On September 28, 2021, The JLI Anti-Trafficking and  Modern Slavery Hub, University of Leeds, and the IAHT Network co-hosted a conversation with Researchers, International Practitioners and Participants on how international anti-trafficking practitioners have adapted their responses to the unprecedented challenges of COVID-19 and in particular, the role of faith actors during a time of crisis.

Watch the recording below which included critical learnings from the new research report: How has the International Anti-Trafficking Response Adapted to COVID-19?


  • Tina Dedace – President of SHE Works, a local organisation in the Philippines supporting trafficked survivors
  • Dr. Nehemiah Bathula and Ezra Bathula – both who run a house church in India and responds to modern slavery and human trafficking
  • Caleb Ng’ombo – Executive Director at People Serving Girls at Risk, a local sex trafficking abolitionist organization in Malawi

Dec 10-11

Co-organised by UNICEF’s Europe and Central Asia Regional Office (ECARO), World Council of Churches (WCC), the Joint Learning Initiative on Faith & Local Communities (JLI), and the European Council of Religious Leaders-Religions for Peace, in collaboration with Islamic Relief Worldwide, A World of Neighbours, Lutheran World Federation and World Vision International.

More than 1 in 4 migrants and refugees arriving in Europe are children.

JLI supported the conference as the knowledge partner, preparing a background paper, three case studies highlighting the work of the Ecumenical Humanitarian Organisation in Serbia, Apostoli in Greece and the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, and a draft action plan.


Conference Summary

The two-day conference started with welcome messages from Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director, Afshan Khan, UNICEF Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia (ECA) and Special Coordinator for the Refugee and Migrant Response in Europe, Monsignor Robert Vitillo, Secretary-General of the International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC) and M.Sc. Nermin Botonjić, Secretary of the Mesihat of Islamic Community in Croatia.

Imam Yahya Pallavicini, President of CO.RE.IS. (Islamic Religious Community of Italy), José Ignacio García SJ, Regional Director at Jesuit Refugee Services Europe and Elina Sarantou, Programs Manager at HIAS Greece offered further opening reflections from the perspective of faith actors.


Susanna Trotta, JLI Research Associate, and Dr Olivia Wilkinson JLI Director of Research presented the situation in for children on the move, impact of COVID-19, faith activities in the region and challenges and opportunities.


Over the course of the two days, over 150 participants split into three separate sessions to discuss the roles of faith actors in three thematic areas: Strengthening the Continuum of Protection for Children on the Move; Building peaceful societies and combating xenophobia; and Policy and advocacy. The sessions were facilitated by representatives of FBOs and UNICEF ECARO. These featured a case study presentation, a panel discussion and group work to share promising practice and jointly develop the draft action plan.


The conference included messages from Maria Khoshy, an Afghan refugee, and David Joseph Belaire, a refugee from Nigeria, who stressed the importance of unconditional support to children on the move, regardless of their religious affiliation and called for a platform for youth on the move to share their experiences.

Youth representatives Lejla Hasandedic-Dapo and Emina Frljak from Serbia and Herzegovina took an active part in the sessions and panel discussions. In particular, Emina Frliak highlighted the importance of using “religious language” and not only “humanitarian” or “development language”, and “to use one’s privilege to help and not to hurt.”


Concluding remarks from Philippe Cori, UNICEF Deputy Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia. He highlighted the importance of strengthening collaboration between UNICEF and faith actors for Children On the Move in Europe and Central Asia in the coming years.


JLI looks forward to the next steps of the “From Faith to Action” initiative after the conference.

