Since the dawn of history, faith has provided a foundation from which social norms develop – an estimated 83.6 percent of the world’s population considers itself affiliated with a faith. This underscores the critical role that religious leaders can play in addressing humanitarian and development issues.
This is particularly relevant in Southeast Asian countries, which are highly disaster prone and also where faith plays a very important part in the daily lives of people.
There are two major roles that faith can play in this scenario- a) changing behaviours and mindsets and b) influencing policy and planning. Faith leaders not only enjoy a high level of influence amongst the general public, but usually also amongst policymakers and legislators. They often have a large following and their messages are actually listened and adhered too, often ‘religiously’, quite literally. Being community-based, they are also amongst the ‘first responders’. In addition, their spiritual messages also hold the strong power of healing in post-disaster trauma situations. Faith can thus be instrumental at all stages of humanitarian work- pre and post, as well as during the emergency.