Event Date

Monday 12 March

  • Women of Faith Speaking to Structural Change: Empowering Rural Women
    Temple of Understanding (Armenian Convention Center, Guild Hall)
  • Empowerment Stories and Interfaith Actions, United Religions Initiative (URI) (Armenian Convention Center, Guild Hall)

Tuesday 13 March

Wednesday 14 March

  • Faith and Feminism: Voices of Affirmation National Public Radio (NPR) Interview with Randy Cohen – Person, Place (Must RSVP)
  • 8:30 am: Frontline Leadership: Rural Women in the Anti-Fracking Movement, Mining Working Group (Salvation Army,  221 E. 52nd Street)

Thursday 15 March

Friday 16, March

  • 10am: Launching the Global Consultation on the Islamic Gender Justice Declaration, Islamic Relief Worldwide (RSVP Required)
  • 12:15pm: Policy Roundtable of the Faith-Based Community of Praxis on Gender Justice, ACT Alliance (Invite only)
  • 6pm: 4th Annual CSW Interfaith Service of Remembrance and Gratitude, . Sponsored by United
    Methodist Women, NGO CSW, URI, Parliament of the World’s Religions, Temple of Understanding, International Federation of Women in Legal Careers (Church Center for the
    United Nations, Tillman Chapel 44th St and 1st Ave)

Monday 19, March

  • 10am: Building Bridges: developing effective partnerships between faith and secular actors to
    challenge discriminatory gender norms and secure rural women’s rights. Co-sponsors: Danish Mission, ACT Alliance, UNFPA (Ex-Press Bar, UN Secretariat (Entrance on East 46th street
    and 1st Avenue)

    • Presentation from JLI GBV Hub
  • 2:30pm: Human Trafficking in America– Risks for women and girls in rural areas and collaborative prevention by Faith-Based Communities, UNICEF USA, Arigatou International, NY Board of Rabbis (Salvation Army  221 E. 52nd Street)

Wednesday 21, March


Role of Religion and Faith-Based Organizations in International Affairs: Perspectives on Migration

On 22nd January 2018, the Fourth Annual Symposium on the Role of Religion and Faith-Based Organizations in International Affairs was held at the UN Secretariat in New York. The full-day event was organized by ACT Alliance, the General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church, the General Conference of Seventh-Day Adventists, and the World Council of Churches. Co-sponsors were the Adventist Relief and Development Agency (ADRA), the Parliament of World Religions, and the United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect on behalf of the United Nations Inter-Agency Task Force on Engagement with Faith-based Organizations. The focus of this year’s symposium was “Perspective on Migration: Displacement and Marginalization, Inclusion and Justice.”

Deputy Secretary-General, Amina J. Mohammed. Ms. Mohammed opened the event and reported that this was an issue close to the Secretary General’s heart. She acknowledged the ways in which faith-based organizations can bring both their extensive experience and moral voice to the work of providing for displaced people. Other speakers included many JLI member organizations, such as Rev. Dr. Olav Fyske Tveit, General Secretary of the World Council of Church and Mr. Rudelmar Bueno de Faria, General Secretary of the ACT Alliance.

Jonathan Duffy, JLI Board co-chair and President of ADRA spoke in the afternoon session on “Development, Humanitarianism, and Human Rights.” In his speech, he highlighted the work of the JLI in convening on evidence related to religion and refugees and mentioned the new scoping study on this topic. Dr. Olivia Wilkinson, JLI Director of Research, attended the event and spoke to attendees about the scoping study.


Working effectively with faith leaders to challenge harmful traditional practices

Date: Thursday, Feb 8 at 9am ET  (2pm GMT) via zoom

Traditional cultural practices reflect values and beliefs held by members of a community for periods often spanning generations. Every social grouping in the world has specific traditional cultural practices and beliefs, some of which are beneficial to all members, while others are harmful to a specific group, such as women.

In 2017, the JLI Gender-based Violence Hub (GBV Hub) led a Department for International Development supported project ‘Working effectively with faith leaders to challenge harmful traditional practices (HTPs)’.

