WCC on role of faith-based communities to address humanitarian needs

WCC World Council of Churches logoThe World Council of Churchesgeneral secretary detects “a remarkable change towards acknowledging the role of faith-based communities and their resources to address humanitarian needs”.

Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit was speaking during the recent World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul.

“This is promising for those who need more assistance, and it is promising for the constructive cooperation needed.”

The framework unpinning the summit held that in order to deliver for humanity, stakeholders must act on five core responsibilities:

  • preventing and ending conflict;
  • respecting rules of war;
  • leaving no one behind;
  • working differently to end need;
  • and investing in humanity.

While needs are great and the resources available for humanitarian aid are shrinking, Tveit argued that what was available should be used more to mobilise local organisations to use the human resources at hand, including churches. He added:

“Wars and armed conflicts as well as other human-made catastrophes from environmental problems and climate change can be prevented, but they are causing a significant part of the humanitarian needs we are facing today.

“One dollar investment in prevention of humanitarian catastrophes can save seven dollars from catastrophe responses. It is a matter of justice and of focusing on peacemaking and preventing conflicts. It is also a matter of proper stewardship to address the needs for prevention in due time, to avoid human suffering and to be more rational in use of funds that are not sufficient for all needs.”

WCC’s representative to the United Nations in New York also attended the summit. Rudelmar Bueno de Faria highlighted the strong role that could be played by “many religious institutions and faith-based organizations … in humanitarian contexts”.

“They have an established relationship of trust and familiarity with most local communities in which they are embedded. Due to their presence before a crisis, they are first responders and key providers of assistance and protection during a crisis, and many will stay after international organizations leave.”

He also spoke of the role of churches after the initial response to a humanitarian crisis and their ability to help prevent and resolve conflicts and to build peace and reconciliation.

“This is possible because of the inherent Christian imperative to promote human dignity, a concept closely related to the Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace.”