Jean Duff, JLI Strategic Advisor, noted that “Migrant children are a blessing and an opportunity for Europe” and six points of action:

  1. Continue to strengthen the evidence base about faith groups’ activities relating to Children On the Move
  2. Organize the evidence for advocacy to key target audiences to support efforts to change the narrative of fear and threat on migrants and refugees and the dire needs of children
  3. Learn about and follow principles of effective partnership with faith groups
  4. Continue to strengthen the community of support among FBOs working on the front lines, especially in xenophobic situations
  5. Build on the UNICEF commitment to internal and external advocacy. There is the opportunity to support to UNICEF ECAR country offices in faith literacy and faith engagement for Children On the Move, and in resourcing partnerships with local faith actors
  6. 2021 follow up: a joint action plan between faith actors who took part in the conference and their networks and UNICEF


View press release here

View Faith and Positive Change Initiative here

*To translate this text to another language use the drop down at the top right*: Français, español, Português, عربي


A Statement from the Staff:  

It’s in our name! We stand for joint learning, understanding faith-based approaches, and local communities. JLI works with people around the world to learn about and share information (positive and negative) on the impact of faith groups in local communities and to support local leadership for positive change. True solidarity with local leaders requires us to be actively anti-racist and to operate in ways that affirm the need for equity and justice. The admirable aim to localize humanitarian and development work is defeated because we continuously fail to cede power to local partners. We support our staff members who are participating in the #BlackLivesMatter movement and assert that the lives of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, and all black women, men, girls, and boys, whose lives have been cut short through racism, matter.

Racial justice and decolonizing development are among the topics we reflect on and study in our work.  But now, joining the growing response to the injustice of systemic racism so painfully demonstrated, we commit to re-examining our way of working, to be explicit about the changes we aspire to make, and to holding ourselves to account. Acknowledging that we are participants, not observers, in oppressive systems, we want to do our part to end systemic racism in the US and elsewhere, and to dismantle discriminatory power structures in the humanitarian and development systems in which we operate.

We are based in the US with collaborators around the world. We recognize that our geographic location, backgrounds, networks, language, and a host of other material and immaterial advantages give us the extraordinary privilege and opportunity to support and effect change. In 2017, at the convening of the conference “Localizing Response to Humanitarian Need: The Role of Religious and Faith-Based Actors,” local faith actors shared their experiences of discrimination and exclusion by international actors, frequently white people with decision-making power. At the end of the conference, participants committed to using our privilege to support local and national faith actors by:

  • Sharing and amplifying the evidence of local faith actor contributions to humanitarian response,
  • Building mutual understanding and relationships between international actors and local faith actors,
  • Educating others on the role of local faith actors and advocating for their inclusion.

We affirm now to our national and local partners that we remain committed to these goals, and to strengthen the evidence base in which they are grounded, while also recognizing that there is even more that we can do to achieve them and work in solidarity. We seek to support and amplify the positions of local actors and believe that shifting power to local actors can reverse this course.

We are committed, above all else, to the local leadership of humanitarian and development systems, and to supporting the agency of national and local faith and non-faith actors. As a small staff team we commit to intensifying our ongoing efforts, to make these changes internally, and to hold ourselves to annual account to these standards and aspirations:

  • Advance the evidence-based case to our international humanitarian and development partners for their recognition and inclusion of the agency and leadership of local actors.
  • Counter discriminatory attitudes and practices from international faith and non-faith actors by speaking out when we witness it.
  • Allocate funding specifically for academics and actors from the Global South in all future budgets. Partner with scholars and consultants from the countries where research is taking place through the entirety of the research process from inception to conclusion.
  • Neither convene nor participate in discussions without diverse speakers.
  • Raise up the voices of black researchers, religious leaders, and humanitarian and development practitioners.
  • Ensure that published reports and bibliographies cite an inclusive and diverse representation of scholars.
  • Support further diversification and inclusivity of the JLI Board, Learning Hubs, and research partnerships.
  • Hold regular conversations among the staff team for a review of progress against these commitments, and for critique and questioning.
  • Speak up individually within our circles of professional and personal influence.
  • Encourage all our member organizations and institutions to speak out and make commitments on the topic of racism, decolonization, and full commitment to full localization in the humanitarian and development sectors.

There is no peace without justice. We stand in solidarity with people who are suffering from racial discrimination and commit to working together for a just, peaceful world.