Study Speakers

  • Dr Elisabet le Roux is the Research Director at the Unit for Religion and Development Research at Stellenbosch University
  • Dr Brenda Bartelink is an anthropologist and scholar in the Academic Study of Religion at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands

Discussion led by  JLI GBV Hub co-chair Liz Dartnall (Sexual Violence Research Institute) with Hub coordinator Natalia Lester-Bush (Tearfund)

Join as a member to continue collaborating with the GBV Hub

Brief Summary

Presentation from Lisa le Roux and Brenda Bartelink

Key findings

  • Discussed the use of the term harmful traditional practices creating resistance in communities
  • Role of faith, faith communities and faith leaders in HTPs
  • Effective approaches when working with faith leaders

Study Briefs


  • What is the desired impact of engaging with faith leaders around these texts, and perhaps changing the way that they interpret them? ie. for them to begin talking about them within communities, or individually with people, or mentioning in talks etc?
  • Are the small group based interventions mixed gender, or specifically targeting men/women separately? And secondly, is there any long term studies in this area?
  • How would you go about opening up these sorts of questions when they are so sensitive… what if the members of a small discussion group just do not bring them up? Did Tearfund/ Islamic Relief have any experiences where that would occur and how did they respond?
  • On how to prioritize HTPs in local communities- best to let the local communities prioritize their own issues. It’s their decision whether to work on HTPs. Also acknowledging that faith aspects are a part of local communities and not the sole factor to consider.
  • Many other organizations to be in touch with ex on FGM/C www.28toomany.org
  • Feel free to share more programs and resources on the JLI website

Please feel free to continue the discussion in the comment section and join as a member.

The GBV Hub will also be presenting results at CSW in NY on March 19, more details to follow shortly.

Repost from Refugee Hosts 

Efforts to bring local faith actors (LFAs) into the wider humanitarian apparatus have been a key aim of the localisation of aid agenda. In this piece, Olivia Wilkinson (Director of Research of Refugee Hosts’ research partner, the Joint Learning Initiative on Faith & Local Communities) argues that there is a need to ensure that such engagements provide space for LFAs to remain faith actors, while also aligning them with international humanitarian principles. This requires us to reflect on the histories and values underpinning humanitarian principles, as well as the agency, complexity and nuance of local faith actors and refugees. For suggested readings on this theme, see the reading list at the end of this article, as well as our ongoing series, Contextualising the Localisation of Aid Agenda, for more. 

When Local Faith Actors Meet Localisation: Understanding the Space between the International and the Local in relation to Humanitarian Principles and Religion

By Olivia Wilkinson, Trinity College Dublin and JLI Director of Research 

In late 2016, the Joint Learning Initiative’s Refugee and Forced Migration Learning Hub -a Hub co-chaired by Refugee Hosts’ PI, Dr. Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh and Islamic Relief’s Sadia Kidwai – began scoping out what is known about the place of religion in refugee response. The overarching project was split into two studies: the first analysing religion and refugees in regards to localisation and urbanisation, in recognition that refugees increasingly live outside camp settings and that local faith actors (LFAs) are active in aiding refugees in urban settings; and the second to examine the stages and spaces of refugee experience in relation to religion, to understand the moments at which religion and religious actors play a role in the trajectory of refugee journeys and the places in which these interactions happen. The first part of the scoping study was launched in October 2017 at the “Localizing Humanitarian Response Forum: The Role of Religious and Faith-Based Organizations” in Sri Lanka, which Estella Carpi wrote about in an earlier post in this series. The second part of the study will be launched towards the end of this year.

Echoing Estella’s post, in addition to other pieces published on Refugee Hosts (herehere and here), the study speaks to the opportunities and challenges of engaging with local religious actors in refugee response. The state of the art literature review and the interviews with key experts that underpinned the study found that religion adds immediate complexity to the localisation debate, often in ways that can be controversial and are therefore sidelined. While we found a multitude of ways in which local religious actors provide services for refugees, it is a struggle to find mention of these actors in any of the main documents tied to the localisation of aid (see page 14 of the report for some examples). While the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF) includes faith-based organisations (FBOs) as stakeholders, the specificities of LFAs in their different contexts requires detailed analysis that is not included in the use of the broad-brush term, “FBO”.

The challenges faced in engaging local faith actors in refugee response are not new just because localisation is the current buzzword. The reasons why LFAs are not more involved in international humanitarian response for refugees have always been the same: religious actors can be party to the conflicts that drive forced migration; they can be partial in their assistance, prioritizing those of the same faith and overlooking those of other faiths; they can enforce cultural and gendered stereotypes; they proselytize, using their assistance to convert vulnerable people to their religion; and they are overburdened and lack the capacity to comply with humanitarian standards. Some of these points are common to other local actors as they are politically and socially embedded and equally lacking in capacity to keep up with the demands of international humanitarian donors.

Yet LFAs continue to respond to refugees around the world, including in urban environments. If we are to believe in the earnestness of the call to localise from the international humanitarian community, then this must naturally include LFAs. To be involved in localisation, LFAs must overcome, and international actors must equally find ways to overcome, these barriers so that equal partnerships can develop.

