New York, 2-3 February 2017

Religions for Peace (RfP) Co-Presidents, Honorary Presidents, and International Trustees convened with international leaders at the Vatican for the second meeting of Ethics in Action initiative.

This meeting was on the important topic of peace, especially in the context of how the world’s religious communities can help guide the world back from the brink and reality of war and toward a vision of positive peace rooted in the unbreakable link between unfolding human dignity and advancing shared well-being. See the statement here.

Topics included: Positive Peace and its Pillars, Challenges to Peace, Role of Religions, Role of Ethics in Action, Advocacy and Engagement

Full report on the Ethics in Action meeting here

 

By Andrea Arzaba

CADENA is a Jewish non-profit originally based in Mexico. Benjamin Laniado, President and Founder of Cadena is on the Board of Directors for the Joint Learning Initiative on Faith & Local Communities (JLI). Cadena works to reduce the impact of natural disasters in vulnerable communities. The organization has been so successful, that it is expanding to more than seven countries.

Tania Charabati. Picture taken from www.cadena.ngo

Tania Charabati. Picture taken from www.cadena.ngo

Tania Charabati from Mexico City serves as the Director of Cadena. In the following interview, Tania shares the challenges and successes of working for a faith based organization in one of the busiest, biggest and most culturally diverse metropolises in Latin America.

How did you become involved with the organization?
Tania: It was all luck or destiny. After I graduated from college, my family in Mexico City received a woman from Israel, who was going to volunteer the in southern Mexican state of Oaxaca, where Cadena has a project. After graduating, I had some free time, and I decided to volunteer with her as well. That trip changed my life. I was expecting to stay only three months. Right when I finished, they offered me employment and I decided to take it. When I started working there, there were only four people. Today we have twelve and we are growing.

How did CADENA start? What is Cadena’s current mission?

Tania: We are a Jewish organization. Cadena was born 10 years ago, as a result of the hurricane Stan, which affected the state of Chiapas. Five friends from Mexico City wanted to not only send food via the Red Cross, but they wanted to go themselves, and give the food and products to the people that needed them the most. They decided to take the risk, and go to Chiapas. When they arrived, they saw that the most needed people did not always get what they needed. And these friends were able to distribute what we send from hand to hand. Still today, that is our driving force- to work with the most vulnerable communities without intermediaries.

Cadena currently works with three areas: disaster prevention, education and resilience. With disaster prevention, we react effectively when there are disasters. We have a team of volunteers that go all around Mexico, and the world, to make an assessment of what happened during the disaster. At our office in Mexico City, we gather all of the products that might be needed, and volunteers take them to the disaster zone directly. In the area of education, we work with various projects that include summer camps for elementary school children, high school volunteer committees, and natural disasters and innovation contests. Finally, with our resilience pillar, we have a sustainable house in Oaxaca, where volunteers from all around the world come to help the community become more resilient.

How has the Jewish faith shaped the organization’s path?

We work under the Jewish principle called Tikún olam, which literally means “to repair the world”. We know that we came to make the world a better place, and to extend our hand to those who need it the most. Working with our faith makes me think that our work is purer in a sense. Also, we find it easy to share similar values, and to ally with organizations that have different faiths. For example, we often work with Operación Bendición (Blessing Operation), a Christian organization. When we work with other religions, is easy to find common goals. We have also worked with Anahuac University, a Catholic institution. We received an award from them. We become stronger when we work with other faiths. We love to cooperate.

I would like to add that the Jewish community supports us, and we really value that and we would like to put the name of the community in a good place.

What makes CADENA different from other organizations?

Tania: Cadena is unique because it is very efficient. We do not have bureaucracy and we are very positive. We Another aspect that makes us different is that we are a transparent organization, we do not have any hidden agenda, what moves us is to help our country and our world. Bigger organizations might lose our community sense, and we always have it with us. Also, our volunteers make us unique because they are very brave. They are our champions. Finally, we do not only bring food or certain products. We always give extra support. We bring psychologists, and other professionals with us. We also bring smiles and warm hearts. And we always try to help to reactivate the economy in the communities that have been affected by the natural disasters we work with.

What is Cadena’s biggest challenge today?
Tania: We are expanding on an international level. We have an office in Guatemala, and various in the USA. We are about to open a couple of offices in Panama, Chile, Argentina, and Israel. We have always been a small organization, very empirical and community based. We work here in the office and we always reach our goals and commitments. As Cadena grows, we would not want it to be less community based. We want to avoid being bureaucratic. We have to be careful with that.

