On the 23rd of October, Forward Thinking held meetings with the Order of Malta at their headquarters in Rome. The Order was represented by a number of senior individuals, including the Grand Chancellor of the Order and the Deputy Secretary General of Malteser International – the main body delivering humanitarian aid on behalf of the Order.

The meeting provided an opportunity to share analysis on recent developments in the Middle East and North Africa and to explore potential collaboration between the Order and Forward Thinking. In particular, discussions focused on how to improve understanding and strengthen the role of faith based actors in humanitarian and peace-building. Faith leaders and communities are often at the forefront of delivering humanitarian aid in conflict zones around the globe. Because of their authority and status in society in many parts of the world, they also have a unique role to play in preventing conflict, peace building and promoting reconciliation between communities. Yet, while this work has the potential to alleviate enormous suffering, to date, it has only been partially engaged with by the foreign policy establishment, which often has a limited understanding of religion in international affairs and the positive role it can fulfil.

Forward Thinking and the Order of Malta are now in the process of exploring how to respond to some of these issues. This would develop on Forward Thinking’s previous work on religious literacy in foreign policy making and the Order of Malta’s work in response to the UN’s World Humanitarian Summit in 2016.