Islamic Relief Worldwide’s Chief Executive Naser Haghamed is joining other leading NGOs as well as world leaders like German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, at the first Global Refugee Forum in Geneva this week.

The high-level summit is the first since the Global Compact on Refugees was successfully negotiated last year – a binding political agreement seeking to improve how the world works together to address the growing needs of the planet’s 25 million refugees.

At the Forum, Islamic Relief joins governments, UN agencies, international aid agencies, refugee-led organisations, the World Bank and private sector bodies to pledge an increase in efforts to protect refugees and people forced to flee their homes. This includes new measures to ease pressures on host countries, enhance refugee self-reliance, expand access to third-country solutions and support conditions for the safe and dignified return of refugees to their countries of origin.

“I am proud to be here with our diverse range of partners and commit to building on our long history of providing care, relief and protection to refugees and people forced to flee,” says Naser. “As the Global Compact on Refugees clearly states, only when all elements of society work together more effectively will we be able to truly address the growing global displacement crisis which, with the increasing effects of climate change, is only set to get worse.”

Building on our partnership with the Lutheran World Federation and as a leading member of the Faith Action for Children on the Move Coalition, Islamic Relief is pledging to scale up work on protecting refugee children and tackling the divisive, harmful narrative of fear and hatred that drives anti-refugee sentiment all over the world.

We will do this, in part, by training more faith leaders on child protection and by working with affected communities to promote faith-sensitive psychosocial support to those in need. The work will support our ongoing efforts to help millions of people impacted by war and conflict in places like Syria, Somalia and Yemen.

At the Forum, Islamic Relief will also be showcasing our partnership with World Vision in pioneering a version of their Channels of Hope methodology that applies to Islamic, as well as Christian, faith traditions.

As part of this partnership, we have conduced trainings and activities across the world. In 2017 Islamic Relief and World Vision teams in Lebanon held workshops with 12 faith leaders from both religions who often held positions in formal and informal local judicial structures and presided over child abuse or domestic violence cases, incentivising and helping them to respond effectively to child protection needs, reducing harmful practices.

Because refugee communities can be particularly prone to the stresses of trauma, poverty, unemployment, and a lack of formal support structures, the leaders were chosen from Saida and the Bekaa Valley, where hundreds of thousands of Palestinians and Syrian live today. “Respect for refugees and asylum seekers and appreciation of those who provide refuge has a particular place in our faith,” says Naser.

“When the early Muslims migrated from Mecca to Medina the Prophet Muhammad [pbuh] said every inhabitant should look after at least one immigrant and provide food, shelter, clothing and any other assistance within their means – emphasising the importance of refuge and protection.

“This message gave me hope when I made the perilous journey as a 13-year-old boy fleeing conflict in my native Eritrea and it drives my determination to ensure Islamic Relief is doing what it can to support those who have lost their homes and livelihoods.

“I know first-hand the critical role that faith leaders and religious belief can play in defending the rights of refugees and asylum seekers. All over the world – especially in countries neighbouring those in crisis – faith communities welcome refugees and displaced people with open arms, offering sanctuary, comfort and reassurance. It is a privilege to represent them at this global summit, and we stand committed to doing even more in the challenging years ahead.”

Read more about Islamic Relief’s work on refugees.