Faith and SRHR – how to facilitate constructive dialogues to advance mutual aims?

Faith to Action Network and Church of Sweden hosted a workshop at the 2018 Eurongos conference, between November, 6th and 7th 2018 in Ghent, Belgium. “Tensions linger and oxygen is sucked from debates. Honest recognition of differences and robust discussion in ‘safe spaces’ could help move towards better understanding and common visions, …dispel myths associated over-simplistically with ‘all religions’ and help ensure that perceived differences do not impede or detract from wider, constructive religious engagement.” (Marshall, 2017). “Religious literacy” is needed for constructive engagement: a thorough understanding of different world views, including religious traditions. The workshop offered a safe space to discuss SRHR and religion. It followed three aims:

  • To understand the need of engaging with faith actors and be transparent about needs and challenges,
  • To map existing evidence and different methods of engagement with faith actors and identify gaps,
  • To strategize on leveraging faith voices and partnerships for global and European SRHR advocacy, services and information.

Facilitated by Karen Hoehn, Independent Consultant and Board Member, Faith to Action Network, and Emilie Weiderud, Policy Advisor, Church of Sweden, it sensitized participants on the importance of faith in promoting SRHR, drawing on experiences working with faith groups, and motivating greater constructive collaboration and action.

Participants made the following main recommendations and action points:

  • Work with progressive feminists of faith, invite them into your SRHR spaces and ask them all the questions you have! Start with easier allies on your side that will help you to prepare yourself before going into more difficult conversations with faith actors.
  • Find the entry point issues and the common ground with faith actors, such as preventing HIV/AIDS, fighting sexual and gender-based violence. Make sure that you are aware of the language you and the faith actors use while speaking about these issues.
  • Engage with faith youth – an untapped potential. Find and work with them!
  • Strengthen the capacity of religious actors through inviting them into the process of programming and advocacy at an early stage and build joint strategies. Be very clear about what you ask them to do.

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