Keeping Faith in 2030: Religions and the Sustainable Development Goals

Network convenors 
  • Professor Emma Tomalin, Centre for Religion and Public Life, University of Leeds   [email protected]
  • Dr Jörg Haustein, School of Oriental and African Studies, London, [email protected]
  • Shabanna Kidy, Islamic Relief Academy (non-academic project partner)

New Website

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.

Notes from Birmingham UK meeting

The next event organised by the network will be held on 24th February 2017 at the University Bath to discuss methodology, religion, and development. More details can be found below.

Methodological Challenges of Researching Religion


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.
To join their Religions and Development mailing list, sign up here

July 12, 2017

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.

Click below for more details:

Faith-Based Partnerships: Vehicles for Achieving the SDGs

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:

    1. How, and why, have different actors responded to the actual, prospective, and imagined arrival of migrants across time and space?
    2. 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?
    3. What are the politics and the poetics of hospitality and hostility towards migrants in different spaces?
    4. As ‘new’ migrants join established diasporas and transnational communities, how have ‘locals’ and ‘established’ migrants and refugees responded to ‘newly’ displaced people?
    5. 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?
    6. What are the historic resonances, continuities, and discontinuities of contemporary dynamics of hospitality and hostility towards migrants?

For more information see Journal Website


Cancun Mexico

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

Specifically by:

  • 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.

ACT Alliance Statement for the Global Platform for DRR

Fifth GNRC Forum

9-11 May 2017

Panama City, Panama

Four-hundred religious leaders, members of diverse faith communities, leaders of faith-based organizations, United Nations officials, and representatives of international and grassroots organizations from around the world attended the Forum. A pre-forum brought together 64 children on 6-8 May.

The GNRC 5th Forum built on work from GNRC members from diverse faith traditions have been doing since the year 2000, working for and with children, to build a better world for children. Working locally, nationally, and globally. The 5th Forum focused specifically on the role of faith communities in addressing challenges presented by various forms of violence against children in three sub-themes:

  • “Protecting Children from Violent Extremism, Gang Violence and Organized Crime”
  • “Nurturing Spirituality and Ending Violence in Child Upbringing”
  • “Ending Sexual Exploitation and Abuse of Children.”

JLI announced a new Learning Hub on Ending Violence Against Children at the forum. Rebeca Rios-Kohn, Arigatou International (shown below) and Christo Greyling, World Vision International announced plans during sessions at the forum. To apply to be a member please register at

Press release from GNRC Fifth Forum

Panama Declaration

Day 1
First Plenary

Chaired by Rt. Rev. Julio E. Murray, Bishop of the Episcopal Church of Panama, President of the Ecumenical Committee, Chair, Interreligious Committee in Panama, Chair, GNRC 5th Forum

  • Remarks by Rev. Keishi Miyamoto, President, Arigatou International, Convenor, Global Network of Religions for Children (GNRC) and Rev. Mons. Sidney Fones, Chair, GNRC 5th Forum International Organizing Committee
  • Messages from H.E Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, President, Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Holy See; H.R.H. Prince El Hassan bin Talal, The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan; Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit, General Secretary, World Council of Churches
  • Opening Address from Panama’s President: Juan Carlos Varela


Second Plenary

Co-Chaired by: Prof. Anantanand Rambachan, Professor and Chair, Religion Department, Saint Olaf College, Council Member, Prayer and Action for Children, and Rabbi Diana Gerson; Program Director, New York Board of Rabbis

Keynote Addresses:

  • Ms. Marta Santos Pais, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence Against Children, United Nations, discussed state of Violence Against Children. Referenced report on
  • Children’s Representatives:
  • H.E. Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga, Archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras


Third Plenary

Session Moderator: Mr. Kul Gautam, Chair, Prayer and Action for Children, Former Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations

  • Introductory Remarks: Dr. Susan Bissell, Executive Director, Global Partnership and Fund to End Violence Against Children


