Faith-based Engagement of the Global Refugee Crisis
The world is currently experiencing the worst refugee crisis in history. The United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) reports that there are 65 million displaced people globally due to persecution, war, famine or violence. Many face significant health challenges such as psychiatric disorders, infectious diseases and chronic disease in the host-country. Faith based organizations and churches are recognized as key elements in addressing this global crisis, and many have been advocates of “welcoming the stranger.”(Deut 10:19; Mat 25:34-40)
What is a Christian response to these populations scattered among many nations? What kinds of unique health concerns do they face? How can global health workers effectively cross cultures to address needs? What opportunities exist for respectfully demonstrating and proclaiming the gospel in these settings? What resources can be mobilized?
Besides regular general submissions, we call for papers including but not limited to:
Case studies of FBO responses to refugee concerns in areas of conflict or in host countries.
Best practices in improving health outcomes of displaced populations.
Original research on outcomes for health interventions among refugee populations.
Case studies on partnerships with UNHCR or other governmental organizations in serving refugees.
Commentaries on an applied biblical response to the global refugee crisis.
Capacity building for mental health service to build resilience in post-traumatic experiences.
Explorations of the ethics of humanitarian relief and resettlement in context of Christian faith.
The October 25 & 25 meetings of the JLI included 34 board, advisory group and learning hub co-chairs. The two-day meeting objectives were to share the current state of JLI hub evidence, examine JLI’s role considering the external environment and determine JLI’s next steps. Matthew Frost, JLI Board Co-chair for the past few years stepped down at the meeting. Matthew will continue as a general board member. Thanks to Matthew for all the wisdom and gifts shared during your time leading the JLI! With a new board co-chair elected unanimously –Jonathan Duffy, President, ADRA International, JLI will be focusing on how to implement goals identified at the board meeting.
embed local and national voices into the JLI especially learning hubs
Faith leaders, aid agencies around the world join forum on localizing humanitarian response
JLI cohosted the Localizing Response to Humanitarian Need Forum with over 140 participants representing multiple local and global faith networks, faith-based organizations, aid agencies, policy makers, and government representatives have participated in a forum to strengthen partnership and networks in localizing humanitarian response. Focus on documentation of methods and mechanisms of engagement of local faith networks.
Local humanitarian leadership is built upon the premise that humanitarian action should be led by local humanitarian actors whenever possible, yet this research finds that secular humanitarian INGOs do not engage systematically with local faith actors in their local leadership work. Based primarily on interviews with humanitarian INGO staff, this research also found that neither secular nor faith-inspired international humanitarian organizations have a sufficient level of religious literacy to enable them to understand the religious dimensions of the contexts in which they work and to effectively navigate their engagement with local faith actors.
Webinar included the following discussion on local humanitarian leadership and religious literacy.
Response from Catriona Dejean
Faith-inspired vs faith- embedded organizations – for some FBOs faith is at the DNA of who and how they work, so it is beyond inspiration
Role of relationships: trust between local faith communities and secular organizations are critical especially during humanitarian events (ie good examples in Myanmar, Middle East)
It is important to not only look at the structures, processes and tools for engaging with faith communties, but also to understand what enables good and open relationships.
Attitudes and behaviors on engagement across faiths and non-faith groups could be explored further.
What makes a response effective with local faith communities? The report stated no real difference between secular and faith actors. Could it be because we have different definitions of effective? For example some faith organizations and actors are interested in holistic changes so effectiveness may be framed beyond the tangible or traditional definition of effectiveness.
From other attendees:
Role of faith-based organizations as intermediaries
There seems to be some dissonance between the responses reported in the research (from HQ) and the situation on the ground, where FBOs face a lot of pressure. There might be an openness to the recommendations stemming from the research such as designing a religious literacy toolkit, but there will need to be a true dialogue on a practitioner level and real socialization.
