How can faith-based organizations operate safely, and in a neutral and impartial way, in contexts where religions is used as a tool in the hands of one or more parties to the conflict and sometimes used as a justification for the violence committed against populations?
Advocacy and Protection Officer at UNRWA (Lebanon)
Answer posted: 8 August 2015
There needs to be transparency of the operations of faith-based organizations (FBOs) – especially if they are of a similar faith as one of the parties to the conflict. They need to also demonstrate how they are able to work across faith boundaries. A good example is the partnership between Muslim Aid and the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) in Sri Lanka about 8 years ago.
There is also a need for the FBO to ensure its own literacy about humanitarian response and engagement in conflict. This needs to then be articulated to staff, supporters, and partners. Islamic Relief’s recent toolkit on Islamic Principles of Conflict resolution is an example of an FBO looking within itself and trying to address challenges it faces on the ground.
FBOs should realize that their duty is not to convert but to fulfill the fundamentals of their faith through serving people in need without discrimination.
About the author
Amjad Mohamed-Saleem is a free-lance consultant from Sri Lanka and the United Kingdom and was born in Nigeria. In this capacity he has advised the Commonwealth Foundation, International Alert, among others. In this capacity, he also worked as the Head of Communications and manager of Conflicts Programme for the Cordoba Foundation. He has been country director of the NGO Muslim Aid in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. He has also worked in Myanmar, looking at the role the private sector could have in reaching people that humanitarian organizations have trouble reaching themselves, and on issues of peacebuilding and the role of faith in conflict reconciliation in Asia.