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Faith and impartiality in humanitarian response: Lessons from Lebanese evangelical churches providing food aid

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 November 2015

Abstract

This case study of a network of evangelical churches in Lebanon, based on data collected during an evaluation in 2014, presents a critique of common understandings about the humanitarian principle of impartiality, and questions assumptions about the compatibility between religious fervour and humanitarian values. Churches attempting to respect impartiality while implementing a food aid project for Syrian refugees have sought to mitigate potential problems through relationship-building and promotion of human dignity in order to ensure needs-responsiveness. Though many Lebanese Evangelical Christians do continue to engage in evangelistic activity, they benefit from strong community ties and demonstrate a high level of sensitivity to their beneficiaries' urgent needs as well as their sense of dignity.

Type
Principles and faith
Copyright
Copyright © icrc 2015 

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References

1 Ferris, Elizabeth, “Faith-Based and Secular Humanitarian Organizations”, International Review of the Red Cross, Vol. 87, No. 858, 2005, pp. 311325CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Richard Wilson and Richard Brown (eds), Humanitarianism and Suffering: The Mobilization of Empathy, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2009.

2 E. Ferris, above note 1, p. 315.

3 Michael Barnett and Janice Stein, Sacred Aid: Faith and Humanitarianism, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2012, p. 4; Ager, Alastair and Ager, Joey, “Faith and the Discourse of Secular Humanitarianism”, Journal of Refugee Studies, Vol. 24, No. 3, 2011, p. 456CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

4 M. Barnett and J. Stein, above note 3, p. 5.

5 Jones, Ben and Petersen, Marie Juul, “Instrumental, Narrow, Normative? Reviewing Recent Work on Religion and Development”, Third World Quarterly, Vol. 32, No. 7, 2011, p. 1292CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

6 The term “faith-based organization” will be used in this paper to describe any faith-driven institutions which in any way have a religious identity, regardless of their primary mandate or objectives; see Clarke, Gerard, “Agents of Transformation? Donors, Faith-Based Organizations and International Development”, Third World Quarterly, Vol. 28, No. 1, 2007, pp. 7796CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Lunn, Jenny, “The Role of Religion, Spirituality and Faith in Development: A Critical Theory Approach”, Third World Quarterly, Vol. 30, No. 5, 2009, pp. 937951CrossRefGoogle Scholar. The phrase “faith-motivated” will be used to describe the broader category of entities who have a faith ethos but which may or may not identify with a religious categorization.

7 The conceptualization of an organization as faith-based or secular is in itself contentious, as there are a range of attitudes amongst FBOs with regard to humanitarian principles, some almost indistinguishable from those of non-religious organizations. Other organizations, including arguably most local community-based organizations around the world, operate on a strong faith ethos but do not self-define as faith-based. See Sara Lei Sparre and Marie Juul Petersen, Islam and Civil Society: Case Studies from Jordan and Egypt, Danish Institute for International Studies, 2007, p. 13; Jeavons, Thomas, “Religious and Faith-Based Organizations: Do We Know One When We See One?”, Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, Vol. 22, No. 1, 2004, pp. 140145CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

8 Angelo Gnaedinger, “Humanitarian Principles: The Importance of Their Preservation During Humanitarian Crises”, speech delivered at the international conference “Humanitarian Aid in the Spotlight: Upcoming Challenges for European Actors in Lisbon”, 12 October 2007, available at: www.icrc.org/eng/resources/documents/statement/humanitarian-principles-statement-121007.htm (all internet references were accessed in July 2015).

9 Kate Mackintosh, The Principles of Humanitarian Action in International Humanitarian Law, Humanitarian Policy Group Report No. 5, Overseas Development Institute (ODI), London, March 2000, p. 1.

10 Ibid., p. 5.

11 OCHA, OCHA on Message: Humanitarian Principles Factsheet, June 2012, available at: https://docs.unocha.org/sites/dms/Documents/OOM-humanitarianprinciples_eng_June12.pdf.