  • Ms. Marita Perceval, Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)
  • Rev. Adam Russell Taylor, Lead, Faith-Based Initiative, World Bank Group
  • Dr. Kezevino Aram, Co-Moderator, Religions for Peace International, President,
  • Shanti Ashram, India, President, Interfaith Council on Ethics Education for Children
  • Rev. Hidehito Okochi, Chief Priest, Kenji-in Temple and Juko-in Temple, Japan, Board Member, Arigatou International
  • Children’s Representative (from the Children’s Pre-Forum Meeting)

Attendees then attended breakout working sessions by region (Latin America and Caribbean, Africa, Asia, Europe, Middle East)


Day 2
Fourth Plenary

Session Co-Chairs: Prof. Abdulghafur El Busaidy, Chairman, Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims, and Ms. Marie Dennis, Co-President, Pax Christi International

THEME 1: Protecting Children from Violent Extremism, Gang Violence and Organized Crime: The Role of Faith Communities

Keynote Address by Fr. Juan Luis Carbajal Tejeda, Executive Secretary, Pastoral de Movilidad Humana, Episcopal Conference of Guatemala, followed by a children’s representative’s remarks

THEME 2: Nurturing Spirituality and Ending Violence in Child Upbringing: The Role of Faith Communities

Keynote Address by H.G. Dr. Barry C. Morgan, former Archbishop of Wales

THEME 3: Ending Sexual Exploitation and Abuse of Children: The Role of Faith Communities

Keynote Address by Dr. Alaa Murabit, UN High-level Commissioner on Health, Employment and Economic Growth, followed by a children’s representative’s remarks


Parallel Sessions by Theme

Protecting Children from Violent Extremism, Gang Violence and Organized Crime: The Role of Faith Communities

  • Moderators: Dr. Esmeralda Arosemena de Troitiño, Commissioner of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and Imam Dr. Rashied Omar, Research Scholar of Islamic Studies and Peace Building, University of Notre Dame, Coordinating Imam, Claremont Main Road Mosque, Cape Town, South Africa
  • PANELISTS: Mr. Antti Pentikäinen, Executive Director, Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers (NRTP), Dr. Amr Abdalla, Senior Advisor on the Reform of Education in Muslim Societies Project, International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT), Washington, D.C. Dr. William Vendley, Secretary General, Religions for Peace International Dr. Mohamed Elsanousi, Director, Network of Religious and Traditional Peacemakers (NRTP) Children’s Representative (from the Children’s Pre-Forum Meeting) Ms. Janet Arach, GNRC Member, Uganda, Youth Representative

Nurturing Spirituality and Ending Violence in Child Upbringing: The Role of Faith Communities

  • Moderators: Dr. Nelson Arns Neumann, Coordinator, Pastoral da Criança, and Rev. Dr. Nicta Lubaale, General Secretary, Organization of African Instituted Churches (OAIC)
  • PANELISTS: Ms. Georgina de Villalta, Global Movement for Children in Latin America and the Caribbean Prof. Harold Segura, Regional Director of Church Relations and Christian Identity for Latin America and the Caribbean, World Vision International Ms. Rosalina Tuyuc Velásquez, President of CONAVIGUA, Member, Continental Network of Indigenous Women of Americas, Guatemala Children’s Representative (from the Children’s Pre-Forum Meeting) Mrs. Sheran Harper, Worldwide Trustee, Mothers Union, Trainer, Worldwide Parenting Programme

Ending Sexual Exploitation and Abuse of Children: The Role of Faith Communities

  • Moderators: Ms. Silvia Mazzarelli, Regional Head of Policy and Programming, Plan International, and Ms. Bani Dugal, Representative to the United Nations, Baha’i International Community, United States
  • PANELISTS: Ms. Dorothy Rozga, Executive Director, ECPAT International Sr. Denisse Pichardo, O.P, Dominican Order of the Altagracia Children’s Representative (from the Children’s Pre-Forum Meeting) Ms. Corina Villacorta, Regional Director, Plan International Americas Mr. Christo Greyling, Senior Director, Faith – Advocacy and External Engagement, World Vision International


Fifth Plenary

ALL FOR CHILDREN: Working with Faith Communities and Partners to End Violence Against Children through Arigatou International’s Initiatives


