Guidelines for Faith-Sensitive Psychosocial Programming


The Guidelines are available at this link 

This guidance has been developed to provide practical support to those involved in planning humanitarian programming who seek to be more sensitive to the faith perspectives and resources of the communities within which they are working. It focuses particularly on the programming area of mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS), but in a manner that seeks to provide pointers for more faith sensitive humanitarian programming overall.

The guidance is closely aligned with the existing IASC Guidelines on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergency Settings (2007). The IASC MHPSS Guidelines are a familiar framework for most global humanitarian actors. By developing faith-sensitive guidance within this structure, we aim to provide for a consistent approach of value to both faith-based and non-faith-based actors. The focus throughout is on the faith and resources of communities impacted by humanitarian emergencies, not on the faith tradition (or not) of humanitarian providers.

Using the structure of the IASC MHPSS Guidelines also ensures a suitably broad perspective on how faith impacts on wellbeing and mechanisms of support in humanitarian settings – at the level of organisations, communities, families and individuals. The guidance relates both to the spiritual nurture of individuals, families and communities and to the engagement of local faith communities and religious leaders during humanitarian emergencies. The guidance has been developed at a time when there is increasing commitment to the localisation of humanitarian response. While there is consideration given to how local faith actors can be helpful in delivery of international agency programmes, there is greater emphasis on how to establish partnerships such that local capacities and perspectives genuinely shape programming. The guidance has been drafted with a view to strengthening psychosocial support by securing more effective engagement with the faith resources of individuals and communities.

However, while religion can be a powerful source of coping and resilience, it may also be used to promote harmful practices or undermine humanitarian programming efforts. The guidance therefore seeks to guide humanitarian actors in weighing strategies of local faith engagement in a manner fully mindful of the “do no harm” imperative. This invariably will involve developing a deeper contextual understanding of the role of religion and religious actors in a humanitarian setting.

Download the document now at this link 


– hosted a webinar on “Faith Matters in Humanitarian Response: How sensitivity to religious and spiritual identities can contribute to mental health & psychosocial support” with presentation from Alastair Ager (Columbia University and Queen Margaret University) and Michael French (The Lutheran World Federation)  on 13th December 2018. To watch it, please click here



Project Advisory Group Members:

Church of Sweden, IFRC Reference Centre for Psychosocial Support, HIAS, Islamic Relief Worldwide, LWF, UNHCR, World Vision

Lead Project Consultants:

Wendy Ager, Alastair Ager, Rebecca Horn

2 thoughts on “Guidelines for Faith-Sensitive Psychosocial Programming”

  1. Thank you so much for these useful information.
    Please I’m aiming to develop in this field as I work M&E assistant with the Gbv project so if there is any workshop in this field I would lik to participate.

  2. Dear colleagues,
    Please see below the questions posed during the webinar “Faith Matters in Humanitarian Response” held on 13th December 2018:

    – How do you shape faith-based interventions in a context where e.g. the church has been a bystander, perpetrator of specific violence (e.g. in the context of the Rwandan genocide)?
    – How can responders understand the mechanism of faith sensitivity in communities (even if the responders are from the same religious background)? Do you propose any kind of tools or dynamics to facilitate MHPSS professionals understanding on faith sensitivity?
    – I see how sensitive this matter can be between the Faith leaders and professionals in humanitarian response. Each party seems to be doing something on their own. How do you ensure integration on the ground?
    – Could Alastair talk about the role of faith for aid agency staff and how this may be better recognized in humanitarian programming/interventions and staff care?
    – Is there a resource that outlines the beliefs & principles of countries’ religions and of the sponsoring agencies’ religions…so that we, the workers and researchers, can have that basic knowledge?
    – I came across a few challenges when I worked at community level, normally seeing the traditional faith ignored by emergency responders. I would like to know if there’s any specific guidelines as a contingency plan? if yes, then where have they been implemented? And what are the lesson learned? Can you please indicate some related research articles?
    – For SGBV cases in emergencies, faith sensitivity and the legal grounds need to go together, but in reality, there are several gaps that create a negative impact on survivors, which are very challenging for their own coping. How can faith sensitivity help this population?
    – In a survey I did in Syrian context, I found more than half of the respondent professionals included religious activities in their MHPSS and protection projects, although these activities are not present in the original proposal. More than half of these professionals do not report such activities to their donors, could you please comment on these results?
    – My personal opinion is that we should have the possibility to assess the integration of the “psycho aspects” with the “soul/spiritual aspects”, in order to have the possibility to weight if the “spiritual values” can be a positive side of the person which can increase the resilience (personal and of the Community). Which Tools/possibility do we have to analyze these aspects?
    – A significant number of MHPSS practitioners also belong to a faith system. Do this guideline propose something for the service providers as well how to be professionally effective while working with communities with diverse religious affiliations?

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