Cover Story

A Faithful Pillar of Development Finance

Without doubt, faith plays a major role in the world of finance. Taken together, faith-based investment groups constitute the fourth largest investment bloc in the financial world [1]. Throughout history, religious organizations have always had resources in land and buildings. Today, these assets are complemented by substantial resources invested in the world's stock markets, in many cases placed there to increase in line with (or higher than) inflation so that pensions, salaries or new infrastructure projects can be paid for at a later stage. Given their financial strength, faith groups can have a substantial positive impact on financing efforts to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) if they combined forces in orienting their investment towards doing good for the people and the planet.

In realizing this potential, financial investors and leaders of more than 30 different faith traditions met in Zug/Switzerland in late October 2017. The participants of the conference in Zug represented over 500 faith investment groups from eight religions and around three trillion dollars in assets. They jointly declared their willingness to harness their financial capabilities for good purposes and published the 2017 Zug Guidelines, a comprehensive set of key faith and investment guidelines outlining what different faith traditions are interested in investing in. Inter alia, the various faith traditions aim at investing in organic agriculture, renewable energy or learning centres for young people. Together, the faith groups represented at this unprecedented Faith in Finance meeting kicked off a journey which ultimately led to the creation of a new faith-consistent investment alliance called FaithInvest which was announced at this year’s follow-up meeting on September 17-18 in Zug.

FaithInvest will be a global platform for identifying and creating investment opportunities aligned with values held by faith groups that include fighting poverty, hunger and injustice, addressing climate change and restoring a better and fairer world. The platform was launched based on a joint vision of a global movement aimed at shifting billions of dollars of faith-based investments into initiatives supporting sustainable development. Consequently, the platform will focus on investments that foster the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Moreover, it will enable faith groups to share information, experience, knowledge, research and resources to ensure they put their investments and assets into initiatives helping create a better world for all.

The Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC) organized the Faith in Finance meetings and serves as a facilitator for the launch of FaithInvest. Speaking at the launch event in Zug in September 2018, Martin Palmer, the Secretary-General of ARC, said: “It might change the world. It will certainly redefine the meaning of a ‘good investment’”[2]. During the run-up phase of FaithInvest, Palmer will be the non-executive chair alongside interim CEO Michael Even, former CEO (and then chair) of the investment group MAN Numeric.

FaithInvest will come into being in March 2019. It will combine the necessary financial return of an investment with a set of criteria for the assessment of investments beneficial to people and the planet. Martin Palmer emphasizes the significant shift that FaithInvest embodies as “this is the moment when collectively, the faiths move from just saying what they won’t support to deciding what they will invest in, positively, to align their investments with the good that they do. It also makes sense financially” (ibid.).

As one of its key functions, FaithInvest will also help projects around the world to move from being grant-funded to becoming income-generating and self-sustaining businesses. In partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Scottish government, FaithInvest seeks to strengthen investment into social entrepreneurship as a new paradigm of funding efforts for a better world. With its unique background and its innovative thinking, FaithInvest is therefore set to become a faithful pillar of development finance in the future.

[1] http://www.arcworld.org/news.asp?pageID=888
[2] http://www.arcworld.org/news.asp?pageID=894

Religious Literacy Academy

Who are the Sikhs and What are Their Beliefs?

 

With around 25 million believers, the Sikh religion – also known as Sikhi or Sikhism – constitutes one of the world’s larger contemporary religions. While significant Sikh communities are located around the globe, especially in North America, the United Kingdom and Australia, the vast majority of Sikhs live in the Indian state of Punjab. The unity of the worldwide Sikh community is expressed through common last names - Kaur (prince) for women and Singh (lion) for men – and, for men, uncut hair, wearing a beard and a turban.

Sikhism emerged in the Punjab region during the 16th century, when its founder Guru Nanak (1469–1539) analysed prevalent beliefs and traditions and, due to his rejection of the observed religious rituals, superstition, asceticism and social inequalities, developed an alternative vision. He aimed for a life full of wisdom, virtuosity and modesty in harmony with the Creator and creation. The insights of Guru Nanak and other enlightened ones (called gurus and bhagats) on how to achieve such a life are collected as poetry in the Guru Granth Sahib, the most sacred Sikh scripture.

Central to Gurmat – the spiritual wisdom preserved in the Guru Granth Sahib – is the belief in one formless, self-existent, all-inherent and all-powerful God who created the entire world. Through living in tune with his Divine Will (hukam) – comprehended through exploration of the soul – and not being led by the human will skewed by lust, anger, greed, attachment to the world and ego or pride, perpetual suffering can be overcome and the purpose of life will be found. Hereby, truth, contentment, compassion, humility and love are pursued and sahaj, an equilibrium of an enthusiastic, yet not excessive engagement with the world is sought to be achieved. These ideals are to be accomplished by daily remembrance of God's name (naam japo), working diligently and honestly (kirat karo) and sharing with others (vand chhako).

