Congratulations to JLI Partner, the International Dialogue Centre (KAICIID) for receiveding the prestigious Africa Peace Award 2018. The Peace Award was for its work promoting interreligious and intercultural dialogue in Africa and the world, and in particular for its contribution to reviving the African Union Interfaith Dialogue Forum in partnership with the African Union. The prize is given byUnited Religions Initiative (URI), the renowned global NGO representing 204 member organizations in 31 African countries.
The conference aimed to strengthen cooperation, build partnerships in the field and fund joint projects in the field of humanitarian action and peacebuilding, between organisations of different backgrounds and world views.
Cooperation in the humanitarian field: challenges and opportunities
The war on terror and international designations: impact on humanitarian cooperation
Humanitarian cooperation: past/ongoing experiences and future perspectives
Launch the “Geneva Platform for the Work of Goodness”
Jean Duff represented JLI and gave a presentation on Engaging Local Religious Networks in Humanitarian Response during Session 5: Cooperation in the humanitarian field: past/ongoing experiences and future perspectives. This presentation draws on the work of JLI Learning Hubs. Please see here for the presentation and JLI Sources Handout.
JLI Advisory Group member Azza Karam, UNFPA spoke on “Beyond the war on terror and East West divide: Building practical bridges.”
Updates from JLI’s Annual Board and Advisory Group Meeting
At the October 25/26 meeting, JLI’s overall goals were reaffirmed and we were encouraged to prioritize focus on localization, and mechanisms and methods for scalable engagement of local faith networks. Next steps will include updating the operating plan and developing a new communications plan.
Goal 1: Gather knowledge about the activities, contributions and challenges of faith groups and synthesise into useful outputs through learning hubs
Goal 2: Connect policy makers, practitioners and academics with the knowledge, resources and expertise, with particular responsiveness to their wants and needs, to understand the activity and contribution of faith communities
Goal 3: Support broader global initiatives to catalyse the understanding of the contribution and activity of faith groups
Outcomes from the meeting will be posted to our website shortly.
On October 10, JLI partnered with Soka Gakkai International, the World Council of Churches, ADRRN to discuss Faith-Based Organization’s contributions to the Sendai Framework and disaster relief reduction (DRR). The discussion at the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva, Switzerland included the presence of UNISDR and UNHCR.
300 religious leaders and heads of FBOs gathered to explore activity and contributions to peace and prosperity. A resolution unanimously adopted by the assembly called for interreligious collaboration to end extreme poverty and to address the underlying causes of violent extremism.
JLI moderated a session on humanitarian response, with a short presentation including the 5 Evidence briefs on religious and faith based response. Religious leaders from across the continent offered specific examples of religious and faith-based response to local humanitarian challenges.
The Sultan of Sokoto together with IIPC, led by Imam Magid and Imrana A. Umar and UNDP, hosted by top Uluma from seven West African countries for a two day working discussion on how to ramp up religious leadership to counter violent extremism. The Sultan chaired the intense discussions which resulted in the Declaration.
The Network of Religious and Traditional Leaders and IIPC briefed inter religious leaders on the Marrakesh Declaration. The Declaration was a revelation to most of the participants. Muslim and Christian speakers from the floor noted the reciprocal benefits of the Declaration with regard to protection for all religious minorities. The Declaration was warmly received, with calls from Christian leaders to develop an analogous document drawing on Holy Scripture for protection of the rights of minority religions. A USIP fellow announced that he had translated the document from the original Arabic into Hausa.
JLI is honored to be admitted as one of the first partners of the International Partnership on Religion and Sustainable Development (PaRD). PaRD is a network on religion and development to enhance cooperation in achieving the 2030 Agenda together.
JLI’s first Refugees and Forced Migration Hub in-person meeting will be during the upcoming September UN General Assembly meetings.
Date and time: September 19 (6-8pm EDT), after the UN Summit on Refugees and Migrants. Light supper will be served.
Place: The Salvation Army – International Social Justice Commission offices- 221 E 52nd Street, New York City, NY 10022 (For your reference, the office is between 2nd and 3rd Avenue in Manhattan – closer to 3rd.)
