A faith-sensitive approach in humanitarian response: guidance on mental health and psychosocial programming

Manual and Guideline
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As part of our on-going partnership, the Lutheran World Federation and Islamic Relief Worldwide began to work in 2016 on the development of A faith-sensitive approach in humanitarian response: Guidance on mental health and psychosocial programming. From the onset, we were clear that the guidance should be inclusive of all humanitarian actors, assisting both secular and faith-based organisations in the course of their work in the field. We use the term ‘faith-sensitive’ to bring the focus of the guidance on the faith of the people affected by conflict, disaster and displacement, rather than on the faith allegiance (or non-faith allegiance) of humanitarian organisations and agencies. The vast majority of people lay claim to some form of faith or religion, and they do not leave it behind in a humanitarian crisis. Taking people’s faith identity seriously in shaping humanitarian response is simply part of a people-centred approach.

This guidance has been developed in phases. A desk review looking at the literature relevant to faith-sensitive psychosocial programming, followed by fieldwork in LWF and IRW country offices (Kenya, Jordan and Nepal), led to initial draft of the guidance, closely aligned with the existing IASC Guidelines on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergency Settings (2007). This draft guidance was then reviewed by a wide range of humanitarian actors and others and was pilottested in a variety of settings, leading to the document you have now.

We are very grateful for the support of our advisory group members and for the assistance of individuals and agencies involved in reviewing and field-testing the draft guidance. They have included many who would not lay claim specifically to a “faith perspective” – as well as others who do – and this has been essential in shaping a tool which is intended for all humanitarian actors regardless of their faith, ideology, or whatever, in navigating the sometimes complex waters of faith and faith identity and deciding what to do and not to do.

We have been fortunate also to be able to call on the expertise of consultants who are acknowledged leaders in this field, and much of the content and the hard work behind it, is thanks to them.

We hope A faith-sensitive approach in humanitarian response: Guidance on mental health and psychosocial programming will be a useful tool across all sectors of humanitarian response. Psychosocial support is a logical entry point for looking at faith identity, but precisely because it takes an inter-sectoral approach, it enables this tool to provide insights on how to take faith identity seriously across all sectors.

Faith finds common ground with human rights in a people-centred approach which affirms the dignity of each and every person. It is our hope that this guidance will, in a modest way, help that to become more of a reality.

The Lutheran World Federation and Islamic Relief Worldwide