Magazine article Forced Migration Review

Interfaith Humanitarian Cooperation: A Lutheran Perspective

Magazine article Forced Migration Review

Interfaith Humanitarian Cooperation: A Lutheran Perspective

Article excerpt

In parallel with enthusiastically participating in UNHCR's Dialogue on Faith and Protection in 2012, the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) began linking with other faith-based organisations (FBOs) to more deliberately address the divisions and suspicions between religious communities through fostering interfaith humanitarian collaboration. Working together with FBOs of other faiths can promote a compassionate and respectful religious voice, and can send a powerful message that people of different faiths can unite around the common goal of serving people in need and working together for peace.

To this effect, in October 2013 the LWF and The Humanitarian Forum1 convened a workshop entitled 'Working Together: Christian-Muslim Humanitarian Partnerships' in Amman, Jordan. Participants from the LWF, ACT Alliance and several Islamic humanitarian organisations, including Islamic Relief Worldwide and Muslim Aid, gathered to discuss operational issues around interfaith humanitarian partnerships. Pilot projects for working together were outlined for Jordan, Kenya and Myanmar, and a joint statement was released, acknowledging some differences and potential challenges in interfaith cooperation but also reaffirming a common belief that FBOs can be a force for peace and good in the world.

Several real challenges exist in building new partnerships, particularly as relations between religions are often a sensitive issue, and participants at the Working Together workshop identified a series of challenges to address through practical collaboration. Misunderstandings or general ignorance of differences and similarities in culture and religion can lead to fear of the other; this can foster mistrust of FBOs, and apprehension, both among local communities of different faiths and among constituents of FBOs engaged in interfaith work. In contrast, demonstrating common values through working side by side in humanitarian assistance can help reduce negative perceptions and foster trust.

As a direct result of the workshop, the LWF and Islamic Relief Worldwide are developing a partnership at both global and local levels, and indeed signed a Memorandum of Understanding in August 2014. Planned areas of cooperation include a joint pilot project in the Dadaab camps in Kenya for Somali refugee children with intellectual disabilities; and joint programming in Jordan on a pilot peace-building project among Syrian refugees and Jordanian host communities which will include joint budgeting and shared roles and responsibilities. …

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