The role of faith in the humanitarian sector is not easy to measure. Faiths and religious texts generally advocate welcoming the stranger, and there are many organisations (and individuals) inspired by their faith or religion to assist people in need, and many faith leaders and communities who act locally to provide protection and aid. Perhaps the greatest contribution of faith communities lies in their networks and their capacity to allow people on the move to connect and find a welcome in an otherwise possibly hostile environment. Yet it is easier to measure the activities inspired by faith than to measure the difference that having that faith makes, and secularly inspired standards for such activities can appear to be in tension with the faith inspiration.
In addition, the work of faith-based humanitarian actors is not made any easier in a world where religion plays a part – or is used – in fomenting or sustaining many conflicts. Faith communities – and their leaders – who are caught up in such conflicts face an even harder task. The first article in this issue, from the leaders of three faith communities in the Central African Republic, is a heartening example of courage and determination in such circumstances.
We are very grateful to Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh of the Refugee Studies Centre/University College London and James Thomson of Act for Peace/ACT Alliance for their assistance and input as special advisors on this issue. We would also like to thank CAFOD, the Henry Luce Foundation, Islamic Relief Worldwide, the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops and World Relief for their financial support for this issue, and to acknowledge the role of UNHCR, in particular José Riera, in bringing FMR into this debate.
The full issue and all the individual articles are online in html, pdf and audio formats at www.fmreview.org/faith. It will be available in print and online in English, Arabic, French and Spanish. An expanded contents listing for the issue is available at www.fmreview.org/faith/FMR48listing.pdf.
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With our best wishes
Marion Couldrey and Maurice Herson
Editors, Forced Migration Review