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Published on 29 April 2024

Christian Aid and Islamic Relief, in partnership with the University of Leeds and the Joint Learning Initiative (JLI), convened at an international conference to explore the role of faith in international development.

The conference brought together a wide range of speakers and thinkers from all around the world, and focused on current global challenges such as the climate crisis and conflict in the Middle East.

The aim of the conference

Christian Aid and Islamic Relief approached this conference as a way to bridge the gap between faith-based and secular development stakeholders by addressing key issues like gender-based violence, human rights and peacebuilding.

The conference featured speakers such as Malcom Bruce, who warned of the damage caused by cuts from the UK government to international aid. He urged NGOs to step in where government has failed, and live out their values by calling for change.

A panel was also held by Sara Pantuliano, which covered reaching a common understanding in the interface between religion in an effort to end poverty.

Faith & Development conference 2024.

What role can faith play in international development?

Faith holds a unique trait of being locally rooted and globally networked. This is a powerful asset in reaching parts that other development groups cannot reach. In the poorest parts of the world, it is often mosques, churches, and temples that are most effective in responding to people’s needs.

As locally embedded institutions that strengthen people’s voice and agency, they can also sow the seeds for long-term systems change and become indispensable in a decolonized approach to development.

Local faith leaders have enormous potential to drive initiatives that get girls into school, challenge harmful practices such as female genital mutilation, and promote peace building and mutual tolerance.

Read more from Patrick Watt and Waseem Ahmad on Devex

Since the 1990s there has been remarkable progress in human development. But in the last five years the very poorest countries have seen these gains stall, and in some cases go into reverse. The climate crisis, conflict, debt, and economic inequality stand in the way of poverty eradication.

- Patrick Watt, Christian Aid CEO.
Faith and Development conference 2024.

The future of faith in humanitarian aid

Both charities discussed fostering a more holistic approach to development, which responds to the reality of life as it is lived in communities affected by poverty.

We hope this conversation continues and spreads, and governments and policymakers, in the U.K. and globally, begin to integrate faith better into their work.

Faith influences the lives of billions of people. If we are to effectively tackle the biggest global issues, we need to better understand the relationship between faith and development. This is especially important as so many of the voices and experiences of people of faith are often unheard or misunderstood.

- Waseem Ahmad, Islamic Relief Worldwide’s Chief Executive.

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