Dear Dave. Thanks a lot for your questions.
On the strengths of FBOs there are several things to mention.
- FBOs have a huge unifying power because of their shared faith. This unifying power brings people together and has great mobilizing possibilities both at the local as well as the national and global level.
- Local faith-based networks reach every corner of our communities and nations; They are also found in communities that have weak, fragile or dysfunctional states. Also they are well linked to international structures and therefore able to participate in international discussions giving reflections from local realities in these discussions.
- FBOs and Local faith communities (LFCs) have material and social assets, useful for DRR action and emergencies. Material assets include loudspeakers in mosques and bells in churches and temples that can be the cornerstone of local early warning systems. Religious buildings often host community disaster planning events and serve as evacuation centers during emergencies. The social assets of FBOs and LFCs typically include existing volunteer networks and relationships with other FBOs, LFCs, wider civil society actors, governments and other stakeholders.
- FBOs and LFCs are almost always first responders in emergencies; combined with the fact that most lives are saved within the first 24 hours after a disaster, this provides strong arguments to engage with and invest in FBOs and LFCs and their capacities in DRR.
- FBOs and LFCs also contribute to resilience strengthening by utilizing their pre-existing local networks and infrastructure especially at local level.
- FBOs and LFCs build on existing community’s coping mechanisms and assets;
- FBOs can address man-made disaster risks, e.g. conflict, and play an important role in facilitating peaceful coexistence amongst religious groups
- FBOs often sustain development programs even in absence of any assistance from international NGOs, and in most cases they are able to respond to psychosocial issues and problems caused by disasters.
Your last question touches upon a very interesting and important issue, namely interfaith collaboration. Interfaith collaboration is an area of great potential as well as an area of challenge. What to say about prospects for interfaith collaborations? For sure prospects are partly promising. Interfaith collaborations can have huge impacts, create mutual trust and understanding, and make faith communities act together rather than act in isolation or even worse act against each other. The practice in the field does show numerous examples of interfaith collaborations, varying from collaborations at village level, district level on to national level and even regional level. These examples of interfaith collaborations do give ground to be optimistic about the prospects of interfaith collaborations. On the other hand, of course, there are also examples of situations where religion creates tensions, and where interfaith collaboration is not successful but rather has negative consequences. Pessimists may point to crisis in the world where religion plays a role in causing or exacerbating the conflict, e.g. the Israel-Palestine conflict. However, even in those instances often one can discover cases of interfaith collaboration at local level that show its potential positive impact, e.g. this letter exchange between Palestine and Israel youngsters aimed at creating dialogue and understanding. FBOs and Local Faith Communities and their activities should not be regarded and analyzed in isolations, they should be considered in their socio-economical and political contexts, which determine their behavior and actions.
In conclusion on the prospects of interfaith-collaboration, I think we should more actively share and promote the best practice examples we have from the field. For one, because the good examples are not always as well visible to the outside world, whereas the bad examples are since they end up in the news. This does not contribute to a positive public perception on the issue of interfaith collaboration. The pro-active sharing of positive experiences on interfaith collaboration in e.g. the field of DRR will help to give courage and hope to other FBOs and communities to engage in similar minded activities with actors of other faiths. By doing so, we may support a move towards a public perception on interfaith collaboration and its potential that is skewed more towards the positive. In the end then as FBOs we may contribute to making the prospects of interfaith collaboration look positive.