Faith Must Play a Bigger Role in Refugee Response, coalition of religious leaders and aid groups urge

BEIRUT, LEBANON JUNE 18: Leading members from Lebanon’s diverse network of religious institutions came together on Tuesday to stress the crucial role that faith plays in responding to the refugee crisis and to urge for faith to be better integrated into the mainstream refugee response.

Representatives from UNHCR and the Ministry of Social Affairs, Christian, Sunni and Shia faith leaders, as well as aid groups with and without religious foundations all stressed how faith should play a pivotal role in reducing the strain of displacement and war and be used as a tool to better integrate arrivals into host communities, as well as in preventing conflict in the first place.

The Role of Local Faith Actors in Implementing the Global Compact on Refugees event was co-hosted by the Joint Learning Initiative on Faith and Local Communities (JLI), World Vision, Islamic Relief Worldwide, Kaiciid Dialogue Centre, the Middle East Council of Churches and ACT Alliance. Dozens of faith representatives, leaders from faith-based and secular humanitarian agencies as well as multiple UN agencies and government
representatives all attended the consultation at AUB’s Issam Fares Institute.

UNHCR’s Representative in Lebanon Mireille Girard said: “At a time of unprecedented displacement across the world, there is a growing consensus that we need to work together towards more effective responses. The Global Compact for Refugees recognises that we need to do better. We all have a role to play and need to mobilise everyone.

“Faith based organisations are relevant throughout this cycle of displacement – from arrival, to eventual return. Faith-based organisations have a sound knowledge of the context and have a lot of experience in relief support. They also have a role to play in conflict prevention and reconciliation where they can be especially relevant.

“With economic crises and unemployment prevailing in many parts of the world, refugees are increasingly being stigmatised and seen as the reason for these economic crises. These sentiments are widespread so we have to ask ourselves what we can do together to address this phenomenon.”

Robin Sghbini, the Minister of Social Affairs representative and the Head of the Resettlement Response Plan in Lebanon, stressed that religious leaders have an important role to play because they exert great influence in their local communities.

“Their role is not only to ease tensions between the displaced and the host communities, but to reach cooperation in order to resolve other societal issues affecting the refugee community,” he said. “In the past the ministry of social affairs has cooperated with many religious leaders to protect children and women from early marriage and other social and humanitarian issues that protect and support refugees in Lebanon.”

Sghbini also welcomed the idea of partnership between religious leaders and other institutions concerned with the protection of refugee rights because “the crisis of displacement has reached its maximum and we need to join all our efforts”.

Professor Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, Academic Chair of the JLI’s Refugee and Forced Migration Hub, Professor of Migration and Refugee Studies and Co-Director, UCL-Migration Research Unit University College London, said: “When a person is forced to leave their home and their country in search of refuge and international protection, they are uprooted from their relatives, communities and lives. Often, they will see loved ones killed or injured and face immense barriers as they seek safety. The distress that these experiences and barriers cause is profound, often leaving people struggling to cope in their new surroundings.

“In times like these, faith is one of the only things that many people have left. Yet all too often even this is restricted as people lose access to religious support when they are displaced. What we have seen around the world, though, is that faith can be a key tool in helping people to recover and pursue their quest for protection and social justice. We have also seen that, when harnessed effectively, faith can bring communities together and help prevent future conflict.

“The international community has already recognised the role of faith actors in the Global Compact on Refugees, but it is up to us to ensure that displaced people are able to seek, and be granted, protection, to translate these noble words and intentions into concrete actions.”

The Global Compact for Refugees (GCR), agreed by the world at the end of 2018, acknowledges the role faith actors play in helping refugees and host communities all over the world, but the compact is non-binding.

To truly maximise the impact that faith actors in global refugee response Prof. Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh said that the research that has been conducted by the JLI Refugee and Forced Migration Hub shows that:

  • Humanitarian actors and other institutions need to recognise faith actors in all aspects of refugee response and ensure that faith actors are able to meaningfully take part and share responsibility.
  • International actors should expand engagement with faith actors, especially local faith actors in refugee response, with donor agencies stepping up support to build the capacity and compliance of those on the ground.
  • Financial barriers that exclude and discriminate against faith-based organisations need to be removed and donors must support faith actors that provide key services in support of refugees and members of host communities.
  • Access to spiritual support must be available to displaced people alongside psycho-social and humanitarian support.
  • Faith leaders need to be recognised for the role they can and do play in promoting Gender Justice, often countering – not advocating for – issues like FGM and child marriage.
  • Inter- and multi-faith initiatives should be supported to aid integration in host countries and help reconciliation upon return.

