"Going the extra mile" in addressing crimes: The role of faith and a faith-based approach in crime prevention

21 May 2019 - On the margins of the CCPCJ at the UN Headquarters in Vienna, Office of the Director of the Division for Policy Analysis and Public Affairs of UNODC co-organized together with KAICIID International Dialogue Center in cooperation with members of civil society, a special event on Faith Based Organizations' (FBO) engagement in crime prevention, where representatives from different religious and institutional backgrounds shared their experiences. More than 100 people attended the event, which was the first of its kind hosted by UNODC, demonstrating the high interest in the work of FBOs and religious leaders in the field of crime prevention and criminal justice.

In his opening remarks, Division Director Jean-Luc Lemahieu informed that the Inter-agency Task Force on Religion and Sustainable Development, of which UNODC recently became a member, provides policy guidance around engaging with faith-based actors, deepen UN system empoyees' capacities around intersections of religion with the UN pillars of development, human rights and peace and security dynamics.  

Meanwhile, Ambassador Albacete of KAICIID observed that in the context of crime prevention, FBOs and religious leaders who are active at the grassroots level demonstrate their undisputed commitment and motivation to "go the extra mile". Their presence in their communities enables a trusted and frank dialogue with juveniles, substance abusers, and former inmates reintegrating into their community. He added that "any approach to social cohesion, in order to be effective, must respect differences and support inclusive and sustained dialogue through multi-stakeholder partnerships."  

An eminent panel of speakers, including Bishop Franz Scharl, Magistrat Friedrich Forsthuber and Dr. Gilberto Gerra, stressed the importance of faith and religious values in pursuing the common goal of building peaceful communities. For example, pastoral care plays a crucial role for the rehabilitation of prisoners. Based on the Nelson Mandela Rules adopted in 2015, the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, prison pastorals enable incarcerated persons to practice their right of freedom of thought and religion and make them feel heard. Darcy Roake, the Unitarian Minister at Community Church in New Orleans, highlighted that "people of faith can be allies and allow the impacted to have a voice in sharing ideas and solutions".

Furthermore, speakers emphasised the need to provide individuals in detention with education and spiritual support, noting that religion can go further and help establish a network in society to reintegrate inmates once they are released. On this point, Imam Sheikh Mohammad Ismail from the Octagon Centre in Sheffield, UK, underlined the important role the United Nations can play in "encouraging governments to have structured projects and involving religious leaders and FBOs in preventing crimes and bringing back criminals into society".

The event concluded with the remarkable performance of Vienna's first oriental choir "Nai". Nai unites more than 40 singers from different countries, mostly Syria, and different faiths to show the uniqueness of Arab culture while spreading the values of peace and love.