‘180 million people worldwide are affected by conflict. These issues affect all of us, whoever we are and wherever we come from.’
Grand Chancellor of the Order of Malta, Albrecht Boeselager, at Order of Malta symposium on the victims of armed conflicts and the role of faith based actors
Geneva, 28 May 2015
Symposium panel members debate – Sen.Frattini, Grand Chancellor Beoselager, Dr Mahmoud, Grand Hospitaller de La Rochefoucauld –
27 May 15
The Sovereign Order of Malta yesterday hosted a keynote symposium at the United Nations Palais des Nations in Geneva. Speakers from across the spectrum of faith based organisations, diplomacy and humanitarian aid made up a panel to discuss: Religions together for humanitarian action:
Reaching out to victims of armed conflicts – the special role of faith based actors. The symposium is a preparatory stage in the build-up to the World Humanitarian Summit, launched by the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, which will be held in May 2016 in Istanbul.
The Grand Chancellor of the Order, Albrecht Boeselager, set the pace for the day, emphasising to the 500 participants from the worlds of diplomacy, non-governmental organisations, actors in the field of humanitarian assistance and academics, that faith based organisations have a potentially crucial role in armed conflict situations. That crucial role is multi-faceted: in the protection of civilians caught up in armed conflicts, in mediation, in supporting and working for reconciliation and in protecting the victims of armed conflicts. He stressed that they also have a crucial role in promoting peace. And he noted the need to emphasise the common understanding of human rights.
The added value of faith based organisations
The panel looked at how these concerns should be viewed by faith based organisations, at how these organisations can provide added value in conflict situations and considered possible strategic and practical steps.
Discussion highlights: central focus must always be on human beings. Faith based organisations share values of humanity and dignity but need to find a common ground through initiatives – although there are examples of collaboration – to counteract the instrumentalisation of religion; religious power cannot be evoked to justify violence; dialogue is always essential; peace building initiatives are effective through faith based organisations; actors need a formation in spirituality, wisdom, humanity; creating trust between faith based organisations and the local communities is key in the resolution stages; good communications are an essential component. Operationally, the panel identified a need for a concrete Code of Conduct/Practice ; acknowledged lack of aid resources and need to increase private sector involvement; agreed good communications are an essential component on the ground, as is a sympathetic approach to local communities and their traditions and culture.
The Grand Hospitaller of the Order, Dominique de La Rochefoucauld-Montbel, MInister for Health and International Cooperation for the Order, closed the event with a strongly worded summary which reflected the views of the day. He called for redoubled efforts to build closer partnerships among faith based organisations to create truly effective support for the victims of conflict situations, the pooling of resources to carry this forward, a sympathetic support for the culture and traditions of local communities in helping them return to normal life, and the creation of the widest possible campaign for public awareness of the human rights due to these affected populations.