Kirsten Laursen Muth is chief executive officer of the Joint Learning Initiative on Faith & Local Communities. Kirsten’s previous positions include: special advisor for leadership development and senior director for international programs at Episcopal Relief & Development and deputy director of programs at Church World Service. She has collaborated with multiple UN agencies and has worked with government, non-profit, education, and faith organizations in more than 40 countries. In recent years, she has focused on GBV prevention and response of faith actors, with a special interest in women's movements.
Dialogue Knowledge Hub
Who holds the power? Local Faith Actors in the Humanitarian and Development Sector
Local communities are central agents in their own liberation, yet they continue to be marginalised in decision-making and excluded from equitable resource allocation by the international humanitarian and development sector. Racist and colonial mindsets continue to permeate aid agencies and systems globally. One symptom is underestimating the capacities and expertise of local faith actors.
With the support of KAICIID, the Joint Learning Initiative on Faith and Local Communities (JLI) is launching its Fair and Equitable Dialogues with its first webinar on the role of local faith actors in the humanitarian and development sector. The series consists of regular interactive public learning events that seek to examine how faith actors can, should, and do challenge unequal power dynamics in the international humanitarian and development sector. It aims to create space for challenging debate and prioritizing new voices by examining some of the context and terminology often used in these debates, from “decolonization” to “localization”, as well as the history and context behind international and local-faith partnerships.
Our webinar will be the first one to be held as part of the series and at a time when localisation and power dynamics between northern and southern organizations are widely discussed. It hopes to critically engage with these issues by motivating a space for a bold discussion that challenges power dynamics in the humanitarian and development sector and shifts power, resources, and leadership to local, national, and regional levels.
Confronting asymmetries of power is uncomfortable and requires northern organizations to be willing to give up privilege and share power. Speakers from Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Zimbabwe, the UK and USA will discuss together the role of local faith actors in the humanitarian and development sector and how they are challenging power dynamics in their partnerships with international organisations. They will also reflect on what decolonization in the humanitarian and development sector means to them on both personal and professional levels.
We want these dialogues to be led and shaped by local communities. We invite you to join us on this journey and critically engage with the discussion, reflect on the raised issues in your own context, and share your thoughts directly with us. Throughout the webinar, there will be interactive polls to capture your ideas on the raised questions, in addition to any priority areas and topics that you’d like us to address in upcoming dialogues.
Note: The Fair and Equitable Dialogues is a part of JLI’s Fair and Equitable Initiative that works through different approaches to address issues such as a lack of acknowledgment of colonial legacies, the dominance of Western approaches, the marginalization of indigenous knowledge, capacities, and beliefs, complicity in broader racist structures in aid and development, and inequity between local and international actors. With the support of an active network of local actors, the initiative is preparing the ground to launch regional joint learning hubs—in the MENA and East Africa regions—and to address power dynamics in knowledge production through compiling a decolonized and community-oriented evidence base on the contributions of local faith actors in the humanitarian and development sector.
Masiiwa is a Zimbabwean citizen. He holds a PhD in Intercultural Applied Biblical Studies from the University of Bayreuth, Germany. He completed his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts in Religious Studies at the University of Zimbabwe. Masiiwa has lectured at the University of Zimbabwe and Zimbabwe Ezekiel Guti University. He is an Alexander von Humboldt Foundation fellow. Masiiwa has published three monographs and in excess of 40 journal articles and book chapters.
Hira Aftab is the Co-Founder of Our World Too, an organisation dedicated to re-humanising the narrative surrounding refugees. She is also a Communications Expert in the humanitarian/international development sector and has worked in Saudi Arabia, the UK and Pakistan. She holds two Masters degrees, an MA in International Relations from the University of Nottingham and a MSc in Humanitarianism, Conflict and Development from the University of Bath.
Hugo Slim is a Senior Research Fellow at the Las Casas Institute for Social Justice at Blackfriars Hall at the University of Oxford. He is also the Academic Director of the Oxford Consortium for Human Rights and works with the Institute of Ethics, Law and Armed Conflict (ELAC) at the Blavatnik School of Government at Oxford. Hugo was Head of Policy and Humanitarian Diplomacy at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) from 2015-2020 and Chief Scholar at the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue in Geneva from 2003-2007. He was Reader in International Humanitarianism at Oxford Brookes University from 1994-2003 and has worked as a frontline humanitarian for Save the Children and the United Nations, and as a board member of Oxfam GB and the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD). Hugo is the author of 30 refereed journal papers and five books, including: Humanitarian Ethics: A Guide to the Morality of Aid in War and Disaster (Hurst/OUP 2015) and Killing Civilians: Method, Madness and Morality in War (Hurst/OUP, 2007). Hugo’s new book is Solferino 21: Warfare, Civilians and Humanitarians in the Twenty First Century, to be published in January 2022.
As a Chevening scholar, Ana Maria completed her M.A in Conflict Resolution in Divided Societies at King's College, London. Her thesis, entitled “Know Thy Neighbour: Interfaith Dialogue, Peacebuilding and Reconciliation in the Lebanese Context” explored the role of practical interfaith dialogue in the Lebanese peacebuilding and reconciliation process, and received academic praise. Valedictorian of the Faculty of Humanities, she also graduated with a B.A., Summa Cum Laude, in Communication Arts, Journalism and Electronic Media and a B.A. in Translation and Modern Languages. She is currently the Head of Research and Courses’ Unit at Adyan Foundation. Her scope of work focuses on the organization’s projects on pluralism, dialogue, inclusion, education, and faith-based activism in the MENA region and beyond. Daou has also co-authored book chapters, journal articles and reports on topics of inter-religious dialogue, peace-building, and sustainable development. Last but not least, she participated as a trainer and speaker in several workshops and conferences in Lebanon and abroad.
Tahil Sharma is the Regional Coordinator for North America for the United Religions Initiative (URI), the world's largest grassroots network of interfaith communities dedicated to the work of peace, justice, and healing. Tahil comes from a Hindu and Sikh background and grew up in Los Angeles and was inspired to make interfaith cooperation his passion and profession following the Oak Creek gurdwara shooting in Wisconsin by a white supremacist in 2012. Since then, he has been involved in local and global efforts to engage and empower people through storytelling and advocacy. Tahil also serves as a Board Member for Sadhana: A Coalition of Progressive Hindus and as one of three Interfaith Ministers in Residence for the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles.