There is a growing awareness of the importance that faith and belief systems play in the lives of refugees, displaced persons and those affected by humanitarian crises in general. This was clearly articulated in the UNHCR High Commissioner’s Dialogue on Faith and Protection in 2012 and in “Welcoming the Stranger: Affirmations of Faith Leaders’ the following year.
There is also an emerging policy agenda that is promoting localisation of humanitarian aid, including partnership with local faith communities, faith leaders and faith-based organisations.
However, providing psychosocial support for those caught up in humanitarian crises which takes account of religious and spiritual needs is not without its challenges. Standard considerations in psychosocial programming under the banner of ‘culture’ may not reach into the religious and spiritual complexities of the lived reality of people facing extreme adversity. This desk review indeed identifies comparatively few studies and reports that provide accounts of sustained faith-sensitive engagement addressing individual and collective needs for meaning-making and reflecting participation at the level of coordination and assessment and human resources.
As part of our ongoing partnership together, Islamic Relief Worldwide and Lutheran World Federation began to work in 2016 on the development of guidelines for faith- sensitive psychosocial programming. From the onset, we were clear that the guidelines should be inclusive to all humanitarian actors, assisting both secular and faith-based organisations in the course of their work in the field. We used the term ‘faith-sensitive’ to bring the focus of the guidelines on the faith of the people affected by conflict, disaster and displacement, rather than on the faith allegiance (or non- faith allegiance) of humanitarian organisations and agencies