In a time of unprecedented migration, educators and faith communities hold immense power to cultivate resilience and foster inclusion among children on the move, refugees and host communities.
Through transformative educational approaches and focusing on faith-based strategies, we collaborated with diverse partners throughout the year to support and safeguard the well-being of migrant and refugee children across Europe.
A Global Collaboration Enhancing Faith-Based Mental Health Support for Children on the Move
Arigatou International, Queen Margaret University’s Institute for Global Health and Development, KAICIID Dialogue Center, the United States Institute of Peace, and World Vision International have joined forces to address the critical issue of Faith Sensitive Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) for Children on the Move.
This unique collaboration, initiated in 2021 as part of two PaRD workstreams—Health and Sustaining Peace—has brought together partners committed to addressing the complex challenges faced by children on the move. Through their efforts, they are actively responding to the multifaceted crises that impact the lives of children on the move.
“It is not ‘faith-sensitive’ in terms of knowing everything about religious expression. It is very much about listening and asking questions.”
According to UNICEF, an unprecedented number of more than 70 million children worldwide have been displaced within their own countries or have embarked on perilous journeys across borders in search of safety, stability, and refuge. This alarming statistic surpasses the levels observed even during the aftermath of World War II.
Children who are uprooted due to armed conflicts, violence, persecution, or poverty endure distressing rates of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Faith-sensitive mental health and psychosocial support approaches play a crucial role in ensuring the well-being of children on the move. Spiritual nurture supports children’s resilience, acting as a protective factor positively affecting trauma responses during displacement
A series of three roundtable discussions held between December 2022 and February 2023, convened over 150 policymakers, faith actors, representatives of governments, UN agencies, and humanitarian actors. With a focus on the Northern Triangle countries in Latin America (Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador), Syria, and Ukraine, these discussions were dedicated to producing concrete policy recommendations for advancing faith-sensitive mental health and psychosocial support for children on the move.
“We need to meet people, children included, where they are at. We need to listen, learn, seek to understand and tailor our approaches. We need to make sure that policy leaves room for taking into consideration the religious and spiritual experience of the population in question,”
These roundtables were sponsored by GIZ, and organized by the PaRD Workstream members together with Islamic Relief Worldwide, the Network for Traditional and Religious Peacemakers and Syria Bright Future for the roundtable in Syria.
Moving forward, the focus will be on raising awareness about the key recommendations outlined in the policy brief. Efforts will be made to engage with humanitarian agencies, governments, and other stakeholders actively involved in supporting children on the move.
By forging strong partnerships, the collaboration aims to ensure the implementation of effective strategies that will bring about tangible improvements in the lives of these vulnerable children worldwide.
Creating a Culture of Encounter: Empowering Youth Through Education to Challenge Xenophobia, Discrimination and Exclusion in Europe
With the participation of 72 young people and 48 teachers from Spain, Portugal, and Italy, the Culture of Encounter project aimed at building bridges between European nationals, migrant youth, and refugee communities. The one-year pilot provided comprehensive training in global citizenship, intercultural learning, and interfaith dialogue.
This endeavor was made possible through a collaborative effort between Aga Khan International, Arigatou International, Scholas Occurrentes, the Guerrand-Hermès Foundation for Peace, and the European Wergeland Centre.
Addressing rising discrimination and hate speech, the project helped empower young people to question and transform discriminatory narratives through collective actions. By developing competencies to be agents of transformation, these young participants are equipped to spread positive social actions and initiate campaigns to impact their wider communities.
“This way of understanding education is encouraging many teachers to open the windows of our schools, weave networks, and multiply the spaces for play, art, and critical reflection because we have seen the transformative force they contain.”
Between November 2021 and July 2022, training workshops for teachers were carried out, presenting tailored curricula for each country, and enhancing educators’ capacity in intercultural and interfaith learning. Workshops for young people, conducted both online and in-person, provided 16-18-year-olds with opportunities to experience active citizenship and utilize intercultural tools for creating a culture of encounter in their communities.
The participating youth, inspired by their learning, initiated projects in their schools and communities, promoting narratives of mutual understanding and respect. Collaborative mural designs and participatory citizenship activities were just some of the remarkable initiatives undertaken by these young changemakers.
The workshops created a safe and empowering environment where young people gained confidence to express themselves. They recognized the value of diverse cultures and beliefs, embracing the principles of inclusion. Motivated by the project, these young individuals now aspire to take action and make positive changes within their communities, embedding the lessons of diversity and inclusion in their lives.
Let’s hear their voices:
Before we had no notion of the prejudice and inequality that people feel, we have more of an understanding of that now and of the suffering of those who are ignored and put aside.
The [workshop] has given me hope that schools can become places for encounter and enriching experiences where through dialogue and exchange we can reflect on things around which we are the protagonists, and we feel empowered to change the world around us!
We Young people are the future generation. It is now that we have to act, even if it is only in our neighborhood, or in school, this project was very much the start and changed the ideas that I have.
We extend our heartfelt gratitude to our partners, teachers, and most importantly, the inspiring young students who have embraced this journey of empowerment.