The Hague, 29th of May 2020 – The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, under the policy framework Power of Voices, has invited the consortium Joint Initiative for Strategic Religious Action (JISRA) to co-create a strategy to advance freedom of religion and belief in seven countries. JISRA is an international interfaith consortium consisting of Mensen met een Missie, Faith to Action Network, Tearfund (UK and Netherlands), Islamic Relief Worldwide and Search for Common Ground.

The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs notes that over 75% of the world’s population lives in countries with limited freedom of religion and belief. The Ministry made the right to freedom of religion and belief one of the cornerstones in its human rights and international development policies. JISRA is honoured to be part of this cornerstone.

To take the role of religion seriously in safeguarding freedom and rights of people is such a powerful signal of the Dutch government. Rick van der Woud, director of Mensen met een Missie

“Fantastic!” is the reaction of Rick van der Woud, director of Mensen met een Missie. “To take the role of religion seriously in safeguarding freedom and rights of people is such a powerful signal of the Dutch government. We look forward to working with them. Together against radicalisation, together against extremism, together against exclusion.” 

“We are very excited to be part of this consortium, working in close cooperation with the Dutch government, to build safer, just and more peaceful societies where healthy collaboration across religions are the norm, interreligious dialogue is valued and freedom of religion or belief is upheld.” – Charline Burton, Executive Director, Search for Common Ground. 

Building bridges
The meaning of the Arabic word Jisr’ is bridge. That perfectly symbolises what the JISRA consortium aims to do: to build bridges between divided communities. 

“Different faiths have many  commonalities and few differences, they provide people the normative foundation to what is right and wrong. Our teachings have a lot in common with human rights. However, all too often, our faiths are utilised to ostracise, to harass, to violate other people’s dignity. The perpetrators are not true believers. Everybody must know this. Within our interfaith network, we will work hand in hand with faith leaders from different religions: Muslim, Christian, Confucian, Hindu, Bahai, Buddhist to identify and correct such harmful practices in our communities, let us put our differences aside and work with our commonalities.” – Prof Dr. Ahmed Ragab, Vice Chairperson and Founder, Faith to Action Network; International Islamic Centre for Population Studies and Research, Al Azhar University.

Kenyan, Indonesian and Dutch youth from different faith backgrounds take part in an exchange organized by Mensen met een Missie.

“Faith actors play a significant role in local communities especially in a world where more than 80% of the population affiliate to a major religion. This partnership will help us further strengthen and support faith actors in addressing harmful norms and practices in their communities, as well as advocating for lasting and meaningful dialogue and change across all levels of society.” – Ephraim Tsegay, Country Director for Ethiopia, Tearfund.

Women and youth
The JISRA consortium intends to work with a great variety of local faith-based actors, partners, networks, youth organisations and women’s organisations to support, capacitate and amplify inclusive voices and policies.

“Young people are at the heart of everything. They are the biggest generation ever and their actions will shape the future. We will work with our young people to develop a wonderful vision of a shared future, where people of different faiths live together peacefully in harmony. This is what this strategic partnership will help us do.” – Rev. Canon Grace Kaiso, outgoing Chairperson and Founder, Faith to Action Network.

“As a religious woman, I don’t want people to misuse my religion to deny my rights or that of others. My life is dedicated to teaching women to critically engage with and understand their faith teachings, and speak up from a point of knowledge. This partnership will elevate women’s voices in addressing injustices and calling out on religious manipulators”. – Dr. Emma Rachmawati, Dra., Mkes, Steering Council Member and Founder, Faith to Action Network; Muhammadiyah and Aisyiyah.

Youth from different faith backgrounds (Muslim and Christian) take part in activity organized by Uganda Joint Christian Council and Muslim Centre for Justice and Law, with the support of Faith to Action Network. 

Different levels
The unique composition of the consortium, allows JISRA to work within faith communities as well as with high level decision makers. 

  • JISRA will work within religious communities to challenge discrimination, extremist tendencies and hate towards others.
  • JISRA will facilitate and strengthen bridges between religious communities by encouraging interreligious action and addressing common grievances.
  • JISRA will engage with local, national and international authorities to make state action towards religious freedom more effective and to challenge divisive policies and practices.

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