Signed by the JLI Staff, 19 June 2020, (in recognition of Juneteenth in the United States)

Kirsten Laursen Muth, Jean Duff, Olivia Wilkinson, Rima Alshawkani, and Stacy Nam.


Here are some selected resources that we’ve recently found to be helpful:

Statements from JLI affiliates (please email us to add your statement):








The Board and staff of JLI are pleased to announce the appointment of Kirsten Laursen Muth as Chief Executive Officer of JLI. We know you will join us in a warm welcome when Kirsten takes office on June 15, 2020. Kirsten has worked with many of our members and looks forward to getting to know and work with all of them.Kirsten L Muth- New JLI CEO

With more than 30 years of international development experience, much of which has been within faith contexts, Kirsten brings a unique set of skills, perspectives, and relationships to lead JLI into the future. Building on what we have already accomplished, under her leadership we hope to hone our strategic direction, grow and develop our organization, strengthen our partnerships, and build new relationships.

Kirsten’s previous positions include: Special Advisor for Leadership Development and Senior Director for International Programs at Episcopal Relief & Development; Deputy Director of Programs at Church World Service; and Deputy Director of Training and Communication Education at Helen Keller International. She has collaborated with multiple UN agencies and has worked with government, non-profit, education, and faith organizations in more than 40 countries. Kirsten holds a Bachelor of Science, Foreign Service from Georgetown University, a Master’s Degree in Social Anthropology and Education from Teachers College, Columbia University. She has also studied textile design at Parson’s School of Design and the School of Visual Arts, and design fabrics. She and her spouse, Mike, live in upstate New York in an antique house with three pets and numerous wild visitors.

Kirsten succeeds Jean Duff, JLI’s founding President, who will continue to serve as Senior Advisor to facilitate a smooth transition for Kirsten and to provide support on specific projects as required.

We are most grateful for the hard work of the CEO Search Committee, chaired by Rick Santos, and for the unanimous endorsement by the JLI Board of its recommendation to appoint Kirsten as CEO.

We are looking forward to beginning this new phase of JLI’s work under Kirsten’s leadership.


Rick Santos and Jean Duff

JLI Board Chair and JLI President

The JLI Anti-Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery Hub (AHT-MS), IAHT Network, the Rights Lab at Nottingham University, and Walk Free are partnering on a survey on how Covid-19 has affected responses to trafficking and unsafe migration.


The survey aims to:

  • Share promising practices among NGOs internationally in order to better serve survivors and at-risk populations
  • Inform advocacy, policy and funding priorities

Our plan is to use this as a baseline and then we’ll be able to collect further information in another few months’ time to see the changes in responses and issues. We know there are many surveys in circulation at the moment. This has been designed to be complementary to those surveys, not a duplication.


In 2019, JLI learning hubs held a number of webinars which sparked conversation, collaborations, and partnerships.

Faith Based Climate Program Webinar #1

Organization: Joint Learning Initiative on Faith & Local Communities

Published: April 2019

Faith Based Climate Program Webinar #2 

Organization: Joint Learning Initiative on Faith & Local Communities

Published: May 2019

Faith Based Climate Program Webinar #3 

Organization: Joint Learning Initiative on Faith & Local Communities

Published: June 2019

Faith Based Climate Program Webinar #4 

Organization: Joint Learning Initiative on Faith and Local Communities

Published: July 2019


JLI Gender Based Violence: Religion, Gender, and GBV Research Agenda Webinar

Organization: Joint Learning Initiative on Faith & Local Communities, PaRD SDG 5 Work-stream, & KAICIID

Published: May 2019

Gender Based Violence: Gender Justice Webinar 

Organization: Joint Learning Initiative on Faith & Local Communities &  KAICIID

Published: June 2019

Feminism, Religion, and Intereligious Dialogue Webinar 

Organizations: Joint Learning Initiative on Faith & Local Communities & KAICIID

Published: October 2019


Engaging Local Faith Actors in Urban Response Webinar 

Organizations: ALNAP, Joint Learning Initiative on Faith & Local Communities, Soka Gakkai International, World Vision Mexico, & UCL University College London

