​The article was originally published at Joint Learning Initiative on Faith & Local Communities website

My official journey with JLI started in early 2015, enroute to the World Humanitarian Summit of 2016. The Summit highlighted the need for exploring localisation and, in another way, the role of faith organisations. The latter is something of extreme importance to me, having had the discomfort of being firmly told on more than one occasion, "We don't do faith!". The way in which JLI provided a dedicated space for exploring the role of faith organisations in humanitarian work was of particular interest. It was filling a gap and creating a space for building understandings.

I come to the JLI from a number of perspectives. I'd had practical experience of working with a faith based organisation in the field, and being denied a seat at the table because of my colour and the faith-based organisation that I represented.  I was soon led to believe that the humanitarian and development industry would prefer to disregard faith and faith engagement.  However for me, to disregard faith is to disregard the lived experience of millions of people worldwide –  this strikes at the heart of the decolonial debate, of a denial of agency, representation, thinking and ultimately power. We need to have faith at the table.

JLI's Fair & Equitable Approach is an intriguing prospect for conversations to start.  It is a refreshing way to approach a process that has increasingly frustrated me. Now that suddenly it has become trendy to talk about "decolonisation", we have seen the decolonisation discourse and narrative co-opted to instead focus on diversity and inclusion – as opposed to looking at the deeper, systemic problem of asymmetric power that comes from a pedagogy that brown and black subjects are not ready to take control of their destinies.

We need to understand the narratives of decolonisation, colonialism, and localisation and their intersection with diversity, equality and inclusion. They are not the same! Decolonisation is about looking at change in all systems which are oppressive to people who are Black, Indigenous or a Person of Colour (BIPOC), and from what is called the Global South (itself a disputed term).  However the current conversations seem limited to tinkering with, and not replacing, existing problematic systems – failing to acknowledge that the global aid industry is the grandchild of colonial missionaries and a result of colonial hangover.

The Fair & Equitable Dialogues, a series of webinars launched in December 2021, allowed us to have open and honest conversations, led by local actors, about what localisation and decolonisation meant for local faith actors working in the humanitarian space. From the word go, we consciously sought to democratise the space for people to share ideas,  and tried to correct power imbalances in terms of who was given the platform to speak, how discussions were structured, and what questions were being asked. Recognising that the space and the format itself needed to be decolonised and rethought was as much part of the thinking and process as who said what....

Read the full article at Joint Learning Initiative on Faith & Local Communities website