Because Sikhism conceives all human beings as equally divine since sharing the same spiritual origin, it strongly repudiates any discrimination based on gender, race, ethnicity or caste and highly esteems contributing to social equality through service to others (seva). Focal point of this endeavour are the local congregational buildings called gurdwaras, which constitute not merely places of worship, but also networks for the distribution of social charity reaching from free meals (langhar) to first aid for patients. Besides gurdwaras, a variety of Sikh faith-based organizations, such as the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), UNITED SIKHS, EcoSikhs and Khalsa Aid, engage in the promotion of equal access to education, environmental projects, emergency aid, interreligious dialogue and peace.

Photo by Xiang Gao on Unsplash
Photo by Xiang Gao on Unsplash

Featured Actor

On the Occasion of its 60th Birthday in 2018: MISEREOR

 

In August 1958, the then Archbishop of Cologne Joseph Cardinal Frings called upon the Church to help people all over the world not only in their spiritual concerns but also in their physical needs. He spoke about the severe poverty, hunger and malnutrition of people in formerly colonialized countries. Therefore, a relief organization should be established to work in line with the method of the Gospel: practice of the works of mercy and talking to conscience of those who are in power. The name MISEREOR was chosen in reference to the Gospel of Mark, chapter 8, in which Jesus tells his disciples that he feels compassion for the people around him who are hungry and have no food (literally: “Misereor super turbam”). MISEREOR was established to be an organization that tackles hunger and sickness in the world through the works of Christian mercy.

The first overseas project funded by MISEREOR was a leprosy center in Chettipatty, in today’s Indian state of Tamil Nadu. 24,000 Deutschmarks were awarded by MISEREOR in February 1959 to finance the construction and equipment of a new house for the leprosy center. Today, it has become a hospital in which a diverse medical spectrum is covered, from general medicine through surgery to gynecology and ophthalmology.

Since its establishment, the annual fasting campaign before Easter has been a central element of MISEREOR’s activities. Already in the first five years, more than 200 million Deutschmark were collected: funds, which were not directly intended to feed the poor, but - in consultation with local partner organizations - as help for self-help. Particularly, training projects in agriculture, crafts and health care were funded. The principle of ‘help for self-help’ governs the work of the organization until today.

Nowadays, with revenues of over 200 million euros a year - two thirds of which are public funds - the relief organization is the world's largest actor of the Catholic Church in the field of development aid. Currently, MISEREOR has close to 3000 ongoing projects in more than 90 countries in Asia and Oceania, Africa and the Middle East, Latin America and the Caribbean, working with some 1,900 partner organizations. Since its establishment, MISEREOR has supported more than 107,000 projects with over 7.2 billion euros.

MISEREOR has a broad portfolio of activities and projects covering human rights work, the promotion of fair trade, the fight against climate change and hunger as well as the protection of refugees and education. In 2017, development projects in the area of agriculture, forestry and fisheries as well as in the field of human rights received the largest share of MISEREOR’s budget.

In addition to development and relief work, Cardinal Frings laid down another task for MISEREOR in 1958: The organization was to "speak, based on the gospel, to the conscience of the mighty of the earth, the rich and the rulers". Frings thus laid the foundation for MISEREOR's development education, advocacy and lobbying efforts which aim at eradicating sources of ills such as hunger, poverty, exclusion and human rights abuses. Likewise, the connections and consequences of lifestyles around the world are to be brought to consciousness in order to invoke change. Hence, having mercy with the disadvantaged is not only the call of the believers but also a call to the powerful.

Events

Faith and Development in the next 60 days

6 November 2018
Workshop & panel discussion: "Faith-based Development Cooperation in Fragile Contexts" by World Vision Deutschland e.V., Berlin, Germany

The event explores the potential of involving religious actors and institutions in improving livelihoods in fragile contexts and how faith-based development cooperation can be put into practice. It combines academic perspectives with those from faith-based actors and policymakers.

 

1 - 7 November 2018
7th Parliament of the World’s Religions, Toronto, Canada

Under the theme "The Promise of Inclusion, the Power of Love: Pursuing Global Understanding, Reconciliation, and Change", the 7th Parliament of the World’s Religions features more than 500 events across six major tracks: Women, peace, climate action, indigenous peoples, youth and justice.

12 - 15 November 2018
5th International Conference on Family Planning, Kigali, Rwanda

The 2018 theme of the global platform for the family planning and reproductive health community is “Investing for a Lifetime of Returns”. The conference features a specific track on faith and family planning. Panels will address “The Role of Religious Leaders as Social Change Agents for Family Planning: Grassroots Perspectives from four African Contexts”, as well as “Norm Entrepreneurs - Faith Actors' Role in Family Planning”, and “Policy and Funding Change Requires Faith: Results and Lessons from Faith-led Advocacy for Family Planning”.

19 - 20 November 2018
8th UN Alliance of Civilizations Global Forum, New York City, USA

The 8th UNAOC Global Forum gathers under the theme "#Commit2Dialogue: Partnerships for Prevention and Sustaining Peace". A breakout session focuses on the topic “Many Cultures, One Humanity: The Role and Responsibility of Religious Leaders and Faith-based Organizations in Building Peaceful and Inclusive Societies”. A plenary session addresses “Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue: A Tool for Conflict Prevention and Post-Conflict Peacebuilding”.

