Protection practitioners (VAWG, GBV, MHPSS) can strengthen their work by demonstrating cultural competency which includes religious literacy. Religious literacy involves being open to the role that religious beliefs, practices, organisation and experiences may play in survivors’ and perpetrators’ understanding of VAWG and does not require specific knowledge of religious traditions.

Faith sensitivity in VAWG interventions will help interventions be more people-centred and adopt the ‘do no harm’ principle by tackling and leveraging complex intersecting influences of religion, while upholding the principles of neutrality and impartiality.

Key recommendations for humanitarian, protection, VAWG and GBV specialists include:

  • Be aware of how spiritual and religious beliefs impact on perpetrators’ attitudes and behaviours and on survivors’ vulnerability to VAWG, resilience and well-being
  • Be aware of how their own beliefs and biases influence how they interpret the influences of religion on survivors’ experiences and needs
  • Reflect on how they provide support to survivors who hold diverse cultural, spiritual and religious beliefs
  • Demonstrate religious literacy by sensitively exploring the religious, cultural and spiritual factors that are unique to each survivor’s circumstances
  • Seek opportunities to tailor services to survivors’ holistic needs
  • Develop safe referral pathways to verified providers of pastoral/spiritual care and inform survivors that they can request support from female faith leaders
  • Train faith actors and those responsible for places of worship to provide survivor-centred support with referral to specialist services when needed, promoting confidentiality, safety, non-discrimination and respect for survivors.

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