Many speakers were careful to stress that they felt xenophobia, racism and Islamophobia in particular were all on the rise, across the world but also across the Middle East.

Ziad el Sayegh, Policies and Communication Advisor at the, Middle East Council of Churches said: “The Global Compact for Migrants and Refugees is built on the obligation to respect human dignity and peace in society and to implement justice; these are fundamental values in all religions.

“It is absolutely impossible for religious authorities not to make the choice of promoting hope and moving people away from xenophobia, especially when accompanying the migration and refugee crises.

“It is impossible to solve the political and security crises through a mere economic and social approach. Solutions should be inspired by the religious fundamentals of human dignity, going back to the roots of ethical bases. This is the role of religious authorities when it comes to converging with the content of the Global Compact for Migrants and Refugees.”

Sheikh Hassan Dalli, of Lebanese organization Iftaa House, and the Mufti of Hasbaya and Marjeeyoun, meanwhile stressed that the Syrian conflict forced many to flee due to internal Syrian matters, but that it was important for all to be concerned for the safety and wellbeing of those who had fled seeking a safer place for their family and children.

“This was our humanitarian duty to receive the Syrian refugees in Lebanon as many countries did and to provide what is necessary to preserve their lives,” he said. “Similar circumstances have happened throughout history during wars and its hardships.”

This event is made possible by support from the Henry Luce Foundation
For more information or to arrange an interview please contact: [email protected] To find out more about how
faith actors can help deliver on the Global Compact please read the Joint Learning Intiative’s policy brief

 

BEIRUT, LEBANON:

Leading members from Lebanon’s diverse network of religious institutions came together on Tuesday to stress the crucial role that faith plays in responding to the refugee crisis and to urge for faith to be better integrated into the mainstream refugee response.

Representatives from UNHCR and the Ministry of Social Affairs, Christian, Sunni and Shia faith leaders, as well as aid groups with and without religious foundations all stressed how faith should play a pivotal role in reducing the strain of displacement and war and be used as a tool to better integrate arrivals into host communities, as well as in preventing conflict in the first place.

The Role of Local Faith Actors in Implementing the Global Compact on Refugees event was co-hosted by the Joint Learning Initiative on Faith and Local Communities (JLI), World Vision, Islamic Relief Worldwide, Kaiciid Dialogue Centre, the Middle East Council of Churches and ACT Alliance. Dozens of faith representatives, leaders from faith-based and secular humanitarian agencies as well as multiple UN agencies and government representatives all attended the consultation at AUB’s Issam Fares Institute.

UNHCR’s Representative in Lebanon Mireille Girard said: “At a time of unprecedented displacement across the world, there is a growing consensus that we need to work together towards more effective responses. The Global Compact for Refugees recognises that we need to do better. We all have a role to play and need to mobilise everyone.

“Faith-based organisations are relevant throughout this cycle of displacement – from arrival, to eventual return. Faith-based organisations have a sound knowledge of the context and have a lot of experience in relief support. They also have a role to play in conflict prevention and reconciliation where they can be especially relevant.

“With economic crises and unemployment prevailing in many parts of the world, refugees are increasingly being stigmatised and seen as the reason for these economic crises. These sentiments are widespread so we have to ask ourselves what we can do together to address this phenomenon.”

Robin Sghbini, the Minister of Social Affairs representative and the Head of the Resettlement Response Plan in Lebanon, stressed that religious leaders have an important role to play because they exert great influence in their local communities.

“Their role is not only to ease tensions between the displaced and the host communities, but to reach cooperation in order to resolve other societal issues affecting the refugee community,” he said. “In the past the ministry of social affairs has cooperated with many religious leaders to protect children and women from early marriage and other social and humanitarian issues that protect and support refugees in Lebanon.”

Sghbini also welcomed the idea of partnership between religious leaders and other institutions concerned with the protection of refugee rights because “the crisis of displacement has reached its maximum and we need to join all our efforts”.

 

Professor Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, Academic Chair of the JLI’s Refugee and Forced Migration Hub, Professor of Migration and Refugee Studies and Co-Director, UCL-Migration Research Unit University College London, said:

“When a person is forced to leave their home and their country in search of refuge and international protection, they are uprooted from their relatives, communities and lives. Often, they will see loved ones killed or injured and face immense barriers as they seek safety. The distress that these experiences and barriers cause is profound, often leaving people struggling to cope in their new surroundings.