What is Cadena’s biggest success?
Tania: It is difficult to choose only one. Everything makes me feel very proud. If I have to choose, then I would say that it is our rescue team- they went to Nepal and they saved one life. They went to Ecuador, and helped many people as well. I believe that all of the training, travelling, resources, time, volunteers, and energy spent, is worthwhile once you are able to help at least one person. When you save one life, you feel very satisfied.

What was Cadena’s experience at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul?
Tania: This was very inspiring. Before attending the summit, we organized an ecumenical event here in Mexico. We invited representatives from 16 religions, and we had a dialogue of what actions to take to ally with humanitarian aid and emergency issues. In Turkey, my colleague Benjamin presented the outcomes and recommendations that came out from that dialogue. We were very proud of Benjamin, and of the organization, to represent the Jewish community in the WHS. Benjamin learned a lot of things at the conference and he shared them with us. We also got very useful contacts that we will be working with now that we become more international.

*** The interview was edited for length purposes.

Cadena’s JLI profile: https://jliflc.com/organizations/cadena/

The success of ISIS’ recruiting efforts has become a major challenge for the international community. ISIS has been systematically misrepresenting religious doctrines and manipulating political grievances as tactics to legitimize violence and attract new recruits. Violent Salafi groups have employed advanced social media strategies to recruit youth for their activities. U.S. security organizations estimate that 30,000 citizens from 100 countries have joined ISIS in Syria and Iraq, including more than 3,000 Europeans and 100 Americans. Government officials are concerned what these individuals might do upon returning to their native countries and are seeking out policies and ways to counter this phenomenon.

Read more

As long as Syria and Iraq remain failed states, violent Salafi groups, such as ISIS, will take advantage of the chaos and power vacuum to flourish in both countries. These crises are highly dependent on one another and are deeply interconnected. There is a general consensus among a broad spectrum of Syrian interlocutors that any peace process to end the Syrian war must address the rise of violent Islamist groups and take ownership of the theological discourse.

To diminish this trend, radicalization of these youth must be understood fully, paying special attention to not only the political and religious appeals that provide the foundation for the discourse used by ISIS recruiters, but also how ISIS’ various branding efforts have been employed to influence public opinion. The role of religion cannot be overstated in response to the danger posed by ISIS, especially in light of this group’s routine use of religion as the foundational strategy in its recruitment campaign. As such, it is more important to engage religious actors from the outset in the process of identifying the problems and solutions, and to recognize the particular role that they can play in providing psycho-social support to those vulnerable to recruitment.

About the Project

In this context, The Carter Center is undertaking a new initiative that aims to understand violent Salafi groups’ recruitment strategies, specifically ISIS, by working with Muslim leaders, including clerics, chaplains, and scholars. The project aims to identify the flaws in violent Salafi groups’ narratives and to develop counter messaging strategies to discredit their rhetoric and address the rise of Islamophobia. The project has been designed to address six specific problems:

  • the increasing use of new media for extremist propaganda purposes
  • the information gap on ISIS recruitment strategies
  • the lack of technical capacity and new media resources of religious leaders to discredit ISIS ideology
  • flaws of existing government measures to address radicalization. Addressing these problems requires partnership with religious actors who hold unique positions of authority, credibility, and ties with the local communities
  • women’s role in prevention and recruitment
  • return, reintegration and rehabilitation

Addressing these problems requires partnership with religious and community actors who hold unique positions of authority, credibility, and ties with local communities. The Carter Center is collaborating with media training institutions in Europe, U.S., Middle East and North Africa. Also the Carter Center is pursuing key partnerships with religious local leaders to identify the flaws in and counterarguments to ISIS narratives. The Carter Center will make available the counter narratives and local initiatives to governments, civil society and clerics. This twin approach will have an impact on the dangerous tide of Islamophobia that countries have been experiencing due to governmental policies that narrowly address the issue of violent extremism.

Keeping Faith in 2030: Religions and the Sustainable Development Goals

Network convenors 

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.

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

Background

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: http://lists.leeds.ac.uk/mailman/options/religions-and-development/e.tomalin%40leeds.ac.uk
 

February 7-8

WCC-WEA, INERELA, UNAIDS meeting

Faith on the Fast Track: Eliminating Stigma and Discrimination Through Love and Dialogue

More than 120 religious and spiritual leaders, health workers and young people met to focus on strengthening the fight against stigma in the HIV response in Kenya.  Representatives from the Kenyan government, civil society organizations, networks of people living with HIV, and development partners for an event in Nairobi also joined.

The meeting aimed to assess the impact of the Framework for Dialogue methodology which has been implemented in several countries since 2013. The event was organized by the International Network of Religious Leaders Living with or Personally Affected by HIV Kenya (INERELA+ Kenya) and the World Council of Churches – Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance (WCC-EAA), with the support of United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), among others.

For more information go to the WCC website

Religious leaders and HIV testing

WCC-EAA Live the Promise Campaign

Forum “Sins Before Our Eyes” on Modern Slavery, co-organized by the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Church of England in Istanbul from February 6-7, 2017.

The aim of the gathering was to bring together distinguished scholars, practitioners, and policymakers from around the world to discuss modern slavery and emphasize the protection of human dignity and freedom as of vital importance for the Church as well as worldwide religious and human-rights communities.

Read more at WCC and Anglican Alliance

Modern Slavery – A Joint Declaration

Archbishop of Canterbury’s speech at Istanbul forum on modern slavery

Read about JLI’s partner Anglican Alliance is responding to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals in their new post.

Highlights:

How Anglican Alliance is addressing to Goal 2: ending hunger, improving nutrition and promoting sustainable agriculture.

World Food Programme’s initiatives

Last week, Revd Rachel Carnegie, Co-Executive Director of the Anglican Alliance, attended a World Food Programme (WFP) event in London which highlighted the key steps to achieve SDG 2.

The World Food Programme has identified 5 key interventions or steps to Zero Hunger:.

Step 1: Put the furthest behind first – we must commit to leave no-one behind.

Step 2:  Pave the road from farm to market – access to affordable, nutritious food is vital.

Step 3: Reduce the amount of food we waste from our plate and after harvest.

Step 4: Encourage a sustainable variety of crops – address over-dependence on a few staples.

Step 5:  Make nutrition a priority – ensure every child reaches his or her full potential.

Rachel Carnegie, from the Anglican Alliance, said: “The goal to end hunger by 2030 is achievable, but it will take the commitment of all, to share what we have and to bring the best learning and practices to create a just and sustainable food system globally. Please pray for all those that hunger today, that they shall be filled – and that the world shall achieve zero hunger.”

Please send your examples of activities, photos, theological reflections and Bible studies on the Sustainable Development Goals to the Anglican Alliance so these can be shared with others in the Communion – at [email protected]

WFP are using the hashtag: #HealthyNotHungry which you can also use to engage in the global movement and share your examples. You can also link to the Anglican Alliance’s Twitter handle @AngliAlliance

Full article on Anglican Alliance’s website

The Role of Religion and Faith-Based Organizations in International Affairs

Just, Inclusive and Sustainable Peace

On Monday, 23 January 2017 at the United Nations Secretariat the General Board of Church and Society of The United Methodist Church, General Conference of Seventh-Day Adventists and the World Council of Churches (WCC) organized the third annual Symposium.

The United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect, United Nations Inter-Agency Task Force for Engagement with Faith-based Organizations and The Committee of Religious NGOs at the United Nations co-sponsored the event.

Panel on Current Status of Peace: Philippines and Colombia-Panelists included Dr. Miguel Ceballos Arévalo (left) and Monsignor Hector Fabio Henao and Secretary Jesus Dureza (right)

News article from WCC

Full Symposium Program

Full video of the symposium

 

Morning Session Summary-Anatomy and Scope of Peace Panel and Religions and Peace Panel

Mr. Rudelmar de Faria opened the morning session. Mr. Adama Dieng also gave a welcome message by video, quoting Secretary General Gutteres that conflict prevention is not a priority but the priority in managing conflict and sustaining peace. He emphasized better integration, provide support, need to work with FBOs and announced the Plan of Action on the role of religious leaders and actions in prevention of atrocities and violence will be released this year.

Rev. Dr. Susan Henry-Crowe followed speaking on how the bible makes justice the inseparable companion of peace and discussed the interrelatedness of the values woven into the UN pillars.

Anatomy and Scope of Peace Panel

Moderated by Dr Azza Karam, Senior Advisor on Culture, UNFPA and Coordinator, UN Inter-Agency Task Force for Engagement with Faith-based Organizations

Dr. Ganoune Diop spoke on a global vision of peace as an enduring value. He spoke about deconstructing nationalist ideologies, need for partnership and collaboration for peace.

H.E. Mr. Pekka Metso said that we could not deny the role of religion in shaping the world of foreign policy. He emphasized the need for mediation mentioning the Group of Friends of Mediation and that women were the single under-utilized resource in effective peacebuilding.

Ms. Joyce S. Dubensky introduced the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding highlighting the Peacemakers in Action Network.

 

Religions and Peace Panel

Moderated by Dr Azza Karam

Mr. Akinremi Bolaji spoke on the reconciliatory role of religious organizations.

Ms. Aisha H.L. al-Adawiya discussed the transmission of trauma and healing and emphasized the need to change vocabulary and media framing of words so as not to create marginalized people.

Mr. Mohamed Elsanousi emphasized four key issues for engaging religious actors- ownership of process, partnership, inclusivity and patience in the process.

Prof. Mohammed Abu-Nimer introduced the KAICIID Centre programs including religious literacy training. He gave two key challenges on working with religious institutions as how do we immunize the public to prevent easy manipulation of religion and how do we bring constructive voices of religion into policy.

Mr. Ulrich Nitschke presented on the International Partnership on Religion & Sustainable Development (PaRD) and its work streams.

Afternoon Session- Just and Sustainable Peace and Panel on Current Status of Peace: Philippines and Colombia

Moderated by Rev. Liberato Bautista, Assistant General Secretary–UN and International Affairs & Main UN Representative, General Board of Church and Society of The United Methodist Church, and President, Committee of Religious NGOs at the United Nations

Mr. Thomas Gass spoke on the SDGs as a framework for peace, duty bearers, rights holders, who we leave behind, reducing inequality and inclusivity.

Mr. Andrew Tomlinson discussed accompaniment, especially locally and a guidebook on Pathfinders for Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies based on the SDGs.

Mr. Rudelmar Bueno de Faria gave a presentation on the WCC’s Ecumenical Framework for Peace (click link for presentation).

Dr. Jeffrey Haynes presented the political considerations in peace and the role of FBOs (click link for presentation).

Panel on Current Status of Peace: Philippines and Colombia

Moderated by Rev. Liberato Bautista who remarked that at the table of Peace shall be bread and justice.

Secretary Jesus Dureza and Rev. Rex R.B. Reyes, Jr. introduced a case study on the Philippines peace process.

Dr. Miguel Ceballos Arévalo and Monsignor Hector Fabio Henao presented a case study from Colombia.

H.E. Geir O. Pedersen discussed the Norwegian role in facilitating peace processes.

 

Tearfund recently launched a report, Bridging the Gap: The Role of Local Churches in Fostering Local-Level Social Accountability and Governance

The report forms part of a suite of resources that Tearfund produced to help demonstrate the impact of their Church and Community Mobilisation (CCM) advocacy work, which can be found on Tearfund’s International Learning Zone (TILZ) page.

These resources include:

National Council of Churches Philippines Peace Statement in support of the formal Peace talks

18 January, 2017

(from NCCP website)

To view statement see here

The National Council of Churches in the Philippines or NCCP celebrates the 3rd round of formal peace negotiation between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines this month. We are edified that this third round is taking place in Rome within the octave of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

We will pray especially for the successful negotiations as we always uphold the peace talks in our prayers. We will pray that the men and women directly taking part in the process will take to heart the urgency and importance of the agenda on the table, mainly the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms or CASER. We recognize that the peace negotiation is a political process. Our enduring concern for peace and justice bid us to support and pray for its success. Our fervent prayer is for the resolution of the economic injustice that has bred the social unrest for a long time. We hold on to the long awaited political reforms, as well. We owe this much to the generations after us. Meanwhile, we press the government to honor agreements and release all political prisoners.

As we urge our constituency to be unceasing in prayer for peace so do we exhort the members of the negotiating panels to be resolute in resolving the strife that has been going on for almost half a century. We thank the Royal Norwegian Government for its crucial role as Third Party Facilitator.

It is time to let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an everlasting stream. (Amos 5:24)

JUSTICE RAOUL V. VICTORINO (Ret.) REV. SHARON ROSE JOY RUIZ-DUREMDES
Chairperson Vice Chairperson

BISHOP RODOLFO A. JUAN MS. LISSA BELLE R. BROWN
Vice Chairperson Vice Chairperson

MR. REYNALDO M. NATIVIDAD REV. REX RB REYES, JR.
Corporate Treasurer General Secretary