The Refugee and Forced Migration Hub brings together expert stakeholders in areas related to religion, faith, migration and refugees as well as practitioners, policy makers and academics. The Hub is co-chaired by Sadia Kidwai of Islamic Relief Worldwide and Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, Co-Director of University College London’s Migration Research Unit.
The agenda will include:
Introductions and exchange of information about members’ interests and work relating to the Hub topic.
Review and discussion of the Hub concept and work plan,
Updates on religion and faith in relation to Forced Migration during UNGA meetings
Discussion of next steps
The Refugee and Forced Migration Hub is a part of the Joint Learning Initiative on Faith & Local Communities Learning Hubs (JLI&LC Hubs), which narrow the focus of enquiry about evidence for faith groups’ activities and contributions to community wellbeing to selected sub-topics. For more information, see the Refugee and Forced Migration Meeting Notes and Hub draft TOR from the first teleconference.
The International Partnership on Religion and Sustainable Development (PaRD) just issued an invitation to religious and faith-based organizations to join as partners in conjunction with the unveiling of their new website:
Once your account has been created, you may access the registration form by log- in. You can take your time to gather all the required information and documents, because all progress on the form will be saved. You may continue filling in the form by simply logging in again at a later stage.
As soon as you have filled in the form, click submit and wait for the confirmation.
PaRD will get back to you as soon as possible. Checking all applications will take time and we kindly ask for your patience. However, if you have not heard back from us within 3 weeks or experience any problems with your application, please contact [email protected]
At the start of my career, the separation of ‘religion’ from professional humanitarian and development action was not visible to me. My spiritual life was private, and that the ‘sacred’ had no place in the professional sphere was natural and unquestioned.
This is not unexpected: religious identity has often been viewed as posing an inherent risk to neutrality or impartiality; and that there are competing, even contradictory, mandates between a humanitarian and a “religious” agenda . Of course, such fears can be founded on real examples of harmful behaviour and attitudes, including the impact of proselytism. However, when I reflect back now I find these views ironic in light of the historic role that religion and faith actors have played in the development of IHL and the provision of assistance to those in need. A history that began long before the concept of a professionalized, ‘secular’, humanitarian sector came into being .
It was only when I began work for Islamic Relief on understanding how Islam provides a basis for humanitarian action, development, focusing particularly Islamic understandings on conflict and peace, that I began to experience first-hand the separation (and occasional hostility) to the role of religion and faith communities in the humanitarian world. Over the past three years, I am glad to say I have seen this changing.
Lord Carey, former Archbishop of Canterbury, points to the 1997–1998 World Faiths Development Dialogue as a turning point: an event that sought to increase understanding around the role of faith, FBOs and religious institutions in the provision of services, development and humanitarian activities . Since the Dialogue there has been a gradual increase in the interest expressed by the international aid architecture in working with FBOs, faith communities and faith leaders. Since 2005 UN agencies have been developing guidance or frameworks on working with faith communities, and in 2012 the UNHCR High Level Dialogue on refugee protection for religious leaders and faith-based humanitarian organizations.
At the World Humanitarian Summit, with a Special Session devoted to ‘Religious Engagement: The Contributions of Faith Communities to our Shared Humanity’ we are finally seeing the culmination of these changes, and the JLI has been actively working to not only engage with the process but to support it. This is needed. The existence of the Special Session does not signify the end of the journey, but merely the next stage. Scepticism remains, from both sides, on how the humanitarian system can and should engage with religion – both as communities and as values systems. To help ensure that the journey continues we need to represent the role of faith based organisations and communities to the Summit with honesty based on evidence and not shying away from the difficult issues.
There is uncertainty as to the extent to which the Summit will be a ‘success’ in its stated aims to change the way in which we are working and to “invest in humanity”, but I am hopeful that at least the change in how we understand, view and interact with faith and religious communities in the hour of need continues.