“In times like these, faith is one of the only things that many people have left. Yet all too often even this is restricted as people lose access to religious support when they are displaced. What we have seen around the world, though, is that faith can be a key tool in helping people to recover and pursue their quest for protection and social justice. We have also seen that, when harnessed effectively, faith can bring communities together and help prevent future conflict.

“The international community has already recognised the role of faith actors in the Global Compact on Refugees, but it is up to us to ensure that displaced people are able to seek, and be granted, protection, to translate these noble words and intentions into concrete actions.”

The Global Compact for Refugees (GCR), agreed by the world at the end of 2018, acknowledges the role faith actors play in helping refugees and host communities all over the world, but the compact is non-binding.

To truly maximise the impact that faith actors in global refugee response Prof. Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh said that the research that has been conducted by the JLI Refugees and Forced Migration Hub shows that:

  • Humanitarian actors and other institutions need to recognise faith actors in all aspects of refugee response and ensure that faith actors are able to meaningfully take part and share responsibility.

  • International actors should expand engagement with faith actors, especially local faith actors in refugee response, with donor agencies stepping up support to build the capacity and compliance of those on the ground.

  • Financial barriers that exclude and discriminate against faith-based organisations need to be removed and donors must support faith actors that provide key services in support of refugees and members of host communities.

  • Access to spiritual support must be available to displaced people alongside psycho-social and humanitarian support.

  • Faith leaders need to be recognised for the role they can and do play in promoting Gender Justice, often countering – not advocating for – issues like FGM and child marriage.

  • Inter- and multi-faith initiatives should be supported to aid integration in host countries and help reconciliation upon return.

 

Many speakers were careful to stress that they felt xenophobia, racism and Islamophobia, in particular, were all on the rise, across the world but also across the Middle East.

 

Ziad el Sayegh, Policies and Communication Advisor, Middle East Council of Churches:

“The Global Compact for Migrants and Refugees is built on the obligation to respect human dignity and peace in society and to implement justice; these are fundamental values in all religions.

“It is absolutely impossible for religious authorities not to make the choice of promoting hope and moving people away from xenophobia, especially when accompanying the migration and refugee crises.

“It is impossible to solve the political and security crises through a mere economic and social approach. Solutions should be inspired by the religious fundamentals of human dignity, going back to the roots of ethical bases. This is the role of religious authorities when it comes to converging with the content of the Global Compact for Migrants and Refugees.”

Sheikh Hassan Dalli, of Lebanese organization Iftaa House, and the Mufti of Hasbaya and Marjeeyoun, meanwhile stressed that the Syrian conflict forced many to flee due to internal Syrian matters, but that it was important for all to be concerned for the safety and wellbeing of those who had fled seeking a safer place for their family and children.

“This was our humanitarian duty to receive the Syrian refugees in Lebanon as many countries did and to provide what is necessary to preserve their lives,” he said. “Similar circumstances have happened throughout history during wars and its hardships.”

This event is made possible by support from the Henry Luce Foundation

For more information or to arrange an interview ahead of the event please contact: [email protected] / 03756969

 

To find out more about how faith actors can help deliver on the Global Compact please read the Joint Learning Initiative Refugee Hub’s policy brief.  

The diversity of origins and traditions which make humanity unique are being targeted by intolerance, sometimes by brutal violence, and refugees are often on the front line of this assault. Reinforcing the traditional role of faith communities in offering sanctuary to refugees, more than 25 faith-based actors express their further commitment to upholding the dignity of refugees through offering effective protection, access to social services and fulfilment of human rights and enhancing peacebuilding efforts. Based on their religious teachings, as well as on the experience that some of their communities have of being targeted themselves, faith-based actors seek to address xenophobia as one of their special responsibilities.

 

The Global Compact on Refugees specifically recognizes the contribution and long-standing experience of faith-based actors in supporting refugees and will highlight these contributions at the Global Refugee Forum. Whether supporting refugees, including children, on their journey to safety including in reception and admission, meeting protection or service delivery needs and supporting communities to find solutions such as private sponsorship programmes, faith-based actors are committed to working alongside states and the rest of the global humanitarian community to deliver the promise of the Global Compact on Refugees.