From the research, there were several examples of ways in which these challenges were encountered, yet had been, to greater and lesser extents, overcome. To dive in the deep end, it is often held that for LFAs to be fully inducted into the international humanitarian community, they must not proselytise their faith. This standard is of course crucial, allowing humanitarian actors to ensure that assistance is given freely and without conditions.

The literature paints a more nuanced picture however. First, it is often dangerous, or highly disadvantageous to convert. In research from Kaoues in Lebanon, it was found that Muslim converts to Christianity were doubly rejected, both from the Muslim refugee population of which they had previously been part, and the Lebanese Christians in their new religious community. This demonstrates that in many cases the short-term material benefits linked to conversion are soon outweighed by the social disadvantages. In particular, this example shows the important need to recognise the intersections of ‘minority’ and ‘majority’, and how this is ‘read’ and ‘ascribed’ by observers on the basis of ethnicity and other identity markers.

Second, local religious leaders are not necessarily playing a short-term numbers game to gain converts, but aiming to build prolonged relationships within their broader community. In comparison to short term missionary trips from various external countries, local religious leaders embedded in communities do not want to pressure people to convert through their assistance, as noted by research from Kraft, also in Lebanon.

Finally, as Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh has pointed out in much of her research, the agency of beneficiaries has been overlooked. In the Sahrawi refugee camps (in Southwest Algeria), she found that refugees’  political representatives, “mobilized religiously-related claims to maximize diverse short- and long-term benefits both inside and outside the camps,” accessing both material resources and the political support provided by Evangelical American actors in the camps and in the USA.

While this demonstrates a need to recognise the complexity of proselytisation and the nuances of the contexts in which it takes place, it does not do away with the fundamental concern of faith actors tying their assistance to conversion. Most of our interviewees reported having seen or heard about such practices. However, interviewees also explained the ways in which they had still managed to successfully partner with LFAs who had initially included types of proselytisation in their assistance. One interviewee described a negotiation with a local faith actor in which they held a meeting with refugees about their religion, but only after all distributions had been made so that attendance was a choice and not tied to assistance. In their opinion, the method maintained dignity on both sides, recognising that the refugees and local faith community involved in distribution were able to uphold their identities without compromising the distribution. This was a one-off solution, but in another example from the Lebanese Society for Education and Social Development (LSESD), they conducted training on humanitarian principles for LFAs. They reported some initial missteps in explaining the concepts behind the humanitarian principles to LFAs and described how they had learned that specific examples were more effective than providing an abstract description of concepts such as impartiality and neutrality.

On one hand, there is the fear that LFAs will be “NGO-ised” through the localization agenda, to the point that they lose any identity as faith actors, becoming instrumentalised sub-contractors for international humanitarian organisations instead.

On the other hand, there are sensitive ways to conduct trainings that allow organisations to remain faith actors, while also aligning them with international humanitarian principles. This element of complexity in engagement with LFAs shows that international humanitarian organisations must be committed to capacity building in humanitarian principles, standards, and compliance with LFAs, while recognising the agency of refugees and LFAs to interact around and about their faiths, without assuming it is proselytization.


Featured Image: Baddawi refugee camp in North Lebanon has been hosting refugees from Syria since the outbreak of the conflict. The Masjid al-Quds mosque – in the background – is at the geographical and metaphorical core of the camp. Masjid al-Quds overlooks the cemetery, the camp’s ultimate shared space in life and death for new and established refugees alike. (c) E. Fiddian-Qasmiyeh 


For more readings on the themes explored in this piece

click here for the Refugee Hosts Faith and Displacement series, here for other contributions to our Refugee Hosts ‘Contextualising the Localisation of Aid‘ blog series

Recommended readings:



Consultant to research the role of religious leaders in efforts to end child marriage

In 2017, Girls Not Brides gathered insights from practitioners and compiled useful resources on this topic. However, we found very few tools to support organisations in overcoming obstacles created by conservative leaders who oppose efforts to end child marriage.
Girls Not Brides is seeking an experienced consultant to start filling this gap, and develop products to support Girls Not Brides members in overcoming challenges related to engaging religious leaders in their work on child marriage. Given the complexity of various religious discourses and landscapes among each religion practiced across the world, this assignment will focus on one of the three major religions in the top 20 countries with the highest rates of child marriage: Christianity, Hinduism and Islam.

