Below is a list of questions to serve as a starting framework for the discussion in this thread:
- What are some strategies for strengthening partnerships between faith-based and secular human rights organizations?
- What are some strategies for strengthening interfaith partnerships?
- What are some strategies for faith-based organizations serving communities with varying cultural and religious views, without imposing values?
- In what situations can a religious-based campaign or project enhance the secular human rights approach?
- Share stories of success
Thank you -- I especially want to highlight the importance of uniting around a common goal. Being able to focus on our similarities, and what we have in common, makes us remember that our differences are not an insurmountable obstacle to forming partnerships.
Agreed! We've all seen a focus on difference lead to relegating others to second-class citizenry, be it over race, gender, or religion. Better to focus on similarities so we can elevate to a justice-filled world.
Agreed! Especially with interfaith partnerships, it's important to find shared commitments while honoring differences and not looking for the "lowest common denominator" between all the faiths represented. For example, the organization I work with, the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, partnered with Jewish Voice for Peace and American Muslims for Palestine to take a delegation to Palestine and Israel this summer. We called it the Interfaith Network for Justice in Palestine Delegation, and it was a phenomenal experience to come together and form relationships based on our shared commitment to justice in the land we all call "Holy." From that shared commitment and the experiences of the delegation, we were able to engage and explore the ways that our faiths are different without trying to change or water down anything we represented. We actually used the term "multi-faith" to describe ourselves to highlight the fact that we all came from different faith backgrounds, but we were there together as a group in our diversity.
Great. I believe that one element that is common to all faith-based entities is Love. Bible commends that we love our neighbours as our selves. Activities and projects that will bring peace and also improve living conditions can be a core point around which we can unite by way of patnership. Coming together to fight abuse of children and women, crime, drugs etc: Health Walks" together irrespective of faith as a means of creating awareness or raising fund to support a commom community project can be used.
We have had a lot of success by prioritizing the agency of the communities we serve. Our exploratory delegations identify potential partnerships, and we do not establish a new project until we are invited by a local community or organization in a potential project location. The work that we do in that area will also be flexible depending on the needs and requests expressed by the community. If a point comes when our partners feel that our presence no longer serves them, we leave.
All of this is astrue of a secular human rights organization as it is of a faith-based organization, but I believe it is one of the keys to the trust we are able to establish in a variety of different cultural and religious contexts. Although we are empowered by our own faith and spiritual leadings to do the work, putting the partners at the center of what we do helps to ensure that we are not imposing our own values on a context that is not our own.
I found this model compelling -- IMPACT (Charlottesville), https://impactcville.com/current-member-congregations/. After the racial violence in Charlottesville, I interviewed a pastor in there who told me about IMPACT, a local interfaith social justice organization. There approach is to have each member faith community do an annual process of local listening to learn what each community is struggling with. Then the themes are brought together, and they choose an issue or situation to research and act on. I appreciate the process of story-telling in the faith context and then the interfaith context as the root of action, and also that it is a recurring process. Naturally, it's more involved than I've described here.
What other positive approaches have you seen (interfaith or faith-secular partnership)?
This was recorded for an Adventist/Christian audience, but the podcast episode might be of interest to others. Specifically the description of how IMPACT works -- http://www.adventistpeace.org/blogcontent/2017/8/22/adventist-peace-radi....
What are some of the most significant obstacles to forming partnerships across secular human rights and faith-based organisations? Are there examples people are willing to share, maybe also with how they overcame these obstacles?
Are there specific issue areas that are especially problematic? It might be possible to develop creative ways to approach these...
To be honest, one of the biggest obstacles is that we are all so busy, and it's hard to slow down enough to plan something with partners (even though, realistically, partnering often lightens the load!). Much more than idealogical differences, we just all have too much going on. When we have partnered with other groups or organizations, though, it's been really powerful. Some of the best part of partnerships has been reflecting after the fact on our work together. Often we're able to talk about any points of tension or obstacles that came up, which helps work through them next time, and it also helps us see what future work might be possible when we take the time to de-brief.
I can relate to this -- busyness. I first encountered the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship when I was a volunteer with Christian Peace Witness (Iraq). It was a very meaningful collaboration across denominational lines (though all Christian), but it took a lot of time and I think that's part of why it eventually slowed down. Rick U-C would likely have a better description of that history. It's hard to have time to build relationships across certain boundaries (and even within them), and it's hard to partner if there's no relationship.
Other reasons come to mind too -- distrust, lack of awareness of potential collaborators, desire for credit instead of sharing credit, etc. -- but my busy schedule certainly is a key reason for me.
Talking about "busy-ness" and a ten hour time difference, I am jumping into this important conversation, in between writing a book on diversity and some of the most ancient religions of the world in South Asia.
On strategies for stengthening interfaith partnerships and working with other rights organizations including secular ones, I have learnt that there is a lot of good work going on such as this conversation here and am very grateful to the organizers. But I find that these excellent peace building conversations do not always trickle down. We need to encourage this level and quality of conversation, in different degrees, by sowing seeds of peacebuilding and strategies at schools, universities and especially in the media. In Cambridge, UK, for instance I was involved, along with Dr Kessler, in introducing some of the first courses of its kind in the 800 year history of the University on Muslim-Jewish-Christian relations. We introduced these courses at the university, but we also enagaged with schools. We had courses for the media and other courses for the police. Some of our students at the university were rabbis, imams and priests and I saw the hostility break down between them as these wonderful scholars learnt to become friends and to trust each other after learning about our shared histories. After the courses, a number of different faith leaders paired up and carried out some very good community projects in London and in other places.
This work also resulted in a book called Valuing Diversity: Towards Mutual Respect and Understanding which was distributed to hundreds of schools across the UK.
At Forman Christian College (FC) in Pakistan, I introduced interdisciplinary courses using the local language (as some English words, in a post colonial context, such as "interfaith" do not translate well locally). A small number of young restless boys- a minority, not the majority - in my class from war torn cities were agitated and angry and more worryingly even said that members of other faith communities should not be tolerated. But after we taught them the basic foundations of dialogue, including empathy, the dialogue of civilizations, the constitution which focused on equality and human rights, and the message of compassion in the Abrahamic faiths, including the idea of the Dignity of Difference, and women and gender, these young boys said they were "changed" men and promised to change their world by the pen, and not by violence.
A good partnership approach should encourage partners to aviod extremism and labels. A neutral facilitator may be asked to engage the parties.