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High marks for our international work on religious freedom

An external evaluation concludes that our international work to promote religious freedom for all is very successful.

“A confirmation that we have succeeded in increasing knowledge about religious freedom. And also proof that we’re doing well.

This is how advisor Kristina Patring summarizes the evaluation of SMC – Faith in Development’s capacity development work 2017-2020 on freedom of religion or belief.

The report is full of praise for the work. For example, the evaluators conclude that SMC conducts “extremely important” capacity development work on freedom of religion and belief. And that this work “directly contributes to tackling oppressive structures linked to freedom of religion or belief, but also, indirectly, contributes to socio-economic development and potential environmental issues.”

“It feels very good. Now I hope that the evaluation will give a boost to more member organisations to join our work on freedom of religion or belief. But above all, more people need to understand why this is such an important issue. Not only in terms of advocacy work, but also in terms of capacity development,” says advisor Kristina Patring.

Freedom of religion or belief – a work of broad relevance

Looking ahead, Kristina Patring sees that an important task is to continue to weave religious freedom issues together with several other thematic issues. It is also one of the recommendations of the evaluators. A successful example has been combining education and advocacy efforts on women’s rights and religious freedom.

“This is important precisely to show the broad relevance of this work. But it is important to do it in a way that becomes sustainable. There is a risk that competence will be watered down when mainstreaming issues, Points out Kristina Patring.

Going forward, an important question is also how SMC can bring together digital learning and digital competence development with capacity development in place.

“When it comes to religious freedom issues, we in the NORFORB network have an incredible success with digital education. At the same time, we see – linked to SMC’s own capacity development work – the importance of being able to be on site, and have conversations in a conflict-sensitive and context-specific way over time.

It is important to find ways of working where the best of these two methods can be married together.

Knowledge of religious freedom persists over time

What are you most excited about when you read the evaluation?

–That there were so many confirmed results that show that there is a change, even if it is a slow change. Not always at system level – because it is too short a time to achieve it – but with the organisations. That knowledge has settled and that it has led to differences. Not only on this issue, but also on other related issues.

In recent years, SMC has aimed to be among the leaders in Sweden in terms of knowledge and the promotion of freedom of religion or belief.

“Of course it’s fun when external sources confirm that we are now. But that’s not really what makes me happiest. Without it, it is precisely that this work has meant something concrete to the people we have met over these years. Of course, it is understood at various meetings with people on the ground that our work makes a difference; but that the change is still there and that the people we have met will take it up years later, when evaluators come and ask questions. It makes me very happy.

Facts about SMC’s work on religious freedom

  • The evaluation was carried out by the REAL consultancy group with two purposes:
    1. to evaluate SMC’s capacity development work on freedom of religion or belief between 2017 and 2020
    2. to make recommendations on how the work can be developed during SMC’s upcoming strategy period.
  • SMC – Faith in Development has been working with advocacy work on freedom of religion or belief since 2009.
  • A few years later, SMC supplemented this work with a pilot project that focused on capacity development work on freedom of religion or belief as a human right.
  • Capacity development is about strengthening an organization’s knowledge and ability to work with a specific area
  • The theme was integrated as a strategic priority for the period 2017-2021.
  • Over the past four years, SMC’s capacity development on the subject has taken place in Central Asia, Southeast Asia, the Middle East and North America, as well as in sub-Saharan Africa.