This assignment is part of Girls Not Brides’ 2018 online learning series, which encourage Girls Not Brides members to explore one approach to end child marriage every month. Engaging religious leaders will be the focus topic for May. Ahead of this, the consultant will be asked to develop the two products described in this terms of reference, and to facilitate an online discussion with Girls Not Brides members about the early findings from these products. The final products will then be launched at Girls Not Brides’ Global Meeting – a global conference gathering hundreds of civil society organisations and development partners – in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia from 25 to 27 June 2018.

See Terms of Reference – Child marriage & religious leaders

JLI’s Partner the GHR Foundation is seeking a Senior Program Officer- Initiative Faith and Development.

The senior program officer is part of GHR’s Program Leadership Team whose primary responsibility is to lead GHR’s Initiative on faith and development. This person will be responsible for designing and implementing a strategic portfolio of grants and non-grant activities to both inform and advance the catalytic effect that faith can have on positive change in the world.

As lead for GHR’s Initiative on Faith and Development, specific qualifications sought include:

  1. General Subject Matter Knowledge
  2. Strategy and Learning
  3. Relationship Builder
  4. Links with Private Development Funders and Organizations

To Apply
Send cover letter and CV to [email protected]. Position will remain open until filled.

More information at the GHR Foundation website

Congratulations to JLI Partner, the International Dialogue Centre (KAICIID) for receiveding the prestigious Africa Peace Award 2018. The Peace Award was for its work promoting interreligious and intercultural dialogue in Africa and the world, and in particular for its contribution to reviving the African Union Interfaith Dialogue Forum in partnership with the African Union. The prize is given by United Religions Initiative (URI), the renowned global NGO representing 204 member organizations in 31 African countries.

See KAICIID website for more details

The Joint Learning Initiative on Faith & Local Communities is delighted to announce Olivia Wilkinson, PhD is joining as the Director of Research.

In this position, she will be ensuring the quality of JLI evidence building, knowledge translation and building collaborations with academic partners. She will work closely with Stacy Nam, the Knowledge Manager and with our members to help grow and share their research.

Olivia has been an academic member of the JLI Resilience, Mobilization of Local Faith Communities, and Refugees and Forced Migration Hubs for a number of years.  She has contributed as research consultant to Learning Hub projects, including the 5 evidence briefs brought to the World Humanitarian Summit, and is lead author of the the recent JLI Refugee Hub Scoping Study. She was the coordinating editor on the recent summary of Proceedings of Forum on Localizing Humanitarian Response: the Role of Religious and FBOs and previously published  in a number of academic journals. Her PhD research focused on secular and religious responses to disaster following Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.

Please join us in welcoming Olivia to the JLI and reach out to Olivia regarding any evidence building collaboration opportunities at [email protected]

New JLI Board co-chair

The JLI Board elected Jonathan Duffy as the new co-chair serving with Rob Kilpatrick. Jonathan is the President of the Adventist Development and Relief (ADRA) International.

Jonathan Duffy

Jonathan previously served the agency for four years as CEO of ADRA Australia. Prior to joining ADRA, he worked for 28 years in the public health sector, where he gained experience and expertise in community development, health services management and health promotion. During this time, he worked with remote communities in the South Pacific to improve access to health services. He has a passion for helping young people, and has implemented programs, conducted research and published in peer reviewed journals in relation to youth resilience. A champion for social justice, he uses his position to advocate for action on social justice issues and for a human rights based approach to development. He currently serves on the InterAction Board, where he heads the standards review task force, and is also an International Civil Society Center board member.


Joining the Board of Directors

Hiruy Teka

Hiruy Teka is joining as a member of the JLI Board of Directors. He leads the International Disaster Response Programme of Samaritan’s Purse UK. His role includes managing complex refugee and drought relief projects, raising funds from UK and Europe-based institutional donors, managing humanitarian projects and programmes all over the world (with budgets totaling millions of pounds, euros and dollars), and personally responding to disasters from time to time. As an Ethiopian in humanitarian and crisis response, he approaches his job with a great deal of passion and respect for people affected by disasters.

JLI Most Read Resources of 2017:

  1. Local Humanitarian Leadership & Religious Literacy – Oxfam American and Harvard
  2.  SASA! Faith Guide to prevent violence against women and HIV – Raising Voices, Trocaire
  3.  Developing Guidelines for Faith-sensitive Psychosocial Programs– Lutheran World Federation and Islamic Relief
  4.  Interfaith Toolkit to End Trafficking – UNICEF, Global Partnership to End Violence
  5.  Interreligious Action for Peace- Catholic Relief Services
  6.  UNHCR Shelter and Welcome Campaign#withrefugees