The Lutheran World Federation has joined with Islamic Relief Worldwide in publishing a new manual aimed at helping humanitarian agencies ensure they are using "faith sensitive" approaches in their work with displaced people and those communities hosting them.

A Faith-Sensitive Approach in Humanitarian Response: Guidance on Mental Health and Psychosocial Programming, which is closely aligned with the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) Guidelines on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergency Settings, aims to strengthen support given to refugees and displaced people through more effective engagement with local faith communities and religious leaders during humanitarian emergencies.

Rev Dr Martin Junge, general secretary of the LWF, said that when disaster or conflict occurs and people have to leave their homes, "they don’t leave their faith behind".

"Faith stays with them as a powerful source of resilience and hope in their efforts to rebuild their lives,” he noted. “The intention of faith-sensitive psychosocial support is to address their needs and those of the communities where they settle, whilst remaining true to humanitarian principles of impartiality and neutrality.”

Naser Haghamed, chief executive officer of IRW, said pilot projects have shown that religion can be a powerful source of coping and resilience during emergencies, but also may be used to promote harmful practices or undermine humanitarian efforts.

“Our manual seeks to guide humanitarian organisations in their efforts to engage with local faith actors through the ‘do no harm’ principle," he said.

The LWF and IRW have developed the manual in consultation with a broad range of organisations including the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, the Church of Sweden, Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, and World Vision.