Session description

Humanitarian agencies across the globe are seeking to come to terms with the religiosity that so clearly continues as a major influence in today's world.. But how are they to engage with religion, when humanitarianism holds neutrality, impartiality and modernity so centrally to its credentials? Is it not a violation of the very identity of the humanitarian to wade into such partisan territory?

This learning session provided a brief overview of the history of the relationship between religion and humanitarian action. It also looked at recent and current initiatives in the humanitarian sector, highlighting challenges, recommendations, and examples of good practice that have been identified.

The session was followed by a World Humanitarian Summit live consultation event on this topic.

Learning objectives

  • Awareness of the roles that religion has played throughout the history of humanitarian action.
  • Familiarity with recent and current initiatives relating to humanitarian engagement with religion.
  • Understanding of challenges and recommendations, as identified through recent global initiatives.


Alastair Ager Alastair Ager Professor of Clinical Population and Family Health at the Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University


Angharad Laing Angharad Laing Executive Director, International Association of Professionals in Humanitarian Assistance and Protection (PHAP)


Session recording - YouTube (faster loading time)

Session recording - Adobe Connect (higher quality)

Note that the recording below is followed by the Live Online Consultation event on Faith and Religion in Humanitarian Action, organized by PHAP in support of the World Humanitarian Summit.

Session recording - Downloadable audio podcast

Recommended readings

For participants wishing to prepare in advance for the event, we recommend the following resources:

Target audience

Humanitarian practitioners as well as others with a professional or general interest in humanitarian action.


PHAP members will have the possibility to undergo a two-part assessment after the session as part of the PHAP Continuous Learning Credits framework.

Part 1: Comprehension check

Part 2: Written reflection

To encourage peer learning among members, selected essay responses will also be published on the website, if approved by the writer. As a member, you can comment on the responses and read other members' comments.

Read the written reflections