  • Global Network of Religions for Children (GNRC): Dr. Mustafa Y. Ali, Secretary General, GNRC, Director, Arigatou International – Nairobi, and Dr. Dorcas Kiplagat, GNRC Network and Programs Coordinator Ethics Education for Children: Ms. Maria Lucia Uribe, Secretary General, Ethics Education for Children, Director, Arigatou International – Geneva Prayer and Action for Children: Ms. Rebeca Rios-Kohn, Director, Prayer and Action for Children, Director, Arigatou International – New York Interfaith Initiative to End Child Poverty (End Child Poverty): Rev. Fredrick O. Nyabera, Director, End Child Poverty, Arigatou International – Nairobi


Day 3
Parallel Sessions by Theme

“The Nexus Between Child Poverty and Violence Against Children”

Facilitators: Rev. Adam Russell Taylor, Lead, Faith-Based Initiative, World Bank Group, and Rev. Fredrick O. Nyabera, Director, End Child Poverty, Arigatou International – Nairobi

“The Role of Ethics Education in Strengthening Families and Nurturing Spirituality in Children”

Facilitators: Dr. Kezevino Aram, Co-Moderator, Religions for Peace International, President, Shanti Ashram, India, President, Interfaith Council on Ethics Education for Children, and Ms. Maria Lucia Uribe, Secretary General, Ethics Education for Children, Director, Arigatou International – Geneva

“Combatting Online Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse of Children”

Facilitators: Rabbi Diana Gerson, Program Director, New York Board of Rabbis, and Ms. Rebeca Rios-Kohn, Director, Prayer and Action for Children, Director, Arigatou International – New York

The Sixth Plenary included reading the consensus statement of GNRC Network, commitment from GNRC to see the statement through and a call to action for others to join.


Seventh Plenary: Closing Ceremony

Session Co-Chairs: H. L. Bishop Dr. Method Kilaini, Bishop of Bukoba Diocese, Bukoba, Tanzania, and Ms. Rosalina Tuyuc Velásquez, President of CONAVIGUA, Member, Continental Network of Indigenous Women of Americas, Guatemala

  • Sheikh Mohamed Sohaib Al-Chami, the Grand Imam of Aleppo, Syria
  • Dr. Agnes Abuom, Moderator, Central Committee, World Council of Churches
  • Dr. Alaa Murabit, UN High-level Commissioner on Health, Employment and Economic Growth
  • Children’s Presentation
  • Reading of GNRC 5th Forum Declaration, Rev. Mons. Sidney Fones
  • H.G. Archbishop Felix Machado, Archbishop of Vasai, India

The conference ended with an interfaith prayer celebrating all the faith traditions in attendance.



JLI is excited to highlight a new four-year research collaboration led by Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh (JLI Refugees & Forced Migration Co-Chair), with Prof. Alastair Ager of Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh and Columbia University (Co-I), Dr. Anna Rowlands of Durham University (Co-I) and Prof. Lyndsey Stonebridge of University of East Anglia (Co-I). This interdisciplinary and participatory research project is supported by a Large PaCCS Grant (£800,000) awarded by the AHRC-ESRC through the Global Challenges Research Fund.

The team is focusing on local communities and refugees in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. Their goal is to improve understanding of the challenges and opportunities that arise in local responses to displacement, both for refugees from Syria and for the members of the communities that are hosting them in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.

JLI’s Refugees & Forced Migration Hub will be partnering on this project throughout the collaboration.

For more information

Please see their website updated regularly with new information, blog posts, photography galleries, and follow project updates on Twitter @RefugeeHosts

Also, Refugee Hosts moderates a blog series on Faith and Displacement and is welcoming submissions on that theme between now and July 2017.

Guest Posts from JLI affiliated members

Conference on International Humanitarian Action between the East and the West

Co-hosted by Eid Charity and 11 other Islamic Charities

March 26 and 27, Doha, Qatar

Conference Agenda

The conference aimed to strengthen cooperation, build partnerships in the field and fund joint projects in the field of humanitarian action and peacebuilding, between organisations of different backgrounds and world views.


