June 3rd – Together with more than 100 participants, today we celebrated the official kick-off of The Joint Initiative on Strategic Religious Action (JISRA) consortium. This programme, supported by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is aimed at supporting faith-based communities to contribute to the promotion of freedom of religion and transform violent conflict and build peaceful and just societies.

The excitement for the start of the JISRA programme exploded off the screens during the official kick-off of this programme, which will be carried out in 7 countries in Asia and Africa. Femke van der Biezen, Manager Fundraising and Communications at Mensen met een Missie, opens the festive event by stating: “Today we come together with people from different organizations, from different countries, from different religions. This is the core spirit of JISRA, I believe: to be respectful of one another, and to be rich in diversity.

JISRA is…

Floor Schuiling, Programme Director at Mensen met een Missie, follows by stating: “JISRA is 4 consortium partners. JISRA is 41 grassroots organizations. JISRA is 7 countries. JISRA is the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. JISRA is 2 universities. JISRA is everyone here!” Then she askes everyone to describe JISRA in one word or sentence. “Opportunity”, “Necessary”, “An opportunity for change” and “Innovative” appear on the screen.

The core of JISRA

Haleemah Ahmed, a young Nigerian Muslim peacebuilder, shares her personal experiences with discrimination based on her religion: “I am treated first as a Muslim before anything else. When I wanted to enter a government school, I had to remove my hijab at the entrance. Also, I was harassed. It also happened to me that I was asked to modify my clothing when applying to a job.”

She went on by sharing a short story about an elephant and a giraffe. They never talked to each other so they decided to have a meeting at the giraffe’s place. But when the elephant tried to enter the house, he had trouble fitting through the door; cracks appeared. Then he sat down on a chair, which could not carry his weight. The elephant felt very uncomfortable and suggested to reschedule the meeting and have it at his place. But when the giraffe arrived there, she had to bend her neck because the ceiling was too low. Finally, they decided to have the meeting outdoors, where they both felt comfortable and they felt free be their selves.

This story captures the purpose of JISRA, as Haleemah puts it: “Promotion of Freedom of Religion and Belief (FoRB) is about maintaining your religion while trying to understand, and accommodate that of others as well. This, I believe, is the crux of the JISRA project”

It is happening!

Christina Maasdam, Programme Coordinator of JISRA at Mensen met een Missie, officially opens the programme by cutting a purple ribbon. Loud applause follows.

Religious communities can be an engine of change in society, among other things, to combat violence and discrimination, and to empower women. The aim is to do this by entering into interfaith coalitions at multiple levels, and thereby showing that different religious traditions can come together in their vision of a better and more just society. The local JISRA partners will also boost internal dialogue within their own communities.

This programme is carried out with by a consortium of four organisations: Mensen met een Missie, Faith to Action Network, Tearfund and Search for Common Ground, and 41 grassroots organizations in Ethiopia, Indonesia, Iraq, Kenya, Mali, Nigeria and Uganda.

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