20 November 2018
Webinar: Role of Local Faith Actors in Response to Refugees and Forced Migration, by Joint Learning Initiative on Faith and Local Communities and KAICIID

This webinar discusses the engagement of faith actors in the implementation of the UN Global Compact on Refugees. The Balkans serve as a case study, presented by KAICIID Fellow Dr. Aleksandra Djurić Milovanović from the Institute for Balkan Studies of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts.

Publications

Insights and Perspectives

Religious NGOs at the United Nations: Polarizers or Mediators? By: Claudia Baumgart-Ochse, Klaus Dieter Wolf (Eds); Milton Park, New York: Routledge, 2019.

The engagement of religious NGOs (RNGOs) with the United Nations (UN) has grown considerably in recent years in terms of numbers and intensity. This collective volume therefore takes a closer look on this topic and explores whether RNGOs polarize political debates at the UN or facilitate agreement on policy issues such as international development, climate change, business and human rights, sexual and reproductive health and rights, international criminal justice, defamation of religions, and intercultural dialogue and cooperation. It includes both a quantitative overview of RNGOs at the UN and qualitative analyses of specific policy issues. The contributions explore the factors that explain the RNGOs’ normative positions and actions and scrutinise the assumption that religions introduce non-negotiable principles into political debate and decision-making that inevitably lead to conflict and division.

Advocacy Briefing: The Role of Faith Leaders in Achieving Gender Justice. By: Side by Side Faith Movement for Gender Justice, September 2018.

The potentially transformational role of faith leaders and people of faith in tackling root causes of gender inequality and speaking out against gender injustice, raising the issue as a political as well as moral concern, is often not fully appreciated. This first Side by Side Advocacy Briefing sets out the context and the challenges to be addressed, and then shows on the basis of examples how faith leaders have been, and can be, part of the solution rather than part of the problem. It concludes with recommendations to faith leaders, governments and intergovernmental organisations.

Action Guides: Religious Peacebuilding. By: United States Institute of Peace, Salam Institute for Peace and Justice and the Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers, 2018.

These Action Guides on religious peacebuilding focus on religion and conflict analysis, mediation, reconciliation and gender-inclusive religious peacebuilding. The publication provides a practical overview of the religious peacebuilding field and the role religion plays in driving both conflict and peace, offers examples of how religious actors and institutions have contributed to the prevention and resolution of conflict, and highlights considerations on how best to engage the religious sector in peacebuilding.

Research Report: Islam and Sustainable Consumption: A Literature Review. By: Martyn Rush; Humanitarian Academy for Development and KR Foundation, July 2018.

This literature review focusing on Islam and sustainable consumption demonstrates the breadth and diversity of works in this field, illustrating different point of views and adopting various methodical approaches. In order to facilitate a comparison, the paper attempts to categorise the studies according to their main focus, covering inter alia spiritual responses to sustainability, Quranic conceptual approaches, consumption in Islamic economics and Halal theories as well as state initiatives and anthropological fieldwork. Based on the reviewed literature, the author concludes that there is an uneven adoption of approaches towards sustainability issues amongst contemporary Muslims.

Policy Note: Implementing the Global Compact on Refugees from a Faith Perspective. By: ACT Alliance, Catholic Relief Services, Islamic Relief USA and Jesuit Refugee Service/USA, September 2018.

In this Policy Note, ACT Alliance, Catholic Relief Services, Islamic Relief USA and Jesuit Refugee Service USA recognize the important role which the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR) can play in building the political will to address the needs of refugees and improving current response mechanisms. They express their particular interest in ensuring that the GCR is fully implemented, funded and monitored as it has the potential to mobilize greater action and transform the lives of refugees and host communities. This paper identifies necessary steps to achieve these goals, including a larger role for faith-based organizations in the planning and delivery of assistance to refugees and host communities as well as in shaping public opinion, galvanizing action, generating resources, and providing the necessary expertise for these types of interventions.

Faith in Development Monitor (FiDM)

Der Faith in Development Monitor

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Über den FID Monitor

Der Faktor „Glaube“ erfährt zu wenig Beachtung in der globalen Entwicklungszusammenarbeit. Und das, obwohl menschliche Entwicklung untrennbar mit Weltanschauung verwoben ist. Die Gesellschaften und Kulturen, in denen Entwicklungsprojekte umgesetzt werden, sind tief von Glaubenseinflüssen geprägt. Gleichzeitig zählen religiöse Organisationen zu den ältesten und wirkungsmächtigsten Akteuren der globalen wie lokalen Entwicklungszusammenarbeit. Der Faith In Development Monitor leistet einen Beitrag dazu, (1) die Relevanz von Religion für die internationale Entwicklungszusammenarbeit zu verdeutlichen, (2) Religionskompetenz unter Praktikern und politischen Entscheidungsträgern zu erhöhen und (3) aktuelle Entwicklungen im Themenfeld „Religion und Entwicklung“ nachvollziehbar zu erklären.

Unter dem Motto „500 Sekunden für mehr Glaube an Entwicklung“ erscheint alle zwei Monate der kostenfreie englischsprachige Faith In Development Monitor.

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