Wednesday, August 05, 2009

My Advice to the UN on Reaching Out to FBO's

Here are some of the key points I made in my address at the UNFPA meeting on how to reach out to faith based organizations.

1. Approach religious leaders and organizations for their moral authority and their advice and counsel on how to serve the people in their communities. Look for partners, not just organizations that can help you serve people with your message. Appreciate their leadership and their influence on the lives of the people they serve.

2. Let religious leaders be the links between secular organizations and faith based organizations. Speak to faith based leaders from a faith based -- not a public health -- perspective. Ask for their help in articulating how their theological commitments to physical, emotional, and spiritual health lead to a commitment to reproductive health and justice. Be prepared to directly address the "textual harassment" of women and sexualities in sacred texts.

3. Seek opportunities for common ground and let faith based organizations enter partnerships where they are. Maternal mortality, child sexual abuse prevention, preventing gender based violence, HIV/AIDS may be easier that sexuality issues. Begin relationships, earn trust, and then help explain the larger connections.

4. Not withstanding number 3, be bold and courageous enough to break the silence about sexuality in faith communities. Help faith based communities understand that sexuality and spirituality are intimately connected and that human flourishing means being able to celebrate one's sexuality with holiness and integrity.

5. Let religious leaders be religious leaders. Do not try to "Message Them", don't expect them to become public health professionals. Ask them to partner with you as faith based organizations.

6. Never write off anyone as a potential partner regardless of their faith tradition. On the ground, priests and imams may be very willing to address the very real needs of the people they serve, regardless of the hierarchy's reluctance to address sexuality directly.

7. Make it easy for faith based organizations to partner on sexual and reproductive health issues. Explain the need in the community, but also offer worship materials, education, and leadership training.

What else would you have told the United Nations about reaching out to faith based leaders? Let me know and I'll pass it on.

No comments: