This targeted resource brief provides a selection of works published by academics, NGOs, and faith actors (FAs) on the role that faith plays in contexts of forced displacement. The resources are grouped into the three main areas in need of support as outlined by the Global Compact on Refugees.
Within each area, subheadings and keywords are meant to facilitate access to resources on specific topics. This resources brief supports the Joint Learning Initiative on Faith and Local Communities’ accompanying policy brief on faith actors and the implementation of the Global Compact on Refugees.
To maximize the significant opportunities presented by the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR), the international community must recognize the experience and capabilities of faith actors (FAs) and break down existing barriers to partnerships to enable a more comprehensive, effective, and durable response.
While the GCR does acknowledge that: “Faith-based actors could support the planning and delivery of arrangements to assist refugees and host communities, including in the areas of conflict prevention, reconciliation, and peacebuilding, as well as other relevant areas,” the critical and comprehensive role that FAs play – as well as their potential for efficient service delivery – warrants a fuller and more nuanced examination.
This policy brief provides a set of recommendations based on evidence concerning the multiple roles that faith and faith actors play across different stages and spaces of forced displacement. The brief is aligned with the GCR’s sections on Arrangements for Burden- and Responsibility-sharing and its three Areas in Need of Support (Reception and Admission, Meeting Needs and Supporting Communities, and Solutions)
The predicament of refugees is a common concern of humankind. Refugee situations have increased in scope, scale and complexity and refugees require protection, assistance and solutions. Millions of refugees live in protracted situations, often in low- and middle income countries facing their own economic and development challenges, and the average length of stay has continued to grow. Despite the tremendous generosity of host countries and donors, including unprecedented levels of humanitarian funding, the gap between needs and humanitarian funding has also widened. There is an urgent need for more equitable sharing of the burden and responsibility for hosting and supporting the world’s refugees, while taking account of existing contributions and the differing capacities and resources among States. Refugees and host communities should not be left behind.
As faith-based organizations working with refugee communities across the globe, ACT Alliance, Catholic Relief Services, Jesuit Refugee Service/USA and Islamic Relief recognize the important role that the GCR can play in building the political will to address the needs of refugees and improving current response mechanisms that can no longer support these needs. We are particularly interested in ensuring that the GCR is fully implemented, funded and monitored as it has the potential to mobilize greater action and transform the lives of refugees and host communities.
This booklet from Jesuit Refugee Service presents teaching, reflections and guidance of Pope Francis regarding migrants and refugees. It contains a Message from Pope Francis and twenty action priorities in two versions. One is meant for active
pastoral engagement with migrants and refugees. The other expanded presentation is for use in advocacy and negotiation with national governments to influence the Global Compacts on Migrants and on Refugees currently being developed.
• Daniel Endres, Director of the Division of Resilience and Solutions UNHCR
• Ojot Ojulu, Assistant General Secretary, Lutheran World Federation (LWF)
• Alastair Ager, Director, Institute for Global Health and Development, Queen Margaret University
• Ann Reggie Jaj, Islamic Relief Kenya
• Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, University College London, Joint Learning Initiative on Faith & Local Communities (JLI), Refugee Hub co-chair
Moderator: Michael French, LWF
The vast majority of people lay claim to some form of faith or religion, and they do not leave it behind in a humanitarian crisis. Taking people’s faith identity seriously in shaping humanitarian response is simply part of a people-centered approach.
How do we address this without threatening humanitarian principles of impartiality and neutrality ?
How can humanitarians (regardless of faith, ideology, or whatever) become ‘faith-sensitive’ ?
How can we engage with faith communities and faith actors in response ?
This requires the insights of all humanitarian actors, non-faith as well as faith-based.
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.
The declaration, known as an Affirmation of Welcome, is the first to involve UNHCR and a spectrum of faith-based groups. It sets out principles to guide faith leaders in providing welcoming environments for refugees and displaced people, and those without citizenship, including through promoting community understanding and tolerance, and combatting xenophobia.
