Ensure adequate competencies
Successful partnerships are based on trust, mutual respect, a common vision and shared values. Effective communication leads to a deeper understanding of how each partner approaches the issues at hand even when they may seem, at the outset, to be at odds. It is therefore important for staff in child rights organizations in all areas of programming to develop knowledge, skills and attitudes to effectively engage with religious communities in constructive ways – for example, to understand their assets, the roles they are already playing and their working methods as ways of communication as well as effective entry points for co-operation.
Some steps toward achieving this involve attitude, knowledge and skills.
- Cultivate an openness and curiosity about the religious and spiritual traditions where you are working.
- Be aware of your own feelings and potential biases about religion, spirituality and those who identify with a particular religious tradition.
- Acknowledge the diversity of religious traditions and avoid pre-conceived notions regarding what one tradition or another may advance on child rights.
- Seek out common values and principles of your work shared by the religious communities with which you engage.
- Display respect through appropriate dress, greetings and protocols when meeting with members of the community in order to enhance the partnership process and earn respect in return.
- Learn about the basic concepts, principles and teaching of religious traditions regularly encountered. This can be done not only by reading but, importantly, by engaging with members of religious communities in a manner of inquiry.
- Invite representatives of religious communities (including women, youth and elders) to share their perspectives on the work you are doing.
- Understand why religious communities would want to partner with child rights organizations.
- Identify and seek to understand human rights and child-related issues that may be contentious and potentially divisive in interactions with religious communities and find ways to address them without alienating or losing potential allies.
- Incorporate this information in orientations for newly arriving staff.
- Include information about religious communities, as well as their participation in community processes, in situation analyses and assessments.
- Confirm the roles already played by religious communities in promoting and protecting children’s rights.
- Listen, learn and display respect for traditional values. When those seem incongruent with child rights perspectives, mediate and negotiate to find the common ground with religious traditions.
- Learn to articulate and meaningfully convey the language of child rights in the more commonly understood tenets and beliefs of religious communities (e.g., perhaps talking about rights without using the word itself, which can sometimes serve as an immediate disconnect).
- Develop facilitation skills for interactive processes that allow for sharing and integration of key religious and child rights concepts.
- Respectfully, but directly, confront fundamental challenges to child rights presented by religious communities.