Do No Harm for Faith Groups – What is it?

01/2019 | Dilshan Annaraj and Maya Assaf-Horstmeier

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This post was originally written by Dilshan Annaraj and Maya Assaf-Horstmeier for World Vision International and is reposted with permission. 

Why we developed the manual

As a Christian, child focused, community-empowering, and global organization, World Vision believes that engaging with faith leaders is pivotal in preventing, mitigating, and managing conflicts from leading to violence. For decades, we have partnered with religious leaders through our community development programmes and humanitarian responses. We have learned how the actions of some of those leaders can unintentionally harm communities. To address this, we developed  a “Do No Harm for faith groups” manual. The manual aims to:

  • Provide faith leaders with an understanding of Do No Harm principles, and
  • Point towards what sacred scriptures and religious texts say about being conflict-sensitive.

Faith and religious leaders are usually seen as role models in communities. When communities notice personal transformation, people will not only think about the notion of “conflict sensitivity” but try to change their behavior on a daily basis as well. The Theory of Change which we hope to achieve, using the manual is that; when faith leaders are aware of DNH principles, they would understand their contextual realities, their day-to-day actions, their impact on their context, and positive alternatives to any negative impact that they might be having.

Developing the manual

World Vision first worked on a Muslim-Christian version of the manual, given its experience in working on projects like “Channels of Hope”[1].  The Do No Harm for Faith Groups module was finalized in 2017 after testing in Bosnia, Lebanon and Kenya.

The Do No Harm for Faith Groups training module follows the standard DNH framework with some significant variations, including:

  • An “Interfaith Reflection” where faith leaders are encouraged to start daily sessions by referring to holy scriptures. For single faith workshops, reflections would be from the scripture of that faith group (Christian or Muslim)
  • A special case study that looks at connectors and dividers using sacred texts as a reference
  • A story telling technique which participants use to illustrate the “impact” analysis on connectors and dividers

Initial Findings: What to expect when using the manual with Faith Groups

World Vision evaluated the DNH for Faith Groups workshops using the “FAITH MATTERS: A GUIDE FOR THE DESIGN, MONITORING & EVALUATION OF INTER-RELIGIOUS ACTION FOR PEACEBUILDING” – during its development stages. The evaluation was conducted in two of the “testing” sites – Lebanon and Kenya. World Vision learned many key insights that helped enhance the training module for future use, including:

  1. The tool brings about a strong “individual transformation” and paves the way for a community transformation. The tool should not be used directly to achieve rapid community transformation.
  2. Participants consider DNH as a foundational tool, deepening conflict-sensitivity. Most people want stronger follow-up and next steps towards a peacebuilding and reconciliation process.
  3. Sequencing the intra-faith and Inter-faith workshops requires sensitivity to local conditions, and is a critical success factor.
  4. Working with “Progressive” faith leaders may not have as much impact as working with more conservative faith leaders.

World Vision is hoping to implement the tool in few more Christian and Islamic contexts before venturing into the other faith contexts. The organization hopes to achieve this through an inter-agency process and welcomes feedback and support.

[1]  Channels of Hope refers to both Christian and Muslim texts that deal with social issues like HIV/AIDS, Child Protection, and Gender. More info at https://www.wvi.org/church-and-interfaith-engagement/what-channels-hope

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