Suggestions for secular organizations seeking to discuss topics with faith-based actors for which they have different understandings. How can these conversations happen most productively? Practicality of engaging with local faith actors
On alignment (or not) with local faith groups and how to deal with issues – the Oxfam recommendation to develop tools to help truly assess religion/culture/historical influences on the target group in a humanitarian response is vital. That should help tease out more clearly what the actual or perceived differences are. Ultimately though, as was said, if a local faith community (or any partner of any kind) isn’t able to or doesn’t desire to ‘align’ with humanitarian principles – INGOs needs to decide whether the partnership can continue. We have to deal with our issues too of course!
If the whole community believes in one specific religion, it’s simple, but if it’s divided into some religious groups, it can become sensitive. The literacy should cover this aspect as well.
About LFAs impartiality, neutrality,& proselytising: how often does this happen vs how often do people on the international level worry about this occuring?
Forthcoming article called ‘“Faith can come in, but not religion.” Secularity and its effects on the disaster response to Typhoon Haiyan.’ that deals with impartiality and some of the hypocrisy.
The basic idea is that religion manifests in Faith-based NGOs in different ways, such as their names, missions, activities, goals, modes of expression, membership or employment criteria, institutional origins, or the identity of populations they serve, and invisibility is their greatest asset. That is, Faith-based NGOs are most effective in private coalitions and when they do not engage in explicitly religious terms.
First network event: FBO Workshop on Religions and the Sustainable Development Goals
On Monday 13th February 2017, Islamic Relief Academy and the University of Leeds held a workshop in Birmingham, UK. Around 25 participants came together to network and discuss research priorities on religions and the SDGs, representing a mixture of academic and non-governmental organisations, including Islamic Relief, and academic partners from India and Ethiopia.
Questions addressed in the workshop included:
Did your organisation have a role in the consultation process to define the SDGs? What were some of the strengths and challenges of the process?
To what extent do you feel that religious voices were enabled to be heard in the consultation process and with what effect?
To what extent and in what ways are you now beginning to interpret and implement the SDGs in your work?
Do you feel the SDGs provide a useful framework to tackle ‘sustainable development’ globally? What are the opportunities and limitations of the SDGs?
Participants discussed the opportunities and challenges presented by Agenda 2030 and discussed current research gaps in the area. As part of the network’s agenda, conferences will be held in these Ethiopia and India over the course of the next eighteen months, with opportunities for country specific consultations to take place. The Network also intends to publish an edited volume and launch a policy paper in the UK Houses of Parliament within the next year and a half.
Announcing a new religion and sustainable development network – funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council in the UK – which involves academics and faith-based development actors. The network aims to enhance international exchange about the role of religions in defining, implementing, and safeguarding ‘sustainable development’, as codified in the UN ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ (SDGs).
Religion is a major cultural, social, political, and economic factor in many ODA recipient countries, which is why understanding the local religious dynamics and the role of faith actors is crucial for sustainable development. While development practice and development studies had essentially subscribed to a modernist, secular paradigm of social change for much of the 20th century, this has begun to change. Greater portions of development aid are now channelled via so-called faith-based initiatives or organisations, and religion is increasingly recognised as a human resource rather than just an obstacle to development. Many religious groups have also been involved perceptibly in development policy, by adopting and heralding the Millennium Development Goals and through consultations in the drafting of the new SDGs.
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Convened by the Permanent Mission of Ireland to the United Nations and the UN Interagency Task Force on Religion and Development (Chaired by UNFPA) in partnership with the Joint Learning Initiative on Faith and Local Communities.
HE Ambassador David Donoghue, Permanent Mission of Ireland to the United Nations, and Dr Azza Karam, UN Interagency Task Force on Religion and Development will be co-moderating.
Jean Duff will be representing JLI on a panel addressing faith-based partnerships to support achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The panel will also include JLI Board Member Anwar Khan, Islamic Relief USA.
JLI Refugee Hub Co-Chair Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh with Mette Berg launched a new journal: Migration and Society, published by Bergahn Books. The first issue will be published in 2018 on Hospitality and hostility towards migrations: global perspectives.
