Case Studies

Each symposium in the Religious Literacy and the Professions series uses case studies to make concrete the challenges and opportunities encountered by professionals in their respective fields. Case studies are not intended to be representative of best (or worst) practices. Rather, they present an approach or approaches to a topic in order to provide a common core of knowledge to our expert panelists. 

The humanitarian action symposium case studies will draw from a range of sources. Though there are often overlaps and it is impossible to separate issues, each case study represents a different type of humanitarian challenge as an entry point for consideration: conflict, resource distribution, a crisis caused by a natural hazard, and disease. 

As panelists and audience members review the resource(s) chosen for the case studies (see below), we pose the following questions to consider:

  • What roles do/did religions play in this humanitarian crisis and in response to the crisis?
  • What international and local religious actors or institutions have been involved in the response to the crisis? At what points? In what capacities? What aspects of their interventions have been positive or negative?
  • Where is religion engaged in an innovative way? Where is it treated as a cliché (perhaps obscuring what’s really going on in the process)?
  • Are there other ways of understanding the roles that religions play in the case that would enrich our understanding of what’s happening?
  • What forms of cultural violence and/or peace is religion supporting or resisting in this case? (See the Methods paper for the symposium series for understanding cultural violence and peace.) 
  • To the extent that there was/is local humanitarian leadership in the response to this crisis, are religious actors among the local actors leading the response?

We also pose the following questions about the field of humanitarian aid/action more broadly. These will also be considered by plenary speakers.

  • What are the strengths and drawbacks of both secular and faith based organizations in humanitarian action?
  • How does a focus on humanitarian leadership shape how organizations understand the roles of religions and engage religious actors in local contexts?
  • What are the implicit and explicit assumptions about religion in different humanitarian aid organizations?
  • What kinds of training regarding religion do humanitarian aid workers receive in different organizations?
  • What are participants' experiences of the ways funding bodies respond to applications for humanitarian projects and programs that engage with religion?
  • As an individual practitioner or researcher working in the field of humanitarian action, how do you think about the roles that religions play in your work?

Each of the four case studies listed below will be the focus for the four symposium panels.

Myanmar: Cyclone Nargis

Primary resource:

Additional resources:

Syria: Conflict and Refugee Crisis

Primary resource:

Additional resources:

Sudan: Resource Distribution

Primary resource:

Additional resources:

Infectious Disease: HIV-AIDS and/or Ebola

Ebola Primary resource:

Ebola Additional resources:

HIV/AIDS Primary resource:

  • Marian Burchardt, “Faith-based Humanitarianism: Organizational change and everyday meanings in South Africa,” Sociology of Religion, 2013, vol. 74(1), p. 30-55. (uploaded to Google drive)

HIV/AIDS Additional resources:

For additional resources, see list compiled by Joint Learning Initiative on Faith & Local Communities.