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Faith Sensitive Approaches for Children on the Move brings them Closer to Well-being

PaRD members create a resource with recommendations for faith-sensitive mental health and psychosocial support from a 2021 series.

© GIZ/Thomas Imo

In 2020, over 35 million children were on the move, living outside their country of birth or citizenship. ‘Children on the move’ is the phrase used to describe the movements, usually resulting from sudden, life-threatening events, of people under 18-years-old. These children can experience stressful, traumatic conditions in adverse environments that can severely impact their psychosocial well-being—factors that share a proven interconnection with an increased propensity for violence and conflict in society.

Drawing on evidence that spiritual nurture and resilience can protect children’s well-being during displacement, mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) which is sensitive to religion is being included in strategies for sustaining peace.

The creation of long-term multi-stakeholder partnerships to support faith sensitive MHPSS for children on the move is one of seven recommendations from a 2021 three-part virtual series on this topic. The series Fostering Resilience in Children on the Move, convened by the Health (SDG 3) and Sustaining Peace (SDG 16) work-streams of the International Partnership on Religion and Sustainable Development’s (PaRD) took place between September and November 2021 and  brought together governments, international organisations and civil society organisations working with religious communities. The series was made possible by collaborating with Arigatou International, the KAICIID International Dialogue Centre, and World Vision International (WVI).

Considering the religion of those assistance is aimed at, along with their language, healing traditions, and worldviews, can make MHPSS more effective. A conclusion supported by Bassam, Hayat, Innocent, and Maream, four young speakers with first-hand experience. The four shared the daily emotional and mental health challenges a refugee child faces with experts, policymakers, government officials and religious actors. Hayat, originally from Afghanistan, explained:

The opportunities and support offered by religious communities in my host countries India and Pakistan are one of the factors that helped me grow and achieve my goals in terms of education and allowed me to also contribute actively to the society.

Hayat’s comments illustrate what research has shown, faith-sensitive approaches help children to feel connected, learn to build trust with adults around them, and develop a sense of purpose and meaning, even during challenging circumstances. The four also articulated the opportunities there are to improve the well-being of children on the move collectively.

“To have such a resource can help children on the move, especially in times of war,” Khushwant Singh, Head of PaRD Secretariat, explained.

PaRD brought together children on the move, religious actors and other civil society practitioners, experts, and academics to discuss where the research is pointing, and to share personal stories about the importance of mental health and psycho-social support approaches that are sensitive to spiritual, religious and indigenous wisdom, values and traditions.

The recommendations and interventions from the series have been compiled and expanded into the booklet Faith-Sensitive Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) to Foster Resilience in Children on the moveThe booklet, released in January 2022, is designed to raise awareness and provide recommendations about including faith-sensitive approaches to support the psychosocial well-being of children during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. The organisation of the online discussion series and development of the booklet was made possible through financial support from PaRD.

PaRD work-streams are working towards the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The PaRD Health work-stream focuses on SDG 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all ages. The Sustaining Peace work-stream focuses on SDG16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.