Published: May 2019


The State of Evidence in Religion and Development Research Webinar

Organizations: Accord Network & Joint Learning Initiative on Faith & Local Communities

Published: September 2019


Together for the Goals-Religious Actors’ Role in Sustaining Peace: SDG 16 Webinar 

Organizations: UKAid (DFID), Global Affairs Canada, KAICIID, Arigatou International, Catholic Relief Services, Danmission, The Network of Religious and Traditional Peacemakers, World Vision International and Joint Learning Initiative on Faith and Local Communities

Published: July 2019


Ending Violence Against Children Scoping Study Launch Webinar 

Organization: Joint Learning Initiative on Faith and Local Communities

Published: September 2019


El webinar de presentación del estudio exploratorio de JLI sobre violencia contra la niñez


Anti-Trafficking & Modern Slavery Faith and Freedom Scoping Study Launch Webinar 

Organization: Joint Learning Initiative on Faith & Local Communities

Published: December 2019


Humanitarian assistance ‘doing no hard though need not creed’?

Organization: CREID

Published: November 2019

Dr Olivia Wilknison’s Presentation begins at 10:00 minutes into the video.

See all webinars on JLI’s Youtube account

In 2019, JLI Learning Hubs published a number of publications through many joint collaborations and knowledge partnerships. 

The Role of Local Faith Actors in Implementing The Global Compact of Refugees Seminar in Amman, Jordan

Organizations: The Joint Learning Initiative on Faith and Local Communities, the Jordan Hashemite Charity Organization, World Vision, and the UN Interagency Task Force on Religion and Development

Published: February 2019 

Opinion: Faith Organizations are Key in Global Refugee Response

Organization: The Joint Learning Initiative on Faith and Local Communities

Published: April 2019

Faith and Positive Change for Children Initiative*

Organization: The Joint Learning Initiative on Faith and Local Communities & UNICEF

Published: August 2019 

*multiple publications including draft Theory of Change and country case studies

Faith and Freedom: The Role of Local Faith Actors in Anti-Modern Slavery & Human trafficking Scoping Study 

Organization: The Joint Learning Initiative on Faith & Local Communities

Published: October 2019


Ending Violence Against Children Hub & Three-Part Scoping Study – Faith Actors’ Involvement in prevention, elimination, and perpetuation of violence against children  

Organization: The Joint Learning Initiative on Faith and Local Communities

Published:  June 2019


Local Humanitarian Leadership Seminar in Beirut – The Role of Local Faith Actors in Implementing the Global Compact on Refugees

Published: June 2019 

Organization: The Joint Learning Initiative on Faith and Local Communities


Accord Research Alliance webinar: State of the Evidence

Organization: Joint Learning Initiative on Faith and Local Communities, Dr Olivia Wilkinson 

Published: June 2019


The Accord Research Alliance Podcast – The Joint Learning Initiative on Faith & Local Communities 

Organization: The Joint Learning Initiative on Faith and Local Communities

Published: July 2019


The Triple Nexus, Localization, and Local Faith Actors: The intersections between faith, humanitarian response, development, and peaceLiterature Review and Primary Research 

Organization: DanChurchAid

Published: October 2019


As the Knowledge Partner for the International Partnership on Religion and Sustainable Development (PaRD), JLI support the three work-streams with evidence building work.

Partnering with Local Faith Actors to Support Peaceful and Inclusive Societies

Organizations: The Joint Learning Initiative on Faith and Local Communities & PaRD SDG 16 work-stream

Published: July 2019

Recommendations for a Strategic Agenda Draft

Organizations: The Joint Learning Initiative on Faith and Local Communities & PaRD SDG 5 work-stream

Published: June 2019

Faith Actor Partnerships in Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health

Organization: The Joint Learning Initiative on Faith and Local Communities & PaRD SDG 3 work-stream

Published: December 2019

On December 2nd, 2019, JLI officially launched its scoping study on the role of local faith actors in anti-modern slavery and human trafficking. This launch is the first of a series of upcoming webinars which will dive deeper into the individual themes discussed in the scoping study.


