Islamic Relief Worldwide and the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) have forged the world’s first official cooperation between a global Islamic and a global Christian humanitarian organisation.
As a Memorandum of Understanding to cooperate in humanitarian work was signed earlier this month, the two organisations underlined their shared values and common vision to tackle poverty and suffering worldwide.
Dr Mohamed Ashmawey, CEO of Islamic Relief Worldwide, said: “We live in a time when our fragile world appears more disrupted by human suffering; religion is often construed as the dividing line between peoples in conflict.
“We believe that in these fragile times, faith-based humanitarian organisations are best prepared to provide a uniquely powerful model for mutual respect, service and cooperation for the betterment of all of humankind,” added Dr Ashmawey, who also emphasised the religious roots of humanitarian work.
“We have been here first. Where would people go when they were sick and hungry? They would come to the churches and mosques!”
Shared core values and commitment to vulnerable communities
“We are proud to formalise our partnership with Islamic Relief Worldwide today”, Eberhard Hitzler, Director of the LWF Department for World Service (DWS) said.
“At the heart of our collaboration are the many core values we share such as dignity, justice, compassion and commitment, and our common vision to empower and support vulnerable communities and people affected by disaster, which unite us across our religious differences.”
The UNHCR Deputy High Commissioner, Mr Alexander Aleinikoff, praised the cooperation as exemplary. “Somewhat the secular humanitarian world has not taken enough notice of the faith-based needs of refugees,” he said.
“This working together is a dream coming true. You can do marvellous things together. I hope this will become a model for others to replicate.”
Working together on key challenges facing the world
He also asked the two organisations to give feedback on their cooperation to UNHCR. Already, the LWF and Islamic Relief have carried out an assessment in Dadaab refugee camp, Kenya, on how best to jointly assist disabled persons who are often overlooked in refugee situations. Moreover, next month, in Jordan, Islamic Relief will collaborate with LWF on a project to raise awareness on issues of peacebuilding and hygiene.
“This is a time when we as faith-based organisations have to say very clearly that religion is not about violence”, the LWF General Secretary Rev Martin Junge added.
“This memorandum is not only about technicalities, it also touches questions of self-understanding. I am looking forward to grow in that relationship, and to bring the theological challenges of that relationship back to our member churches.”
Islamic Relief is guided by the timeless values and teachings of the Qur’an and Prophetic example (Sunnah), which recognise that people with wealth have a duty to those who are less fortunate. As a policy leader on Islamic humanitarianism, our research programmes develop distinctive, practical approaches to the key issues that are affecting our world today.
Photo: Signing of the MOU by Dr Mohamed Ashmawey, CEO of Islamic Relief Worldwide and DWS Director Eberhard Hitzler (front, from left), witnessed by LWF Assistant General Secretary for Human Rights Affairs Ralston Deffenbaugh, Mehdi ben M’rad, IRW Director of International Programs, UNHCR Deputy High Commissioner Alexander Aleinikoff, LWF General Secretary Rev. Martin Junge, LWF Global program Coordinator Maria Immonen and LWF Program Assistant for Interfaith Cooperation Elizabeth Gano (from right).