Joint Learning Initiative on Faith and Local Communities (JLI), UNICEF and Religions for Peace (RfP), has released a series of guidance documents to advise religious leaders and faith communities on how to address challenges brought about by COVID-19.
“UNICEF has a long history of working with faith-based organizations and faith leaders to advance the cause of children and families,” said Dr. Kerida McDonald, UNICEF Senior Advisor for Communication for Development. “With the pandemic, this partnership has become even more critical. COVID-19 is a child rights crisis and we all need to work together to reimagine a better and safer world for every child.”
The pandemic has impacted mass gatherings associated with religious celebrations and worship as well as practices around burials, communion, kissing of religious objects and other common religious rituals, which can pose significant public health risks.
The guidance seeks to provide concrete direction for multi-religious action, building on existing local efforts and bringing together scientific and technical information alongside relevant religious teachings.
Three sets of guidance have been released so far:
- Adapting How We Gather Together, Pray and Practise Rituals: The guide puts forward specific guidelines for how religious leaders can interact, congregate, worship and perform religious rites, including death and mourning rituals while continuing to ensure the safety and well-being of their communities
- Communicating to End Misinformation, Discrimination and to Instil Hope: The document outlines some of key contributing factors and negative effects of misinformation, rumours, fear, hopelessness, stigma, and discrimination and guides religious leaders on how they can help tackle these challenges.
- Helping Those Who Are At Risk: People such as the elderly, homeless, migrants, people with disabilities, pregnant women, and children are at greater risk of complications and death due to COVID-19 and may be unable to practice the recommended preventive behaviours. The guide outlines the specific needs of these groups and suggestions for providing assistance and encouraging values of solidarity, community and hope.
“As countries move towards lifting lockdowns, the pandemic poses crippling secondary effects especially for households hardest hit by loss of income and resulting strains,” said Professor Azza Karam, Secretary General of RfP. “The Guides provide faith leaders with advice on helping communities to deal with some of these effects.”
The guidance documents have been designed for local adaptation and use by religious leaders, faith communities, and faith-based organisations at national and community levels. Their release is part of the Multi-Religious Faith-in-Action COVID-19 Initiative launched in April 2020 to raise awareness of the impacts of this pandemic, including on the world’s youngest citizens.
Upcoming guidance documents will focus on preventing violence against women and children, promoting child and youth participation, and supporting the recovery of social services.
Note to the editors
UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. More than 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone. For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org.
About Multi-Religious Faith-in-Action COVID-19 Initiative
The joint initiative by UNICEF, JLI and RfP reflects the unique and critical roles played by religious leaders and actor, in influencing values, attitudes, behaviours and actions that affect the development and wellbeing of the world’s children. The Initiative will be coordinated by the global partnership on Faith and Positive Change for Children, Families and Communities, which involves Religions for Peace’s Interreligious Councils, including senior leaders of the world’s religious and spiritual traditions – Bahai, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Islamic, Jain, Jewish, Sikh, Zoroastrian and Indigenous spirituality. It also includes interfaith youth and women’s networks, in collaboration with the Joint Learning Initiative of Local Faith Communities (JLI) with its membership of International Faith-Based organizations, and calls upon all communities across the world, together with governments, UN entities, and broad civil society organisations to raise awareness of the impacts of this pandemic on the world’s youngest citizens.
The Global Multi-religious Faith In Action Initiative was formalized through a global statement and call to action by UNICEF’s Executive Director Henrietta Fore and the 13 senior religious leaders of Religions for Peace.
The Faith and Positive Change For Children, Families and Communities initiative aims to strengthen UNICEF’s partnership with Faith-Based Organizations in support of results for children globally.
FPCC is a result of close collaboration between UNICEF’s Communication for Development Section, Civil Society Partnerships section of the Division of Communication, along with main partner organizations.
In 2014 the UNICEF-Religions for Peace (RfP) initiated a comprehensive review of UNICEF’s global engagement with faith leaders, organizations. Areas of interest included the range and types of religious groups, categories of support and thematic focus areas of partnerships that UNICEF had formed during the previous five years.
The investigation of UNICEF programming in 149 countries, territories and areas revealed that Communication for Development (C4D)- related activities (sensitization, social mobilization and advocacy) represented 32%, 20% and 17% categories of support respectively. Altogether, C4D- related activities accounted for two-thirds of country level FBO-related activities. The mapping also identified religious leaders and institutions as the partners of preference for Country Offices. Communication for Development (C4D)- related activities.
C4D has since continued such documentation and research. In 2017 C4DHQ, along with the UNIEF Child Protection Section, worked with the African Union to produce an introductory guide on behaviour change. Individual country offices have also collaborated extensively, producing country-level documentation.
One particular project on the role of FBOs on addressing harmful social norms was used as part of training workshop material for a continent- workshop for religious leaders across Africa in combatting Child Marriage. Through such collaboration FBOs have received greater technical guidance on how to facilitate dialogue in support of social and behaviour change related to the priority areas of UNICEF’s work.
Religions for Peace (RfP) builds on a 50-year legacy of multi-religious engagement nuanced, informed and challenged by diverse and complex contexts at community, national, regional and global levels. Since its inception in 1970, RfP’s affiliated Interreligious Councils (IRCs)and their Women of Faith Networks and Inter-faith Youth Networks, have engaged in a wide range of social, political, economic and humanitarian issues. As such, RfP’s multi-religious vision and engagement are built on shared values derived from both religious tenets and faith-inspired praxis.
RfP is the only international multi-religious organisation with affiliated and legally registered multi-religious leadership platforms around the world. Membership within these 90 national and 6 regional IRCs is built on the principle of religious representatively, reflecting the fabric of religious demography on those levels. It is through these IRCs, built and strengthened over five decades of committed efforts and investment, that RfP advances comprehensive, holistic and sustainable peace.. For RfP, peace has always been more than the absence or war or violence. Indeed, the advancement of human dignity and shared well-being, in harmony with the earth, with and through representative religious institutions and faith leadership, is at the heart of RfP’s understanding and vision of peace.
To learn more, visit rfp.org
Founded in 2012, Joint Learning Initiative on Faith and Local Communities (JLI) Communities (JLI is an international collaboration on evidence for faith groups’ role and contributions to local community health and wellbeing and ending poverty. JLI works through Learning Hubs and Knowledge partnerships (such as with the Faith and Positive Change for Children Initiative ) providing an open access knowledge platform to equip policymakers and practitioners with the information they need to make evidence based decisions about whether and how to scale up engagement with local and global faith actors . JLI also serves as liaison with international and local FBOs. More than 700 stakeholders globally are members of Learning Hubs coming from policy, practitioner and academic sectors.
Find out more at jliflc.com