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WHS: Malteser International side event on the role of faith-based actors in humanitarian assistance

Albrecht von Boselager, the Order of Malta's Grand Chancellor (right) attending a session of the World Humanitarian Summit

Cologne/Istanbul: The World Humanitarian Summit side event co-organized by Malteser International, entitled One Humanity, Shared Responsibilities took place in Istanbul on the morning of May 23, at which prominent speakers addressed the role of faith-based actors in humanitarian assistance. “Religious and faith-based actors have a unique role in the global humanitarian system,” said Malteser International’s Senior Program Adviser Dr. Jürgen Clemens – a participant and co-organizer of the side event. “Faith based actors are usually deeply-rooted in communities, with a different motivation from secular actors. This can give them a reach and longevity that is highly valuable, often making them first responders in crises, with an ongoing role that can persist long after other organizations have moved their operations on. They are a valuable and often under-used resource in global humanitarian assistance.”

The side event saw the presentation of five new evidence briefs about the role of faith based organizations in areas including peace-building in cases of violent conflict, upholding humanitarian and human rights norms, and building long-term local crisis response capacity. More than ten speakers and panellists attended, including Michel Veuthey, the Order of Malta’s special Ambassador to the Summit. A full list of participants is provided below. “Providing humanitarian assistance in the context of violent conflict has become an increasingly prominent part of our work in recent years,” said Clemens. “Because of the religious component of many of the conflicts that we are seeing at present, faith-based organizations obviously have an important role to play as advocates for peace. However, because of their outlook and their social role, religious actors also uniquely placed to act as agents for reconciliation, respect, and community cohesion in a much wider sense, and on a much longer timescale.” 

As the Order of Malta’s international disaster relief organization, Malteser International is part of one of the world’s oldest traditions of faith-based humanitarian assistance, which can be traced back more than 900 years. “Some of the work that we do in the Middle East, especially in cooperation with other Order of Malta organizations really does illustrate the way that faith-based organizations can work to bring together different communities in the long term,” Jürgen Clemens said. “Our work in Lebanon, for example – which is a country that has been very heavily affected by the refugee crisis, as well as being a mosaic of 19 different religious groups – is undertaken in cooperation with faith-based organizations from a wide variety of traditions, and is provided equally to all, without distinction. This shows just what a fantastic resource that faith-based humanitarian actors can be, and I hope that the event today will contribute to this resource being better used in the future. ”

Full list of speakers and panellists at the side event:

Shahabeddin Mohammadi Araghi, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
Nobuyuki Asai – Sokai Gakkai International
Jean Duff – Joint Learning Initiative on Faith and Local Communities (JLIF&LC)
Manu Gupta – Asian Disaster Reduction & Response Network
Naser Hagahmend – Islamic Relief Worldwide
Ajit Hazra – World Vision International
Tomy Hendrajati – Humanitarian Forum Indonesia
Pastor Santa Johnson – New Harvest Development Office, Sierra Leone
Azza Karam – UN Population fund, UN Inter-Agency Task Force on Religions & Development
Lucy Salek – Islamic Relief, JLIF&LC Peace and Conflict Learning Hub
William Vendley –  Religions for Peace
Michel Veuthey – Order of Malta
Ulrich Nitschke – International Partnership on Religion & Development


Katharina Kiecol
Email: katharina.kiecol(at)malteser-international.org

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