  1. Cooperation in the humanitarian field: challenges and opportunities
  2. The war on terror and international designations: impact on humanitarian cooperation
  3. Humanitarian cooperation: past/ongoing experiences and future perspectives
  4. Launch the “Geneva Platform for the Work of Goodness”

Jean Duff represented JLI and gave a presentation on Engaging Local Religious Networks in Humanitarian Response during Session 5: Cooperation in the humanitarian field: past/ongoing experiences and future perspectives. This presentation draws on the work of JLI Learning Hubs. Please see here for the presentation and JLI Sources Handout.


JLI Advisory Group member Azza Karam, UNFPA spoke on “Beyond the war on terror and East West divide: Building practical bridges.”

Final Recommendations: The communiqué from the conference

At the end of the conference, the Cordoba Foundation launched the Geneva Platform for the Work of Goodness (Concept Note Link).

The GHR Foundation is partnering with OpenIDEO, an open innovation platform, to conduct the BridgeBuilder Challenge. The BridgeBuilder Challenge leverages the universal call from Pope Francis to ‘build bridges’ addressing the pressing and emergent concerns of our time in the areas of peace, prosperity and planet.

The top ideas selected from the challenge will receive a total of $1 million in funding (up to $500,00o for one organization), in addition to support provided by experts. All participants will benefit from the platform’s collaborative improvement process and opportunities for connection to new partners and potential funders.

For more information please see the OpenIDEO brief

Currently reviewing 100 great ideas

Princeton’s Seeking Refuge Conference Recap

Link to video sessions on Princeton Website

Friday, March 3rd

JLI Refugees & Forced Migration Hub met on Friday following the plenary panel of the conference. Stacy Nam, Knowledge Manager for JLI and Joey Ager led a discussion of the hub’s progress and scoping study More information here


Plenary Panel
Who is a Refugee and Therefore Who Am I?

Opening Panel included Andrea Bartoli, Community of Sant’Egidio (Moderator), Joel Charny, Norwegian Refugee Council-USAReverend Seth Kaper-Dale, Reformed Church of Highland Park, Dan-el Padilla Peralta, Princeton UniversitySana Mustafa (Respondent)

Panelists reflected on personal stories of migration and how very recently most people who live in the US can trace back a story of migration in their own family.


Saturday, March 4th Speakers & Sessions

Roundtable Session 1 (full list of speakers)


Roundtable Session 2

  • Health, Mental Health, and Migration
  • Refugee Resettlement: From Global to Local
  • The Media and Migration: A Workshop
  • What is the Just University? Responding to Forced Migration
  • Creating Sanctuary Space: A Workshop
  • Refugee Work as Vocation
  • How Do We Operationalize Our Faith?
  • Refugees and Resistance
  • Children, Religion, and Refugees
  • Women Refugees: Conversation and Action (with JLI Board Member Katherine Marshall)


Closing Panel:

Once a Refugee, Always a Refugee?

Faith-Based Responses in Refugee Welcoming and Assimilation

Katherine Marshall, Georgetown University (Moderator)

Claudio Betti, Community of Sant’Egidio 
Ashley Feasley, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Sarah Sayeed, New York City Mayor’s Community Affairs Unit
Mamadou Sy, Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area


Roundtable Session reports from Princeton

Baden-Württemberg minister-president, Winfried Kretschmann, has expressed gratitude to the churches for putting Christian service and neighbourly love into practice, and not only at Sunday sermons.

The German state’s governor Kretschmann gave his message in a meeting with the general secretary of the World Council of Churches, Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, in Stuttgart last Thursday.

Kretschmann said the “readiness to help that swept through the country like a wave” since last year in a region with strong civic engagement, was “the most impressive experience of my presidency.”

Tveit’s host Bishop Dr Jochen Cornelius-Bundschuh of the Evangelical Church in Baden affirmed that the refugee work is supported from the grassroots of the church and throughout all levels of leadership.

At a refugees’ reception centre in Heidelberg’s former military barracks at Patrick Henry Village, Tveit saw a collaborative system working to ensure humanitarian standards and minimized tensions.