Christa Foster Crawford, J.D: Freedom Resource International Payap University Faculty of Law

    • Presentation: Scoping Study- Key Findings (33:33-45:05)
    • Key findings can be found in the executive summary of the scoping study on the role of local faith actors in anti-modern slavery and human trafficking

Dr. John Frame: Lead researcher for the scoping study

    • Presentation: Scoping Study Methodology & Research Gaps (15:05-22:52)
    • Read the full full scoping study  for more information about Dr. John Frame’s research methodology.

Toluwanim Jaiyebo: International Project Advisor with the Anti-trafficking and Modern Slavery Team of the Salvation Army

    • Presentation: Scoping Study Framework Overview (10:56-14:55)


The JLI Anti-trafficking Hub will have a series of webinars in 2020 on key themes. To be informed of future webinar information and engage in the online collaboration sign up as a member here.


November 11-15


UNICEF Malawi, Religions for Peace and the Joint Learning Initiative on Faith and Local Communities held the second WorkRock of the Faith and Positive Change for Children Global Initiative on Social Behavior Change (FPCC). The partners gathered for five days to discuss and work for change for children. The opening ceremony on Monday included remarks from Rudolf Schwenk, UNICEF Country Representative who stated that UNICEF wants to develop specific calls to action to end child marriage with power and authority of faith leaders…wish for a safe and supportive environment within churches, mosques and places of worship for other faiths

Closing Session Malawi WorkRock 2019

Closing Session Malawi WorkRock 2019

FPCC Malawi Participants presenting action commitments

I remember conversing with a 5 year old little girl
Who wanted to know what colors make up the rainbow?

And this is what I told her

I told her that each one of her dreams is the color that paints the skies

And that she is a seed of light

So when she blooms she must do so with no apology
She needed to believe that the dreams in her belly deserve to be born

And see the light of the day
But this is what I was afraid of telling her
That by the time she is 9
She will begin to get crooked stares from
Men old enough to father her
And comments such as
Mwanayu koma nde akukula bwino
By the time she is 13,

She will be told that her dreams do not serve God’s purpose
That she was created only to manufacture babies

And to serve her master
They will murder her dreams
And force her into marriage

There will be nothing godly or heavenly about the way that she screams

You are hurting me (repeat 2 times)
Mukundipweteka (repeat 2 times)

But they will not care
As long as their ego and lust are satisfied
When she fights back,
She will tell be told sshh
Do you not know that this man is rich?


He is will take us out of poverty

This is the way of tradition

Do not fight the ways of those who came before you

And you will be silent
Because well, it is not your daughter,
Not your sister, not your niece
When are we going to learn?
That the man that has the power to do something

Yet does nothing
Is just as guilty as the culprit
When are we going to learn,
That we throw ourselves deeper into the darkness
Every time we murder the dreams of these little seeds of lights?

We owe it to this nation
We owe it to them
To let them dream

The PAC also signed a communique which details action steps for the initiative in Malawi. The event helped to build action plans for efforts to tackle issues related to child protection, especially child marriage. Partners gained new perspective of working for/with children to dig deeper into social norms and practices.

Related news

On 16 October 2019, ED Fore met with leaders of faith-based organizations in Washington, D.C., to launch Faith and Positive Change for Children – a Global initiative on Social and Behaviour Change (FPCC), a partnership between UNICEF, Religions for Peace and the Joint Learning Initiative on Faith and Local Communities.

ED Fore launches the Faith and Positive Change for Children Global Initiative in Washington, D.C.

ED Fore launches the Faith and Positive Change for Children Global Initiative in Washington, D.C.

The purpose of the initiative is to put into motion a new way of engaging with Faith leaders and local faith communities.