The idea for a joint declaration emerged from a meeting hosted by UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres in Geneva in December 2012 with religious leaders and faith-based NGOs.
Taking place between February and April of this year, drafting of the Affirmation involved a coalition of leading faith-based organizations and academic institutions. The text draws upon principles and values of welcome shared by religions including Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism.
Several US and international migration and refugee focused organizations have recently issued a statement on the global compacts to present a framework for ongoing dialogue with policymakers and other government officials.
The Role of Local Faith Communities in Refugee Response
Resources for refugee response are increasingly squeezed as the number of displaced people around the world grows. Yet within local communities there are already strong bases of diverse human, cultural (including spiritual), and social capital that support refugees through efforts that include provision of food, shelter, and protection. When working with faith communities for refugee response, we build on existing local infrastructure and capital that would be near impossible to recreate. Working with local faith actors leads to a more coherent, joined up, and efficient response that is of direct benefit to refugees.
See below for full recommendation. For more information, please contact JLI Director of Research, Dr. Olivia Wilkinson ([email protected])
Lutheran World Federation- UNHCR Thematic Discussion on the Global Compact, Nov 2017
Insights from the inter-agency project to provide ‘faith-sensitive’ guidance to the humanitarian sector through the tool ‘A Faith-sensitive Approach in Humanitarian Response: Guidance on Mental Health and Psychosocial Programming’ allowed a contribution as expert panellist. Above all, the approach emphasizes that we engage with faith and faith identity as part of a people-centred approach, noting that the vast majority of those affected by humanitarian crisis lay claim to some form of faith or faith identity. This may then lead secondarily onto engaging with faith actors in order better to serve people. However, the challenge is not about faith actors commending themselves, but about all humanitarians – of any creed, religion or whatever – putting people first.
General Remarks by H.E. Archbishop Bernardito Auza Apostolic Nuncio, Permanent Observer of the Holy See
First round of the intergovernmental negotiations on the Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration: Preamble, Vision and Guiding Principles
JLI Scoping Study On Local Faith Communities In Urban Displacement:
Evidence on Localisation and Urbanisation
Refugees & Forced Migration Learning Hub
By Olivia Wilkinson & Joey Ager
The aim of this report is to highlight evidence regarding the roles and impact that Local Faith Communities (LFCs) play in relation to urban refugees, with the aim of informing interconnected conversations around localisation and urbanisation.
The international community is increasingly committed to supporting local responses to displacement, at a time when the humanitarian system is overburdened, underfunded and in flux as the world reportedly faces the highest levels of displacement ever recorded – over 65 million people in 2017, who have been forced to flee their homes due to conflict, violence, and persecution. In 2016 the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) resulted in the Charter for Change and a renewed call for meaningful support for the ‘localisation of humanitarian aid’ agenda. In part building on the UNHCR’s work following the High Commissioner’s Dialogue on Faith and Protection in December 2012, this includes recognition of the actual and potential roles of LFCs in offering protection, solidarity and assistance to displaced people throughout different stages and spaces of their journeys.
This evidence is therefore centrally relevant to two key debates in contemporary humanitarian policy and practice – localisation and urbanisation – whose outcomes will have a signifcant impact on the future of refugee protection.
Gender, Religion and Humanitarian Responses to Refugees Policy brief summarises key points and recommendations for policy, practise and research emerging from debate and discussion that took place at the workshop- 13th May 2016
It is a time for open and equal dialogue between organisation –FBO and secular orgs to build meaningful operations partnerships that are based on solidarity, cooperation and integrations
Faith is commonly viewed as a problem or a solution in displaced situations. Religion itself does not have agency, but people who act on the basis of the different beliefs, identities and interpretation of religious principles are the agents. FBOs and LFCs should be recognised and approached as actors who play a diverse role in the different complicated solutions.
Published: 2016Author:Edited by Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, Authored by Sharifa Abdulaziz, Omayma El Ella, Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, Ellen Hansen, Elisabet Le Roux, Marie-Claude Poirier, José Riera-Cézanne, Helen Stawski, Olivia Wilkinson and Erin K. Wilson