 

This statement is supported by:

  1. ACT Alliance
  2. Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA)
  3. American Jewish World Service
  4. Anglican Alliance
  5. Anglican Communion
  6. Caritas Internationalis
  7. Christian Aid
  8. Church World Service
  9. EU-CORD
  10. Food for the Hungry
  11. Global One
  12. HIAS (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society)
  13. International Catholic Migration Commission
  14. Islamic Relief Worldwide
  15. Jesuit Refugee Service
  16. Joint Learning Initiative on Faith and Local Communities
  17. The Lutheran World Federation (LWF)
  18. Network for Dialogue
  19. Religions for Peace
  20. Soka Gakkai International
  21. Tearfund
  22. World Council of Churches
  23. World Evangelical Alliance
  24. World Relief
  25. World Vision International

June 2019

We are happy to announce the publication of the Joint Learning Initiative on Faith & Local Communities (JLI) Ending Violence Against Children Hub (EVAC Hub) three-part scoping study. The EVAC Hub began the scoping study in 2018 to better understand the role of religion and faith actors in protecting children against violence. Dr Carola Eyber at Queen Margaret University (QMU) led the scoping study with Dr Selina Palm at Stellenbosch University, Kathleen Rutledge at QMU, and Francisco Colombo under the guidance of Dr Olivia Wilkinson at JLI.

Thanks also to the JLI EVAC Hub co-chairs- Rebeca Rios-Kohn, Arigatou International, Neelam Fida, Islamic Relief Worldwide and Robyn Hagan, World Vision International. The study would also like to acknowledge the numerous hub members who contributed resources, case studies and interview suggestions.

The scoping study focused on two areas:

Firstly, the unique contributions of faith communities to ending as well as contributing to violence against children. Secondly, the role of faith actors in influencing and supporting the wider community and formal and informal child protection systems.

The scoping study had three components: an extensive literature review, a case study submission
process for hub members to share practice-based models and a consultation stage with experts through interviews. The study covered all regions and faiths.

Join the JLI Hub as a member to hear about the launch of the scoping study and soon to be release policy briefs on positive contributions of faith communities and faith engagement mechanisms to ending violence against children, and critical issues facing faith communities.

 

Click below to read the different parts of the scoping study.

Literature Review                       Case Studies                        Experts’ Consultation

 

Join the JLI Ending Violence Against Children for next steps and collaboration.

By Jean Duff

April 25, 2019

Local faith communities are often first responders on the frontlines of meeting daily basic needs. But like refugees and migrants, faith-based organizations can face discrimination.

It’s time to include faith-based organizations, and respect local faith communities for who they often are — key participants on the frontlines of global refugee and migrant response.

Click here to read the opinion article.

You are invited to provide feedback to the outcome document of the Workshop on HIV among Migrants and Refugees: Strengthening collaboration among faith-based organizations, multi-lateral organizations, governments, and civil society in addressing HIV risk, provision of services, and advocacy that took place on 20-21 February 2019.
 
The Road Map is now ready to be implemented! You are invited to circulate it within your networks.
 
Please, regularly share your achievements and information on the actions you are undertaking with [email protected].
 
Shared by Jacek Tyzko, Senior Advisor, Faith Engagement, UNAIDS on behalf of Francesca Merico, World Council of Churches, HIV Campaign Coordinator, on behalf of the planning team (UNAIDS, PEPFAR, WHO, NGO PCB Delegation, UNHCR, IOM, Anglican Communion, ICMC, WCC-EAA)
The Joint Learning Initiative on Faith and Local Communities is a knowledge partner with the International Partnership on Religion and Sustainable Development/PaRD workstreams to conduct research on partnerships/collaboration between religious/faith actors, NGOs, governmental, and inter-governmental agencies on peace justice and strong institutions (SDG 16).
The first stage of the PaRD SDG 16 Workstream research project is to collect and share good practices and models of violence prevention and peacebuilding processes in which religious and traditional actors have been involved in SDG 16. The JLI research will focus on partnerships between faith actors, NGOs, governmental, and inter-governmental agencies and in the following countries:
  • Africa: Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, and Central African Republic
  • Asia: Myanmar, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka
This should only take 5 minutes to complete and will allow us to follow-up with you or your suggested partner organizations to conduct the research interviews and build the case studies. The research is expected to be completed by July, with initial results communicated at the PaRD Annual Meeting in May.
 
