Role of religion in society and humanitarian action

Manager NARRI DIPECHO Consortium
26. Apr 2013

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Role of religion in society and humanitarian action

  2. Does Religion Matter At All? • the greater part of the world's population is religious • the proportion of the religious population is growing • despite a mainly secular Western world, religion still informs many of a society's underlying values • no complete separation between state and religion in any nation • religion influences the private sphere, civil society and the political stage • in times of existential crises religion plays an even more important role For communities • the number of faith-based organizations (FBOs) – ranging from moderate • To fundamentalist – is increasing
  3. A Word of Caution • The role of religion in socienty varies greatly with many factors such as • form of government • dominance of one single religion • authority of religious leaders The role of religion in humanitarian action also depends on • emerency relief vs. religious conflict • the role religion plays in the affected community/society • the presence of other FBOs or secular organizations • → Context does matter!
  4. Religion in Society (Present) • Politics: • Political parties formed on the bases of religion • Vote for a specific party to go to haven clerics influence rates of illiteracy (Egypt) • parties claiming the ownership of religions
  5. Religion in Society (Present) • Education • Teaching religion in schools as a subject (state approved curriculum) • religious based schools (Christian or Islamic) West & East • depending on the school; one sided interpretation of religion no free though
  6. Religion in Society (Present) • Business: • Holy dirt: Israeli company exporting dirt from Jerusalem to the US • Halal food restaurants in the west • Head-scarves, crosses, Icons, praying carpets • Religious tourism; tourism companies organizing only pilgrimage trips to Mecca
  7. Religion in Society (Present) • Media: • preaching • contempt other religions • censorship? (politicized – hate speech- citizens or acknowledged clerics)
  8. State & Religion Political unit Institution Practices and beliefs Distinction Form of Government Example Military Army Order & security Right & wrong Dictatorship North Korea Minority Ethnicity, Group Superiority & discrimination Us vs. others Hegemony Autocracy South Africa, Colonies Science Experts Efficiency & objectivity Expertise vs. corruption Technocracy Italy, Greece Economy Market Liberalise & profit Private vs. public Plutocracy Oligarchy Southern Europe (crisis) Religion Deity Supernatural being Sacred vs. profane Theocracy Vatican, Saudi Arabia, Iran?
  9. Religion in Society (Future) • A role in the public sphere. • But not take control of the State. • Neither imposing a way of living. • Religion cannot substitute State’s institutions.
  10. Religion in Humanitarian Action (Present) Religion has its own dynamic logic. However Through FBO in humanitarian action, religion may have political effects (McGinnis) • FBO are inspired by 2 motivations • Humanitarian Action, religion and conflict resolution • Humanitarian action and religion and access to population
  11. FBO are inspired by 2 motivations (McGinnis) • Spread influence / conversion; Ex 1- Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse and other U.S.-based aid groups admitted that they hoped to contribute to the reconstruction process by converting locals to Christianity, which they felt would make Iraqis more amenable to democratic governance) Ex 2- , Goal of IIRO is the re-Islamization of Muslim countries in former Soviet Union. (Benthall 2006:4) • Assist those whom are suffering or disadvantaged core values of any religion, to provide spiritual, material, etc • Christian, including political activism (ex, Advocacy for human right and democratic values, social participation and empowerment, (caritas)
  12. Within Conflict resolution, religion is a partner with multilateral organizations collaborating within the framework of peace building. In which one cornerstone is rebuild relationship and improve governance. •Track 2 conflict resolution: integrative and exchange power dominance, interconnection between top don and bottom up diplomacy. Such synergies may contribute to peace process and creates institutions for sustainable peace ( ej. inter/intra religious dialogue, organization of committees (as mentioned by Caritas) •Reconciliation: taking place in post conflict process, and as component of transitional justice (true telling), le inter/intra religious dialogue/activities
  13. Access to population in need. • Based on religious values/states, beneficiaries and organization s can facilitate access to beneficiaries (Taiwanese-based Tzu Chi Ogr. Was allowed to access earthquake victims in China) • Geographical presence: religion can facilitate access to humanitarian action ( grassroots structure within the society (proximity) ex, Colombia san José de Apartado)
  14. Religion in Humanitarian Action (Future) A greater role in peace talks (Mediation, negotiation etc.) - A paradigm shift from present track II to track I - Or - Fill the present Gaps ?
  15. Role in Conflict Prevention Peace Education Tolerance Coexistence Respect for diversity
  16. Better Impact ! Diversification of faith based organization Or Islamic Relief in Islamic states? Christian Aid in Christian countries?
  17. Conclusion • Religion plays a very important role in the life of the community in general in normal times and is accorded higher status during an emergency. • The presence of faith based organizations in society and in humanitarian regime in particular has increased considerably. Estrangement to Engagement (Clark & Jennings, 2008) • There is a diversity in faith based organizations and from secular to militant FBO: It is a continuum: No, low and high religious pervasiveness (Carlo, 2006) or secular, passive, active, pervasive, exclusive (Clark and Jennings, 2008). • FBOs sometimes have their own mission “Proselytizing ”, “Dawa” and “Umma”. • Do no harm?
  18. Conclusion • Coordination key (secular-FBOs and among FBOs) • Religious institutions have been a great source for mobilizing resources (Church, Zakat, Seva, Bhikshu). • More funds to FBOs {10 (2001) to 25 % (2008) USA} • Most of the FBOs put higher priority of aiding community of their own faith (Carlo, 2006) • The challenge is also to differentiate between faith based humanitarian agencies and religious bodies with political objectives (Kirmani and Khan, 2008) • There might be a contradiction between FBO and Government policies (Kirmani and Khan, 2008)
  19. Food for Thought • Whether faith based organizations should promote diversity of faith/pluralism and have the basis of their interventions focusing on the faith of the community? • Can secular organizations care take of the religious and spiritual needs of the community? Is poverty reduction or relief distribution all about material needs?
  20. Thank You • Rahat Chowdhary • Nada Yehia • Maximiliano Verdinelli • Alfonso Basanta • Karolin Etterer • Shakeb Nabi