The centre now houses up to 2,000 people at any one time, many of whom are traumatized and coming from a broad range of backgrounds. Different authorities collaborate to accelerate decisions on who is granted asylum. The aim is for those allowed to stay in Germany to move into decentralized, longer-term accommodation after two weeks.

Pressure on officers

Quick integration of refugees is a good idea, say church representatives in the reception centre providing independent counselling for refugees. However, the pressure on officers to decide quickly restricts fair consideration for individual life stories, and leaves little time for the independent counsellors to reach the refugees and build up trust.

In Germany, cooperation between the State and the churches has a long tradition, with diaconal agencies providing government-financed social services. Refugees, even those who belong to different faiths, appreciate independent counselling by Protestant and Roman Catholic agencies. However, when counsellors help refugees claim their right to protection, they can be viewed sometimes as an irritant, as well as a support by State officials.

In the reception centre, besides counselling, the churches coordinate volunteers’ work such as language classes, and offer pastoral care to refugees and staff at the centre. “It’s wonderful that we’re now an ecumenical and even an interfaith pastoral care team,” says Rev. Sigrid Zweygart-Pérez.

Caring for the children who usually accompany their parents everywhere at the centre, whether for medical check-ups or to seek counsel for traumatic experiences, is important for both professionals and volunteers.

Diaconal street workers connect with shuttle busses to the city to facilitate orientation and stem insecurity feelings in the local population.

Martin Heß, managing director of Heidelberg’s Protestant diaconal agency, told Tveit: “As church, we are proud of the work we do and glad that you take an interest in it.”

And Tveit responded: “As a worldwide church fellowship we are also proud of the work you do.”

Accompaniment at the local level

The following day at a local parish, the Evangelical Church in Baden further showed how it accompanies and integrates refugees.

At the drop-in and encounter centre “K26” in Ettlingen, secular authorities, churches and other civil society initiatives work hand in hand.

The centre brings together locals and refugees as well as other potentially marginalized groups, such as people with disabilities, or the elderly.

The largest initiative, with some 100 active members and a wider network of 400, started at a Protestant parish welcome evening. Long hosted in the Catholic parish centre, it involves both Christians and non-Christians.

Henrike Ochs, from a Protestant parish, looks after the K26 professionally on behalf of the secular authorities now. As a trained nurse, she first voluntarily accompanied refugees through the pastor, looking after a sick child.

Now Ochs aims to enable refugees to become active community members, as did a former school director from Syria who runs an eight-week introductory course in Arabic language and culture for 40 participants.

The Protestant parish prides itself for renting to local authorities the living space for several refugee families in a centrally located house, much below market rates.

“The flats are small,” explained pastor Andreas Heitmann-Kühlewein, “but the location right next to the kindergarten, and being looked after by the congregation make this a very good place for refugees.”

Skeptical about refugees

Initially, the neighbours appeared skeptical about having a refugees’ home in their street.

“A party that we organized in the kindergarten courtyard with many of our volunteers, and invitations going out to all the neighbours, helped to change the mood,” recalled the pastor.

Meeting Ettlingen parish members, Tveit and Cornelius-Bundschuh heard that the congregation feels enriched by the refugees.

Retired pastor Gernot Spelsberg, a volunteer offering baptism classes for those interested in a conversion to Christianity, too, feels he gains spiritually through the courses.

The congregation includes some 30 Iranian-born recent converts. Two of them have leadership roles as members of the parish council of elders and the Evangelical Church in Baden’s synod.

The WCC Central Committee’s Rev. Anne Heitmann, who also belongs to the Ettlingen parish, and noted, “Each such baptism deeply impresses the congregation and encourages also our confirmation class students and their parents to discover anew the treasure of faith.”

The church district’s refugee project leader, Andrea Baisch-Herrmann, said that “thanks to the refugees many hidden issues of social needs in the neighbourhoods have surfaced and thanks to them, our work for society has become more visible again.”

General secretary Tveit said there is much to be done, but there are many people doing what they can, aware that their cooperation helps everyone.

WCC member churches in Germany

WCC work on Migration and social justice

Press release of the Evangelical Church in Baden about Tveit’s visit