Welcoming the stranger through faith and community

A refugee mother offers her finger print to receive supplementary food items in the refugee camp #18 in Cox’s Bazaar, Bangladesh. Photo: LWF Nepal/Bhoj Raj Khanal
A refugee mother offers her finger print to receive supplementary food items in the refugee camp #18 in Cox’s Bazaar, Bangladesh. Photo: LWF Nepal/Bhoj Raj Khanal

Connecting grass-root faith actors to a global refugee response

(LWI) - The Lutheran World Federation (LWF), Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW), the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) and other faith partners are working together to improve the understanding and support for local faith actors who are engaged in protecting refugees, asylum seekers and migrants. They are exploring how to create environments that enable faith communities to work together, share learnings and act on ideas that can be replicated at a greater scale.

Recognizing and sharing best practices

In December 2021, the LWF, the Faith to Action Network, and IRW facilitated a hybrid in-person conference session on the role of faith communities and their leaders in promoting peace and inclusive societies. Discussions explored the link between the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR) and faith actors’ s assistance for refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants. Grass-root faith actors from Egypt, Palestine, and Uganda shared their experience.

The event is part of a series of consultations that explore case studies and evidence from grassroots faith initiatives to share best practices on how to build inclusive societies.  

Earlier in the year, the LWF, the Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers with its Asia Working Group members and Finn Church Aid hosted a regional consultation that focused on the status of displaced people and refugees in South and Southeast Asia. The conference was an opportunity to hear of best practices on serving displaced communities in Myanmar, Thailand, and India.

“Faith-based organizations (FBO) and religious communities are guided by the founding principle that our faiths demand that we remember we are all migrants on this earth, journeying together in hope” said Rev. Dr Sivin Kit, LWF program executive for public theology and interreligious relations.

Bringing local and national leaders together to share what they have learned and what their challenges are, helps us uncover how we can work better together to be stronger.
Rev. Dr Sivin Kit, LWF executive for public theology and interreligious relations

Rev. Dr Kit added, “Bringing local and national religious leaders together to share what they have learned and what their challenges are, helps us uncover how we can work better together to be stronger. It reaffirms the historic initiative 'Welcoming the stranger: affirmation for faith leaders' developed by diverse faith groups with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).”  

The 2021 Global Refugee Forum report acknowledged the important role of civil society in “shaping GCR commitments and translating them into action.” The report highlighted the joint pledge of the LWF, the IRW, and HIAS and recognized this as a significant effort that will enhance shared responsibility. The report also described the comparative advantages FBOs have in carrying out advocacy activities and implementing responsibility sharing locally, thanks to their global reach and representation on the ground.”   

Peter K. Munene, Faith to Action Network Chief Executive Officer added that the session "helped demonstrate the depth of interfaith engagement in welcoming the stranger and supporting their integration in host communities. […] we] hope that the upcoming June conference will witness a commitment by UNHCR and other agencies to extend support to the faith community in efforts to support migrants, refugees and other displaced.

The international conference on “Welcoming the Stranger, Shaping the Future” is scheduled to take place 20–21 June 2022 in Geneva.

Read the Global Refugee Forum Report

By LWF/T. Rakoto