World Lutheran body and Islamic aid group sign cooperative pact

(Photo: LWF / Stéphane Gallay.)Signing of a memorandum of understaning by Dr. Mohamed Ashmawey, CEO of IRW and DWS Director Eberhard Hitzler (front, from left), witnessed by LWF assistant general Secretary for Human Rights Affairs Ralston Deffenbaugh, Mehdi ben M'rad, IRW director of National Programs, UNHCR deputy high commissioner Alexander Aleinikoff, LWF general secretary Rev. Martin Junge, LWF global program coordinator Maria Immonen and LWF program assistant for Interfaith Cooperation Elizabeth Gano (from right).

The Lutheran World Federation and Islamic Relief Worldwide have signed an historic agreement to cooperate in humanitarian work forging inter-faith relations in a field where humanity is often under siege.

The signing of the memorandum of understanding is the first official cooperation between a global Christian and a global Islamic humanitarian organization.

"We are proud to formalize our partnership with Islamic Relief Worldwide today," Eberhard Hitzler, director of the LWF Department for World Service said.

The LWF released a statement Monday from its Geneva based where it represents more than 72 million Christians worldwide.

"At the heart of our collaboration are the many core values we share such as dignity, justice, compassion and commitment," said Hitzler.

"And our common vision to empower and support vulnerable communities and people affected by disaster, which unite us across our religious differences."

Mohamed Ashmawey, CEO of Islamic Relief Worldwide, noted, "We live in a time when our fragile world appears more disrupted by human suffering; religion is often construed as the dividing line between peoples in conflict.

"We believe that in these fragile times, faith-based humanitarian organizations are best prepared to provide a uniquely powerful model for mutual respect, service and cooperation for the betterment of all of humankind."

Ashmawey emphasized the religious roots of humanitarian work.

"We have been here first," he said. "Where would people go when they were sick and hungry? They would come to the churches and mosques."

The UNHCR Deputy High Commissioner, Alexander Aleinikoff, praised the cooperation. "The secular humanitarian world has not taken enough notice of the faith-based needs of refugees,"

"This working together is a dream coming true. You can do marvellous things together. I hope this will become a model for others to replicate."

He also asked the two organizations to give feedback on their cooperation to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugess.

The LWF and IRW have already carried out an assessment in Dadaab said to be one of the world's biggest refugee camps in Kenya, on how best to jointly assist disabled persons who are often overlooked in refugee situations.

"This is a time when we as faith-based organizations have to say very clearly that religion is not about violence," the LWF General Secretary Rev Martin Junge said.

"This memorandum is not only about technicalities, it also touches questions of self-understanding. I am looking forward to grow in that relationship, and to bring the theological challenges of that relationship back to our member churches."

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