In his statement for the launch, Imam Mohamed Magid, Co-President, Religions for Peace expressed the privilege he felt working alongside UNICEF as a convening partner for the initiative. “Religions for Peace is the largest inter-faith network in the world and with its country presence and inter-religious councils in numerous countries we take this opportunity to publicly re-commit the support of RfP worldwide to the roll-out of the initiative,” he said.

The FPCC has spent two years generating rigorous evidence, including literature review, mapping of country level work, analysis of resource materials, case study documentation, and consultations with a global advisory group of over 15 global partner faith-based organizations. It is now positioned to further refine and validate its preliminary Theory of Change and comprehensive Principles Paper, both developed to guide more meaningful, equitable and sustainable ways of working with Faith actors towards positive change for children.

Last week, the first of a series of consultations, “Work Rocks” was convened in South Sudan, opened by the country’s Vice President and three Ministers. The series of four-day inter-faith gatherings are being organized in six focal countries in Africa by UNICEF’s Communication for Development Section in collaboration with Civil Society Partnerships (CSP) Unit, Division of Communication and global faith

“We are calling these kick-off gatherings ‘Work Rocks’ to purposefully seed the idea that this effort is about laying deeper and stronger foundations to ensure sustained partnerships for social and behaviour change from within faith communities,” explained Kerida McDonald, acting Chief of Communication for Development for UNICEF.

“Work Rock” foundational change meeting in
South Sudan with children from JCC Primary School

“The aim is to move away from top-down, message-focused, short-term, project mode, sector-siloed and instrumentalist-type engagement with religious leaders which has been characteristic of much of the well-intentioned efforts of country offices to leverage the power of religious leaders in addressing attitudinal and behavioural barriers to achieve programmatic goals.”

At the Global launch of the initiative, hosted by ED Fore, a core representative from the Advisory Group, Sunita Groth, Senior Program Manager of World Vision, lauded the initiative as a unique effort within UN and Development programming to build on lessons learned. “We acknowledge the powerful role that religion can play, for good or for ill,” she said. “We also have learned that we should not impose our own values and ‘development-speak’ on faith leaders and their faith communities.” Ms. Groth went on to stress the value of partnering faith and science to address the issues facing communities.

“We need to come together in true partnership and allow faith leaders to discover the barriers to the change they want to see for families and communities and how to influence these through their own religious texts, grounded in science, and facing the real-life reality of people in their communities,” she said.
Adding, “We have evidence that this type of approach works in influencing concrete change.”
A longitudinal study in Senegal showed 72 per cent of faith leaders and spouses were reported to have stopped hitting or insulting their children, while those believing that faith leaders who abuse children should not be punished dropped from 66 per cent to 15 per cent.

“This is the most important thing I’ve worked on in all my years of faith and development,” said Jean Duff, Executive Director of the Joint Learning Initiative on Faith and Local Communities and UNICEF’s Knowledge partner for the initiative. “The initiative has unprecedented potential for providing a bridge of collaboration across multi-laterals, government and faith organizations; in breaking dependency mindsets through mind and heart dialogue grounded in assets of the community; by re-framing from training to learning, testing and doing; and for creating a strong mechanism for scaling up by joining action across three tiers – global, regional and country level.”

In her closing remarks, ED Fore encouraged partners to continue guiding UNICEF on how the organization needs to remodel its relationships with faith communities for benefit of children. “We count on you all to help us cement the true partnerships we are seeking in order to more effectively address the deep-rooted cultural, social and behavioural issues that undermine even the best efforts of our programmatic work,” she said. “It is fitting that we are staging this global launch of the FPCC initiative during the momentous year of the 30th anniversary of CRC…we take this opportunity to join hands with you today in recommitting our focus and energies to work together more closely and more effectively to ensure the rights and well-being of the world’s most vulnerable children.”

by Kerida McDonald, Senior Adviser Communication for Development

Repost from UNICEF Icon

View more about the FPCC