The case for (and challenges of) faith-sensitive psychosocial programming
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Ager, W., French, M., Fitzgibbon, A. and Ager, A. (2019) The case for (and challenges of) faith-sensitive psychosocial programming. Intervention: Journal of Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Conflict Affected Areas, 17 (1), pp. 69-75.
Drawing upon evidence compiled in a recent literature review, we identify five arguments for seeking faith-sensitivity in psychosocial programming: it is indicated by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) Guidelines on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS); it is implied by humanitarian law and principles; religion is an active and effective source of coping in many contexts; local faith actors have a ‘comparative advantage’ in humanitarian settings; and engaging with religion is coherent with emerging policy and practice. However, we also identify three major challenges in implementing faith-sensitive programming: religion may be used as a basis for maladaptive coping; religious engagement is considered a threat to impartiality; and practices of engaging with religion are poorly documented, disseminated and developed. This suggests the value of guidance on faith-sensitive psychosocial programming—consistent with the existing IASC MHPSS guidelines—suitable for implementation by both faith-based and non-faith-based actors.Key Implications for Practice - The role of faith in supporting well-being and recovery and the importance of engaging with local capacities and institutions both point to the relevance of faith-sensitive psychosocial programming; - Humanitarian law and principles promote respect for religious practice and freedom of religion; - Humanitarian agencies are potentially discouraged from engaging with religion by concerns about partiality, proselytism and the potential for religion to ferment conflict; - There is a need to develop, document and disseminate appropriate faith-sensitive programming practices more effectively.