TOKYO — On May 23, Soka Gakkai International (SGI) will co-organize an official side event at the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) in Istanbul, Turkey, highlighting the unique contributions of religious groups to humanitarian response.
Religious groups and faith-based organizations are now acknowledged as important civil society actors with extensive local networks. However, consultations leading up to the summit have shown that their capacity is seldom effectively engaged by formal humanitarian coordination mechanisms in the aftermath of conflict and natural disasters.
The side event, titled “One Humanity, Shared Responsibilities: Evidence for Religious Groups’ Contributions to Humanitarian Response,” will take place from 8:30 to 10:00 a.m. on Monday, May 23, in Rumeli Hall 6 at the Lutfi Kirdar Convention and Exhibition Centre. It is being organized together with the Joint Learning Initiative on Faith & Local Communities (JLIF&LC), an international collaboration providing evidence for faith groups’ contribution that is supported by academic institutions.
Five “Evidence Briefs” that powerfully put the case for religious groups’ contributions to humanitarian assistance will be introduced, structured according to the key messages of the WHS preparatory report. Details can be found at www.jliflc.com/whs.
Jean Duff, Coordinator of JLIF&LC, comments: “Our goal is to equip policymakers and practitioners with the necessary information to fully engage the unique and powerful resources of diverse local religious and faith-based organizations for sustainable humanitarian relief.”
Hirotsugu Terasaki, Executive Director for Peace & Global Issues of SGI, adds, “Many now agree that FBOs and local faith communities are often the first responders following a humanitarian crisis. They also contribute to strengthening resilience by utilizing their pre-existing networks and infrastructure especially at the local level.”
Other co-organizers of the side event are the Asian Disaster Reduction and Response Network (ADRRN), Islamic Relief, Malteser International, Religions for Peace, World Evangelical Alliance and World Vision.
Speakers include Dr. Azza Karam, Coordinator, UN Inter-Agency Task Force on Engaging Faith-based Organizations for Development, Professor Alastair Ager of Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, and Columbia University and representatives of around 10 diverse faith-based groups with a strong track record in humanitarian assistance.
One of the Special Sessions of the WHS from 4 p.m. on May 23 also highlights engagement by faith-based organizations, under the heading, “Religious Engagement: The Contributions of Faith Communities to our Shared Humanity.”
In addition, SGI will organize an exhibition showing at the WHS Exhibition Fair at the Istanbul Congress Centre (ICC) from May 22 to 24. Titled “Restoring Our Humanity,” and coproduced with ADRRN, the exhibition aims to encourage individual citizens to find ways to take action to enhance the resilience of their respective societies.
One panel highlights the role of faith-based organizations, showing how local religious leaders helped slow the spread of Ebola in West Africa by publicly endorsing changes in traditional practices for dealing with death. The exhibition panels can be viewed at http://www.sgi.org/in-focus/2016/restoring-our-humanity.html.
The Soka Gakkai International (SGI) Buddhist association has 12 million members around the world and promotes peace, culture and education. Inspired by the spirit of Buddhist humanism, its members often engage in humanitarian assistance activities in response to natural disasters.