There is a growing interest within academic and policy circles surrounding the roles played by local faith communities (LFCs) and faith based organisations (FBOs) in responding to displacement.i This trend contrasts with some of the significant negative and secular assumptions that typically frame mainstream humanitarian engagements with faith groups.
For example, humanitarian responses to displacement have been critiqued for their reliance on secular frameworks that too often mistrust faith and religion, seeing them as a problem to be solved rather than as an opportunity to improve and enhance refugee protection.
These assumptions typically stem from a lack of effective knowledge about the ‘interface of governmental, intergovernmental and international non-governmental organizations with local faith communities in the course of humanitarian responses,’ii and they often emphasise the ‘traditionalist’ and ‘conservative’ nature of religion in contrast to the more ‘progressive’ social and political approach taken by humanitarian actors toward, for example, human rights and women’s rights.iii Understanding and exploring these assumptions is a key priority for the authors’ ongoing research into local community responses to and experiences of displacement from Syria in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. As part of our AHRC-ESRC funded Refugee Hosts (www.refugeehosts.org) research project, we have been investigating how faith both explicitly and implicitly informs the ways in which people displaced from Syria are hosted by local communities. Based on our research to date in Lebanon and Jordan, we argue that the role that faith plays in times of displacement is far more complicated than the secular assumptions highlighted above might suggest.
In particular, by approaching faith through a focus on everyday dynamics can we begin to identify the diverse faith-based values that inform the nature of assistance offered to refugees by local hosting communities. Similarly, becoming more attuned to these dynamics may also enable international humanitarian organisations to develop a better understanding of the challenges that exist at the local level, such as the proliferation of exclusionary or sectarian practices, whilst simultaneously reflecting on the theological and ethical traditions that in turn guide ‘secular’ humanitarian work.
This article originally appeared on Refugee Hosts.