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Religion and Humanitarianism

Since the 2000s in particular, humanitarian actors and agencies have begun to investigate the implications of religion for humanitarian assistance and development. Due to the informal and decentralized nature of much faith-based assistance, it remains difficult to establish precisely how much humanitarian work is undertaken by locally-based religious communities, ranging from providing shelter during an emergency, mediating conflict or facilitating transitional and durable solutions for displaced populations.

Indeed, the interplay between religion and modern humanitarianism can be complex. Key questions include whether the involvement of local faith communities and both national and international religious groups in humanitarianism necessarily contravenes basic humanitarian principles such as impartiality, independence and neutrality? Furthermore, are religious actors and stakeholders a sector present in virtually all humanitarian contexts that must therefore be constructively engaged with?

This resource summary has been prepared in conjunction with the RSC/JLI Working Paper, "Local Faith Communities (LFCs) and the promotion of resilience in humanitarian situations", and aims to provide an introduction to this increasingly debated issue. The summary includes a sample selection of references selected from FMO, and a range of full-text documents, journal articles, web resources and relevant organizations.


FMO Resources

Selected resources from FMO (for more, search in the Digital Library)

Web Resources

Selected web-based information resources (for more, search in the Digital Library)

Academic Resources

  • Ager, A. and J. Ager (2011). "Faith and the Discourse of Secular Humanitarianism." Journal of Refugee Studies 24(3): 456-472.
  • Barnett, M. and J. Stein (2012). Sacred Aid: Faith and Humanitarianism. Oxford: OUP.
  • Berger, P. (1999). The Desecularization of the World. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.
  • Cain, D. S. and J. Barthelemy (2007). "Tangible and Spiritual Relief After The Storm: The Religious Communities Response to Katrina." Journal of Social Service Research.
  • Casanova, J. (1994). Public Religions in the Modern World. Chicago: UCP.
  • Chester, D. K. and A. M. Duncan (2010). "Responding to disasters within the Christian tradition, with reference to volcanic eruptions and earthquakes." Religion 40(2): 85-95.
  • Clarke, G. (2007). “Agents of Transformation? Donors, Faith-based Organisations and International Development.” Third World Quarterly 28: 77-96.
  • Clarke, G. (2008). Trans-Faith Humanitarianism: Muslim Aid and the United Methodist Committee on Relief, Swansea university. Centre for development studies.
  • De Cordier, B. (2009). "Faith-based aid, globalisation and the humanitarian frontline: an analysis of Western-based Muslim aid organisations." Disasters 33(4): 608-628.
  • De Cordier, B. (2009). “The ‘Humanitarian Frontline’, Development and Relief, and Religion: What Context, Which Threats and Which Opportunities?” Third World Quarterly 30: 663-684.
  • Eby, J., E. Iverson, et al. (2011). "The Faith Community’s Role in Refugee Resettlement in the United States." Journal of Refugee Studies 24(3): 586-605.
  • Falk, M. L. (2010). "Recovery and Buddhist practices in the aftermath of the Tsunami in Southern Thailand." Religion 40(2): 96-103. Fernando, C. and
  • M. Ferrari (2011). "Spirituality and Resilience in Children of War in Sri Lanka." Journal of Spirituality in Mental Health 13(1): 52-77.
  • Ferris, E. (2011). "Faith and Humanitarianism: It’s Complicated." Journal of Refugee Studies 24(3): 606-625.
  • Gaillard, J. C. and P. Texier (2010). "Religions, natural hazards, and disasters: An introduction." Religion 40(2): 81-84.
  • Gozdziak, E.M. and D.J. Shandy (2002). “Editorial Introduction: Religion and Spirituality in Forced Migration.” Journal of Refugee Studies 15: 129.
  • Greeff, A. P. and K. Loubser (2008). "Spirituality as a resiliency quality in Xhosa-speaking families in South Africa." Journal of Religion and Health 47(3): 288-301.
  • Holton, M. J. (2010). "Our hope comes from God": faith narratives and resilience in Southern Sudan. Journal of Pastoral Theology 20: 67-84.
  • Hurst, J. and J. George (2009). “Preparing Communities: The Critical Integration of Faith-Based Organizations into Emergency Planning and Response.” Journal of Emergency Management 7(3): 11-20.
  • Jennings, M. and G. Clarke (2008). Development, Civil Society and Faith-based Organisations: Bridging the Sacred and the Secular. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Kirmani, N. and A. A. Khan (2008). "Does Faith Matter: An Examination of Islamic Relief's Work with Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons." Refugee Survey Quarterly 27(2): 41-50.
  • M Hum, T. A., H. B. PhD, et al. (2011). "Spirituality and Faith-Based Interventions: Pathways to Disaster Resilience for African American Hurricane Katrina Survivors." Journal of Religion & Spirituality in Social Work 30(3): 294-319.
  • Palmer, V. (2011). "Analysing cultural proximity: Islamic Relief Worldwide and Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh." Development in Practice 21(1): 96-108.
  • Parsitau, D. S. (2011). "The Role of Faith and Faith-Based Organizations among Internally Displaced Persons in Kenya." Journal of Refugee Studies 24(3): 493-512.
  • Smillie, I. (2001). “Patronage or Partnership: Local Capacity Building in Humanitarian Crises.” International Development Research Centre. Bloomfield, CT: Kumarian.
  • Wessells, M. and Strang, A. (2006). “Religion as Resource and Risk: The double-edged sword for children in situations of armed conflict.” In Boothby, N. et al (Eds.), A World Turned Upside Down: Social Ecological Approaches to Children in War Zones. Bloomfield, CT: Kumarian Press. p. 205.
  • Wisner, B. (2010). “Untapped potential of the world's religious communities for disaster reduction in an age of accelerated climate change: An epilogue & prologue.” Religion 40 (2): 128-131.

Relevant Research and Policy Initiatives

Relevant Organizations

Last updated Apr 03, 2013