12 Geneva Convention (I) for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field, of 12 August 1949, 75 UNTS 31 (entered into force 21 October 1950); Geneva Convention (II) for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded, Sick and Shipwrecked Members of Armed Forces at Sea of 12 August 1949, 75 UNTS 85 (entered into force 21 October 1950); Geneva Convention (III) relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War of 12 August 1949, 75 UNTS 135 (entered into force 21 October 1950); Geneva Convention (IV) relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 12 August 1949, 75 UNTS 287 (entered into force 21 October 1950), common Art. 3.

13 K. Mackintosh, above note 9, p. 8.

14 E. Ferris, above note 1; G. Clarke, above note 6.

15 Jayasinghe, Saroj, “Faith-Based NGOs and Healthcare in Poor Countries: A Preliminary Exploration of Ethical Issues”, Journal of Medical Ethics, Vol. 33, No. 11, 2007, pp. 623626CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed; James, Rick, “Handle with Care: Engaging with Faith-Based Organizations in Development”, Development in Practice, Vol. 21, No. 1, 2011, pp. 109117CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

16 Interviews were conducted in both Arabic and English, and in all instances transcribed real-time into English as recording was deemed too sensitive for this context. All participants were informed that the interview would be used for the LSESD evaluation as well as for academic research purposes.

18 This network of churches was developed by LSESD on a convenience basis, according to which churches had the willingness and resources to implement the project. Other evangelical churches are partnering with other NGOs, but most evangelical churches work only with donors who are themselves affiliated with evangelical churches, such as LSESD, which is a part of the Baptist Society. Other donor NGOs are less proactive about training their churches in humanitarian principles, and some actually require that their churches engage in evangelistic activity as a part of their aid programme. It bears stating that this case study is of evangelical churches; in contrast, non-evangelical Protestant (such as Presbyterian), Catholic and Orthodox churches typically do not engage in evangelistic activity but are also actively involved in aid provision for refugees in Lebanon.

19 From the early years of the Lebanese Civil War until 2005, the Syrian military occupied Lebanon as a self-designated peacekeeping force. The years of war in Lebanon exacerbated sectarian tensions, and the Syrian military was an active party in the conflict; many Lebanese in this research shared stories of atrocities committed by the Syrian military until they were forced out by public pressure in 2005, more than a decade after the Ta'if agreement which ended the conflict in Lebanon. Meanwhile, however, it bears noting that many Lebanese sought refuge in Syria and were provided with safe haven there at different times during the war in Lebanon.

20 Defined as religious and faith-based communities “such as congregations, mosques and temples … whose members reside in relatively close proximity, such that they can regularly meet together for religious purposes, often in a dedicated physical venue”: Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh and Alastair Ager, Local Faith Communities and the Promotion of Resilience in Humanitarian Situations: A Scoping Study, Working Paper Series No. 90, Refugee Studies Centre at the University of Oxford, Oxford, February 2013.

21 Gaillard, Jean-Christophe and Texier, Pauline, “Religions, Natural Hazards, and Disasters: An Introduction”, Religion, Vol. 40, No. 2, 2010, p. 82CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Wisner, Ben, “Untapped Potential of the World's Religious Communities for Disaster Reduction in an Age of Accelerated Climate Change: An Epilogue and Prologue”, Religion, Vol. 40, No. 2, 2010, p. 129CrossRefGoogle Scholar; E. Fiddian-Qasmiyeh and A. Ager, above note 20, p. 4.

22 Fiona Samuels, Rena Geibel and Fiona Perry, Collaboration Between Faith-Based Communities and Humanitarian Actors when Responding to HIV in Emergencies, Project Briefing No. 41, ODI, London, May 2010, p. 2.

23 Orji, Nkwachukwu, “Faith-Based Aid to People Affected by Conflict in Jos, Nigeria: An Analysis of the Role of Christian and Muslim Organizations”, Journal of Refugee Studies, Vol. 24, No. 3, 2011, p. 483CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Swart, Ignatius, “Churches as a Stock of Social Capital for Promoting Social Development in Western Cape Communities”, Journal of Religion in Africa, Vol. 36, No. 3, 2006, pp. 346378CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

24 F. Samuels et al., above note 22, p. 2.

25 N. Orji, above note 23, p. 483.

26 Ferris, Elizabeth, “Faith and Humanitarianism: It's Complicated”, Journal of Refugee Studies, Vol. 24, No. 3, 2011, p. 610CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

