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JOINT LEARNING INITIATIVE ON LOCAL FAITH COMMUNITIES. Learning Hub Advisory Group on Local Faith Communities and Resilience in Humanitarian Situations, 17 April 2012. Alastair Ager Professor of Clinical Population & Family Health, Program on Forced Migration & Health

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JOINT LEARNING INITIATIVE ON LOCAL FAITH COMMUNITIES

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Joint learning initiative on local faith communities

JOINT LEARNING INITIATIVE

ON

LOCAL FAITH COMMUNITIES

Learning Hub Advisory Group on Local Faith Communities and Resilience in Humanitarian Situations, 17 April 2012

Alastair Ager

Professor of Clinical Population & Family Health, Program on Forced Migration & Health

Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, New York

What do we know about Local Faith Communities

and Resilience in Humanitarian Situations?


The concept of resilience i

JOINT LEARNING INITIATIVE

ON

LOCAL FAITH COMMUNITIES

The Concept of Resilience I

  • increasingly popular formulation across a range of areas (e.g. eighty-fold increase in the proportion of academic material utilizing this term over the last 20 years)

  • work of Michael Rutter of historic and enduring significance in documenting factors that foster “overcoming rather succumbing to the effects of exposure to risks during an individual’s life” (1987)

  • general development is from recognition of discrete “protective factors” fostering resilience (such as social support, caregiving etc.) to a more nuanced recognition of nested ‘adaptive systems’ operating at the biological, familial, community and societal level that promote the “ordinary magic” (Masten, 2001) of resilience

Learning Hub Advisory Group on Local Faith Communities and Resilience in Humanitarian Situations, 17 April 2012


The concept of resilience ii

JOINT LEARNING INITIATIVE

ON

LOCAL FAITH COMMUNITIES

The Concept of Resilience II

  • this ‘adaptive systems’ idea is picked up in the humanitarian and development fields with (DRR) Disaster Risk Reduction strategies promoting (particularly) community and institutional systems that can withstand anticipated ‘shocks’ and instability

  • while it captures a number of pre-existing principles, the growing popularity of resilience as a concept may be attributed to its appeal to two significant trends in contemporary public debate:

    • respect for local, indigenous resources, understandings and strategies and a concern at the hegemonic imposition of external solutions

    • concern for limiting the role and commitment of resources by state (or intergovernmental) actors and the promotion of mechanisms driven (and resourced) by civil society

Learning Hub Advisory Group on Local Faith Communities and Resilience in Humanitarian Situations, 17 April 2012


Faith communities community resilience i

JOINT LEARNING INITIATIVE

ON

LOCAL FAITH COMMUNITIES

Faith Communities & Community Resilience I

  • Three broad positions on faith communities and community resilience can be determined (Ager & Ager, 2011)

  • The first broadly sees faith communities as irrelevant – or potentially harmful - to processes of community resilience.

    • a material, economic model of recovery and development sees the focus of faith-based institutions as tangential to core “drivers” of change

    • discriminatory provision of services by faith-based institutions, conservative influence regarding human rights agendas, faith-commitments as a source of inter-communal tensions and violence are perceived as major potential threats

Learning Hub Advisory Group on Local Faith Communities and Resilience in Humanitarian Situations, 17 April 2012


Faith communities community resilience ii

JOINT LEARNING INITIATIVE

ON

LOCAL FAITH COMMUNITIES

Faith Communities & Community Resilience II

  • The second sees faith communities as important partners in promoting community resilience given their instrumental value in mobilizing relevant resources:

    • faith communities provide significant social reach and connection through public worship, pastoral systems etc.

    • obligations of religious practice frequently concern engagement with vulnerable groups

    • religious belief provides a documented resource for supporting ‘meaning-making’ of relevance for recovery

Learning Hub Advisory Group on Local Faith Communities and Resilience in Humanitarian Situations, 17 April 2012


Faith communities community resilience iii

JOINT LEARNING INITIATIVE

ON

LOCAL FAITH COMMUNITIES

Faith Communities & Community Resilience III

  • The third sees faith communities as important actors in critiquing and re-formulating the current framing of resilience in humanitarian contexts, noting that:

    • the discourse of secular humanitarianism is not ‘neutral’ to religion, but marginalizes the role of faith in processes of recovery and development

    • faith communities have welcomed (increasing) engagement in humanitarian response but have done so by largely fitting in with the pre-existing secular humanitarian agenda (Hopgood, 2010)

    • Geneva Convention obligations to ‘respect religious convictions and practices’ and facilitate communities to ‘practice their religion with ministers of their own faith’ seldom receive much attention during humanitarian emergencies

    • Although alien to current secular framing of humanitarianism, concepts held within faith communities (such as sacrifice, obedience, forgiveness, transcendence etc.) may be of major relevance to local processes of resilience

Learning Hub Advisory Group on Local Faith Communities and Resilience in Humanitarian Situations, 17 April 2012


References

JOINT LEARNING INITIATIVE

ON

LOCAL FAITH COMMUNITIES

References

Ager, A. & Ager, J. ‘Faith and the discourse of secular humanitarianism’. Journal of Refugee Studies, 2011, 24 (3): 456-472.

Hopgood, S. ‘Between Heaven and Earth: Religion, Secularism, and Humanitarianism’. Paper presented at the meeting: Faith-based humanitarianism: The response of faith communities and faith-based organizations in contexts of forced migration. September 2010. Oxford: Refugee Studies Centre.

Masten, A . ‘Ordinary magic. Resilience processes in development’. American Psychologist, 2001, 56(3): 227-38.

Rutter M. ‘Psychosocial resilience and protective mechanisms’. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry ,1987; 57: 316–31.

Alastair Ager

[email protected]

Learning Hub Advisory Group on Local Faith Communities and Resilience in Humanitarian Situations, 17 April 2012


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