We request that you complete this form by Wednesday, March 27. If you have any questions about the form or case studies, please contact Dr Olivia Wilkinson, JLI Director of Research ([email protected])

March 11, 2019

By Olivia Wilkinson and Susanna Trotta on the Georgetown University Berkley Center blog

This blog post highlights Education and Refugee Response from the JLIFLC policy brief on the implementation of the Global Compact on Refugees with faith actors.

“In the Global Compact on Refugees’ program of action, education falls within a section on meeting needs and supporting communities. The main provision within the compact is for the support of national education systems, which in many cases will include schools that are run by faith-based institutions and operating within national laws and policies. However, refugee children can struggle to gain places (especially in over-burdened systems) and integrate into new education systems. Issues related to which curricula to follow and to accreditation between home, host, and destination curricula have caused problems. Instead, children on the move may seek non-formal education opportunities, which can also be run by faith actors, such as sessions in religious buildings with provisions funded by the faith community.”

See full Georgetown Berkley Center Post Here

The World Council of Churches (WCC) posted the following News article:

21 February 2019

In remarks during a workshop on HIV among migrants and refugees, UNAIDS executive director Michel Sidibé spoke of the challenge of HIV in what has become a rapidly changing and very unpredictable world.

“We believe you will never be able to reach people when you are born privileged,” Sidibé reflected. “Your job is to cross the road and reach people who are not privileged. What we need are bridges connecting us all to reach other.”

The workshop was organized on 20-21 February by UNAIDS, the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the International Catholic Migration Commission.

“We are living in a rapidly changing and unpredictable world,” said Sidibé. “From my country of Mali to Eastern Europe to South America, the right to health and the right to education is not being upheld in conflict-affected settings.”

We simply cannot think of the challenge of HIV in isolation, he continued. “We need to understand the bigger picture, and the role of faith-based organizations is very critical.”

As more and more people are on the move, faith-based organizations are critical in ensuring people have access to healthcare, said Sidibé, because faith-based groups reach people at the grassroots and know what people are facing in their daily lives.

“We are facing massive political upheaval everywhere, and a lack of economic opportunity for young people, mixed with democratic fatigue,” he said. “We have a divide today and it is a lack of trust, and if people don’t have jobs, they don’t have hope.”

HIV is linked to inequality and to lack of opportunity, Sidibé noted. “What I’m seeing as the biggest problem is social inequality. If you have a breakdown, what will happen is that people will not stay there.”

With 68 million people forced from their homes across the world due to violence, war and conflict, in many places the bulk of health services are being provided by faith-based organizations. “What is happening to people on the move? They are becoming victims of violence, and we really need to understand that. We need to think in a more integrated and practical way.”

Link to WCC News post

New Knowledge Partnership between Joint Learning Initiative on Faith and Local Communities (JLI) and the International Partnership on Religion and Sustainable Development (PaRD)

 

On October 27, 2018, JLI and PaRD signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) at JLI’s Annual Board Meeting. Jonathan Duffy, JLI Board Chair and Jean Duff, JLI President and Thomas Lawo, PaRD Secretariat Coordinator signed for their respective organizations. The PaRD Steering Group ratified the MOU at its meeting in Toronto in November 2018.

 

The JLI and PaRD seek full and appropriate engagement of the capacities of faith-based and religious groups in the achievement of the SDGs through effective partnerships with public sector and secular entities, as well as among religious groups themselves. JLI brings knowledge partner capacities, a proven track record in preparing evidence reports, briefs, calls to action, conference programs, peer-reviewed article, and journals. PaRD focuses on joint  joint activities in its three areas of engagement knowledge exchange, capacity building, and joint advocacy.

 

JLI will provide evidence support to PaRD’s three work streams:

  • SDG 3 Health with a focus on faith and adolescent sexual and reproductive health,
  • SDG 5 Gender Equality and Empowerment with a focus on the role of faith-based partnerships in preventing and addressing gender-based violence and
  • SDG 16 Sustaining Peace with a focus on effective peacebuilding

 

The studies and evidence briefs will be co-designed and will draw upon PaRD and JLI members’ information and experiences, which will, in turn, inform joint research and advocacy agendas. Each of the three workstreams will present preliminary reports for discussion during the PaRD annual meeting on May 2 and 3 in Copenhagen.

 

Please visit www.pard.international and read more on PaRD and its members’ activities! Read about the JLI’s work through learning hubs and partnerships at jliflc.com.