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ADRA’s President Discusses Forced Migration at United Nations Symposium


Jonathan Duffy highlights the crucial supportive role of faith-based organizations.

How can nations and faith-based organizations (FBOs) work together to mitigate the causes of forced migration and protect individuals who are forced to flee? This question and many others were raised and discussed at the Fourth Annual Symposium on the Role of Religion and Faith-Based Organizations in International Affairs, held on Jan. 22 at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) International, the humanitarian arm of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, was among hundreds of other faith-based partners that convened at the United Nations to create an open dialogue around perspectives on migration involving displacement and marginalization, inclusion and justice of refugees, and internally displaced people.

Jonathan Duffy, ADRA’s president, was invited on a panel hosted by the World Council of Churches to discuss the contributions faith-based organizations (FBOs) provide to the refugee crisis, the value they bring in policy, and their impact on the ground.

“FBOs are a subset of a non-government organization with the unique opportunity to connect with local actors (individuals and families facing crisis) and in countries where people are trying to be resettled,” said Duffy. “FBOs have a great deal to contribute and often during emergency situations can serve as places of refuge or a place to cope in times of stress.” Duffy reminded the audience that as an FBO, ADRA is “investing more to respond locally, where resources are greatly needed.”

The ongoing dialogue continued throughout the symposium on the issues of migration and displacement, currently high on the UN’s policy agenda.

“Peacekeeping is complex and challenging,” Duffy said. “We have the New York Declaration and Global Compact, that though not complete, still highlights the importance of human dignity, the right to own land and education and protection.”

The question seems to be, said Duffy, how FBOs can put those policies into action. “How can we as FBOs give voice and tools and resources to have local actors find solutions? Those are areas we need to look into,” he said.

Duffy added that FBOs are not only service-oriented but influencers as they are with families as soon as the crisis arrives and after it leaves. “Refugees are human beings like you and me,” Duffy said after sharing his encounter with individuals and families in refugee camps in Bangladesh. He also stressed the need for FBOs to use its voice and continue finding solutions to help families cope.

According to the World Council of Churches, nearly 50 percent of all funding for the global migration crisis comes from faith-based organizations.

The first FBO symposium was held in 2015 with a focus on human dignity and human rights. This topic continued into 2016 with a focus on the prevention of atrocity crimes and violent extremism, and another symposium in 2017 on just, inclusive, and sustainable peace. This year’s symposium looked at where the processes are now and perspectives to look into for the future, organizers said.

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