Faith groups a force for peace and cultural sensitivity in international aid
GENEVA/LONDON, 5 October 2015 - The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW) will jointly discuss the importance of faith-based organizations as positive contributors to humanitarian work in a side event at the annual United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Executive Committee meeting.
The side event People of Faith for People in Need will take place on 8 October 2015 at the United Nations’ Palais des Nations in Geneva.
The panel discussing the role of faith will comprise Rev. Dr Martin Junge, LWF General Secretary, Dr Mohamed Ashmawey, CEO of Islamic Relief Worldwide, and Ms Nan Buzard, Executive Director of the International Council of Voluntary Agencies (ICVA). It will be moderated by Dr Volker Türk, UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner for Protection.
The side event will focus on the legacy of the 2012 High Commissioner’s Dialogue on Faith and Protection, particularly among faith-based non-governmental organizations. High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres will complete his service at the end of this year. Part of his legacy has been reaching out to faith-based organizations.
“We want to emphasize how, when in our current world religion is all too often seen as a force for division or conflict, faith and religion can be a source of peace,” Rev. Dr Martin Junge says. “People of faith can and do work together for people in need.”
Dr Mohamed Ashmawey says, “There are many lessons from faith that can help us appreciate diversity in the world and the importance of living in harmony with others. Faith-based organizations can also be uniquely well placed to support faith communities in an appropriate and culturally sensitive way. At Islamic Relief Worldwide, we’re inspired by our faith and appreciate the richness and value that faith perspectives can bring to individuals, families and communities.”
In August 2014, IRW and the LWF signed a groundbreaking Memorandum of Understanding to collaborate in humanitarian, research and advocacy work, creating a strong alliance between global Islamic and Christian humanitarian organizations.
In the last year, the organizations have cooperated in the Nepal earthquake emergency response and in a project on psychosocial support to Syrian refugees and host communities in Al Mafraq in Jordan. The next joint project is planned to take place in the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya.
In March 2015, at a side event of the Human Rights Council, the UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Religion or Belief, Prof. Heiner Bielefeldt described the cooperation between the LWF and IRW as an example of “meaningful actions that help to enhance open-mindedness and open-heartedness towards freedom of expression and freedom of religion in society.”