27 Ibid., p. 610.

28 Bornstein, Erica, “Child Sponsorship, Evangelism, and Belonging in the Work of World Vision Zimbabwe”, American Ethnologist, Vol. 28, No. 3, 2001, p. 605CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

29 Petersen, Marie Juul, “Islamizing Aid: Transnational Muslim NGOs After 9.11”, Voluntas, Vol. 23, No. 1, March 2011, pp. 126155CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

30 There are some interesting studies that do investigate humanitarianism from the starting point of faith; for example, Pelkmans, –Mathijs, “The ‘Transparency’ of Christian Proselytizing in Kyrgyzstan”, Anthropological Quarterly, Vol. 82, No. 2, 2011, pp. 423445CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Smither, Edward, “Missão Integral [holistic mission or the ‘whole Gospel’] Applied: Brazilian Evangelical Models of Holistic Mission in the Arab-Muslim World”, Verbum et Ecclesia, Vol. 32, No. 1, Art. #483, September 2011CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Mona Harb, “Faith-Based Organizations as Effective Development Partners? Hezbollah and Post-War Reconstruction in Lebanon”, in Gerard Clarke and Michael Jennings (eds), Development, Civil Society and Faith-Based Organisations: Bridging the Sacred and the Secular, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, 2008; Atia, Mona, “‘A Way to Paradise’: Pious Neoliberalism, Islam, and Faith-Based Development”, Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Vol. 102, No. 4, 2011, pp. 808827CrossRefGoogle Scholar; M. J. Petersen, above note 29.

31 M. Barnett and J. Stein, above note 3, p. 4, A. Ager and J. Ager, above note 3, p. 461.

32 A. Ager and J. Ager, above note 3, p. 460.

33 E. Fiddian-Qasmiyeh and A. Ager, above note 20, p. 5; Falk, Monica Lindberg, “Recovery and Buddhist Practices in the Aftermath of the Tsunami in Southern Thailand”, Religion, Vol. 40, No. 2, 2010, p. 97CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

34 Aten, Jamie, “Disaster Spiritual and Emotional Care in Professional Psychology: A Christian Integrative Approach”, Journal of Psychology and Theology, Vol. 40, No. 2, 2012, p. 133CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

35 N. Orji, above note 23, p. 488.

36 F. Samuels et al., above note 22, p. 2.

37 Ibid., p. 3.

38 E. Fiddian-Qasmiyeh and A. Ager, above note 20, p. 6.

39 E. Ferris, above note 26, p. 609.

40 Eman Ahmed, “A Dangerous Mix: Religion & Development Aid”, Challenging Fundamentalisms: A Web Resource for Women's Human Rights, July 2005, available at: www.iiav.nl/ezines/web/WHRnet/2005/July.PDF; E. Ferris, above note 26, p. 617; E. Ferris, above note 1.

41 International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and ICRC, Code of Conduct for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in Disaster Relief, 1994, available at: www.icrc.org/eng/assets/files/publications/icrc-002-1067.pdf.

42 Ibid., Statement 3, for example, says: “Notwithstanding the right of NGHAs [non-governmental humanitarian agencies] to espouse particular political or religious opinions, we affirm that assistance will not be dependent on the adherence of the recipients of to those opinions. We will not tie the promise, delivery or distribution of assistance to the embracing or acceptance of a particular political or religious creed.”

43 E. Ahmed, above note 40; S. Jayasinghe, above note 15.

44 A. Ager and J. Ager, above note 3, p. 457.

45 Ibid., p. 463; Barbara Bompani, “Religion and Faith-Based Organisations in Africa: The Forgotten Actors”, E-International Relations, 27 September 2011, available at: www.e-ir.info/2011/09/27/religion-and-faith-based-organisations-in-africa-the-forgotten-actors/.