Call for articles until Sept 2017 on the following questions:
How, and why, have different actors responded to the actual, prospective, and imagined arrival of migrants across time and space?
How have migrants and refugees experienced and responded to different, and at times overlapping, processes of hospitality and hostility in sites of transit and settlement?
What are the politics and the poetics of hospitality and hostility towards migrants in different spaces?
As ‘new’ migrants join established diasporas and transnational communities, how have ‘locals’ and ‘established’ migrants and refugees responded to ‘newly’ displaced people?
How, why, and with what effects have diverse media represented processes of migration? Who has been rendered (hyper)visible and audible, and/or invisible, inaudible, and silenced in different representations of migration?
What are the historic resonances, continuities, and discontinuities of contemporary dynamics of hospitality and hostility towards migrants?
On May 23 ACT Alliance and Soka Gakkai International co-organized a pre-conference titled “Locally-led Disaster Risk Reduction by Faith-Based Organizations – Implementing the Sendai Framework.”
Faith-based and religions organizations gathered in Cancun Mexico to discuss faith engagement in implementing the Sendai Framework. JLI was represented by Soka Gakkai for the Refugees & Forced Migration Learning Hub. Both cohosts as well as some local implementing FBOs made presentations on best practices of locally-led DRR by FBOs in implementing the Sendai Framework.
Other presentations and statements from Global Platform
Public Joint Statement of faith-based organizations to GP2017
May 23, 2017, Cancun
We urge State parties to engage FBOs and LFCs in a meaningful and substantive way in implementing SFDRR
Collaborating with FBOs and LFCs and use their capacity to communicate to local communities to raise level of understanding and awareness on DRR and climate change (SFDRR priority 1);
Involving FBOs and LFCs to help monitor DRR impact at household and community level based on the set of SFDRR indicators for purposes of better risk governance; (SFDRR priority 2)
Using and encouraging the collaborative networks of LFCs/FBOs across the globe to respond to the impacts of disasters and climate change by raising investments for resilience at local, national, regional, and global level; (SFDRR priority 3)
Allocating resources to FBOs and LFCs to develop and implement DRR measures, both in terms of risk mapping, prevention/mitigation and resilience building projects/activities, as well as preparedness activities and early action against disasters; (SFDRR priority 3)
Engaging and supporting FBOs in relief and post-disaster recovery and rehabilitation to galvanize local humanitarian response / preparedness and to facilitate effective and efficient initiatives that will enable communities to BUILD BACK BETTER (SFDRR priority 4)
Local faith-based networks reach every corner of our communities and nations and are capable of contributing substantial material and social resources necessary for risk prevention, reduction and humanitarian action. Faith-based groups are key to the localization of risk reduction, resilience building and humanitarian action because they are among those at the first line of defense in preventing avoidable disasters. They are also among first responders in emergencies providing shelter during evacuation, basic needs (i.e. food, water, clothing, shelter) of those affected during emergencies, and social capital for healing and recovery.
Faith-based organizations (FBOs) and local faith communities (LFCs) can complement other aid sectors’ activity at the grassroots level, thereby contributing and acting as a vector to localize humanitarian response and preparedness, as well as enhance mainstreaming of risk reduction measures in recovery and development programming. Faith, in all its forms, constitutes a natural and important element in the lives of billions of people with over 84% of the world identifying with a religious group. Faith drives people to take action. During the Third World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, we have heard testimonies of communities that have relied on faith and faith institutions as part of their coping mechanism in times of disasters. Faith has enabled communities to become better stewards of their environment and has enhanced social capital through communication, sharing, and compassion for others. Faith has thus offered courage, comfort and hope.
Faith contributes to the coping and adaptive capacities of many people and can be a powerful element in reducing vulnerabilities and, thus, reduce disaster risk. It is an integral element that needs to be taken into account in disaster risk prevention and reduction.