Lucy V. Salek is Senior Advisor for Islamic Relief Worldwide with a focus on conflict and fragile states. She is Co-Chair of the JLIF&LC Peace & Conflict Learning Hub and author of Working in Conflict: A Faith Based Toolkit for Islamic Relief (Islamic Relief 2014).
 Wilfred Mlay, “Some Myths about Faith-Based Humanitarian Aid”, Humanitarian Exchange Magazine, 27 July 2004
 James Cockayne, “Islam and International Humanitarian Law: From a Clash to a Conversation between Civilizations”, International Review of the Red Cross, Vol. 84, No. 847, 2002
 “Foreword by Lord Carey”, pp. xv–xvi in Gerard Clarke and Michael Jennings (eds), Development, Civil Society and Faith Based Organisations: Bridging the Sacred and the Secular, Palgrave Macmillan, Hampshire and London, 2008
Dr. Alastair Ager, QMU Edinburgh and JLIF&LC Resilience Co-Chair, led the production of five evidence briefs on the contributions of religious communities to humanitarian response. To access the briefs and more information about the JLIF&LC Side Event on evidence at the World Humanitarian Summit, please visit: www.jliflc.com/whs
Early on in my spell working for the UK Department for International Development (DFID) as a Senior Research Manager I was involved in writing a briefing paper for the then Secretary of State for International Development, Hilary Benn. An early draft of my paper received more ‘red pen’ annotations than I had put on any of my students papers for years. The criticism wasn’t about my analysis. It was rather that my academic training had equipped me to identify a multitude of issues and reflect on the complexities of all options, but not to plot the most appropriate way forward given all those uncertainties. I was strong on collating evidence, weak on specifying action.
I have recalled that experience many times in subsequent years, and did so again recently during the process of collating a number of ‘evidence briefs’ regarding humanitarian engagement with and by local faith communities ahead of the World Humanitarian Summit. The briefs reflect my subsequent socialization into the world of humanitarian policy and advocacy – and the influence of over twenty co-authors involved in their collation – in specifying concrete actions that would improve partnership with local faith communities and thereby the timeliness, coordination and appropriateness of humanitarian response.
We are not short of recommended actions. Indeed, I am confident we will be knee-deep in them on this and many other issues during the course of the summit. The UN Secretary-General has called for action to address our shared responsibility in protecting our shared humanity. Action will, and should, be clearly central to the agenda.
However, amidst the clamour of comms teams and advocacy groups positioning ‘key messages’ for action, I have sensed afresh the value of the academic contribution of evidence. One of the major reasons that the humanitarian system needs the sort of overhaul that many attending the World Humanitarian Summit are calling for is a lack of imagination. If we view the world, and the institutional frameworks to manage crisis, through a lens that no longer fits contemporary realities we are doomed to repeat past failures. Evidence provided by research is the basis for a reality check. Critically, evidence often doesn’t directly inform action – rather, it informs imagination that then serves to drive reformed action.
For those eager to support the localization of humanitarian response, the JLIF&LC evidence briefs are full of evidence regarding the contribution of local faith communities in humanitarian crisis…and of the international community capitalizing upon, but all too often ignoring, disrupting and, on occasions, subverting such contributions. This evidence points towards actions, yes. But its greatest contribution may be to inform the imagination of a global humanitarian system that is rooted in local response, with international efforts directed at its support rather than management.
Indeed, engagement with religion puts us in a territory where the power of prophetic imagination is well recognized. As we approach the summit, contemplating the challenges of protecting humanity in a globalized world of hyper-diversity, we would do well to reflect on the words of Walter Brueggemann:
Imagination is a danger… it is the vocation of the prophet to keep alive the ministry of imagination to keep on conjuring and proposing alternative futures to the single one the king wants to urge as the only thinkable one 
 BRUEGGEMANN, W. (2001) The Prophetic Imagination. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress. p. 40.
Alastair Ager is Director of the Institute for Global Health and Development, Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh and Professor of Population and Family Health, Columbia University. He is Co-Chair of the JLLIF&LC Resilience Learning Hub and co-author (with Joey Ager) of Faith, Secularism and Humanitarian Engagement (Palgrave 2015).