46 De Cordier, Bruno, “The ‘Humanitarian Frontline’, Development and Relief, and Religion: What Context, Which Threats and Which Opportunities?”, Third World Quarterly, Vol. 30, No. 4, 2009, p. 667CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

47 E. Fiddian-Qasmiyeh and A. Ager, above note 20, p. 6.

48 See, for example, Jelena Vujcic, Lauren Blum and Pavani K. Ram, Strategies & Challenges to Handwashing Promotion in Humanitarian Emergencies, State University of New York, Buffalo, NY, 2014, pp. 19–20; Sarah House, Suzanne Ferron, Marni Sommer and Sue Cavill, “Violence, Gender and WASH: A Practitioners’ Toolkit Making Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Safer through Improved Programming”, Humanitarian Exchange Magazine, No. 60, Humanitarian Practice Network (HPN), London, February 2014.

49 Ali Maclaine, “Infant Feeding in Emergencies: Experiences from Lebanon”, Humanitarian Exchange Magazine, No. 37, HPN, London, March 2007.

50 A. Ager and J. Ager, above note 3, p. 465.

51 B. De Cordier, above note 46, p. 667.

52 A. Ager and J. Ager, above note 3, p. 462.

53 B. De Cordier, above note 46, p. 668.

54 Ibid., p. 678.

55 Findings in this and subsequent sections are based on primary data collected for this case study, as described above.

56 Interview with church leader, Lebanon, August 2014.

57 Interview with volunteer team leader, male, Lebanon, July 2014.

58 Interview with volunteer church member, female, Lebanon, January 2014.

59 Interview with volunteer team leader, male, Lebanon, July 2014.

60 Interview with church leader, male, Lebanon, July 2014.

61 Interview with LSESD staff member, male, Lebanon, July 2014.

62 Interview with beneficiary-volunteer, male, Lebanon, July 2014.

63 Interview with beneficiary, female, Lebanon, July 2014.

64 Interview with beneficiary, female, Lebanon, July 2014.

65 Interview with beneficiary, male, Lebanon, July 2014.

66 Interview with volunteer church member, male, Lebanon, January 2014.

67 Jamie Watts, Synthesis Report of the Evaluation Series on the Impact of Food for Assets (2002–2011) and Lessons for Building Livelihoods Resilience, World Food Programme, Office of Evaluation Report No. OEV/2014/11, May 2014; Sarah Adelman, Daniel Gilligan and Kim Lehrer, “How Effective are Food for Education Programs? A Critical Assessment of the Evidence from Developing Countries”, Food Policy Review, No. 9, International Food Policy Research Institute, 2008.

68 Interview with beneficiary, female, Lebanon, July 2014.

69 Interview with volunteer church member, female, Lebanon, July 2014.

70 Interview with LSESD staff member, female, Lebanon, July 2014.

71 Interview with beneficiary-volunteer, male, Lebanon, July 2014.

72 Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, Elena, “The Pragmatics of Performance: Putting ‘Faith’ in Aid in the Sahrawi Refugee Camps”, Journal of Refugee Studies, Vol. 24, No. 3, 2011, p. 534CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

73 Interview with church leader, male, Lebanon, January 2014.

74 Interview with volunteer church member, female, Lebanon, January 2014.

75 Interview with church leader, male, Lebanon, January 2014.

76 Interview with beneficiary, female, Lebanon, July 2014.

77 Interview with LSESD staff member, female, Lebanon, July 2014.

78 Interview with technical adviser working at LSESD, female, Lebanon, July 2014.

79 Interview with church volunteer team leader, male, Lebanon, July 2014.

80 Interview with beneficiary-volunteer, male, Lebanon, July 2014.

81 Interview with beneficiary, female, Lebanon, July 2014.

82 Interview with two volunteers, Lebanon, January 2014.

83 Interview with volunteer team leader, male, Lebanon, July 2014.

84 Interview with LSESD staff member, male, Lebanon, July 2014.

85 Interview with volunteer team leader, male, Lebanon, July 2014.

86 Interview with LSESD staff member, female, Lebanon, July 2014.

87 Interview with volunteer team leader, female, Lebanon, January 2014.

88 Interview with beneficiary, female, Lebanon, July 2014.

89 Interview with beneficiary, female, Lebanon, July 2014.

90 Interview with beneficiary, female, Lebanon, July 2014.

91 Interview with volunteer church member, female, Lebanon, August 2014.

92 Interview with LSESD staff member, male, Lebanon, July 2014.

93 Interview with church leader, male, Lebanon, July 2014.

94 Interview with volunteer church member, female, Lebanon, August 2014.

11
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