arts and culture, English language, education and civil society. Each year we reach over 20 million people face-to-face and more than 500 million people online, via broadcasts and publications.

Founded in 1934, we are a UK charity governed by Royal Charter and a UK public body. The majority of our income is raised delivering a range of projects and contracts in English teaching and examinations, education and development contracts and from partnerships with public and private organisations. Eighteen per cent of our funding is received from the UK government.

About Friends of the British Council

The Friends of the British Council builds strategic partnerships to support the British Council's work around the world. Working with the United States and international corporations, foundations, organizations and individuals, we identify synergies, share knowledge, leverage resources and contribute financially to British Council programs around the world.

Our goal is to customize and add value to these partnerships and projects, resulting in meaningful relationships between the British Council and its key stakeholders.

We engage with all levels of society, including civil and community leaders, influencers, educators, scientists, artists, business leaders, and the media. Not only that, we work extensively with marginalized and vulnerable populations such as women, at-risk youth, early learners, areas of rural poverty and post-conflict zones. We are also majorly involved with education and work with secondary and higher education sectors and with young people starting out their careers.

About Henry Luce Foundation

The 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.