Syllabus for Religion and Humanitarian Action

Religion och humanitärt arbete


  • 5 credits
  • Course code: 5RT969
  • Education cycle: Second cycle
  • Main field(s) of study and in-depth level: International Humanitarian Action A1F
  • Grading system: Fail (U), Pass (G), Pass with distinction (VG)
  • Established: 2016-12-21
  • Established by: The Faculty Board of Theology
  • Revised: 2018-04-10
  • Revised by: The Faculty Board of Theology
  • Applies from: week 25, 2018
  • Entry requirements: The course is only available to exchange students from partner universities in the Network on Humanitarian Action (NOHA).
  • Responsible department: Department of Theology

Decisions and guidelines

The course is offered within the Master's Programme in International Humanitarian Action 120 ECTS credits and is only available to exchange students from partner universities in the Network on Humanitarian Action (NOHA).

Learning outcomes

The course aims to show the impact religion can have in humanitarian action. Successful completion of the course means that students should have:

  • an understanding of different ways to define and understand religion as a social phenomenon;
  • knowledge of the key tenets of at least one religion;
  • knowledge of religion’s importance in different societies, including political culture;
  • knowledge of how religion can impact conflicts and peace-building efforts;
  • knowledge of different religious humanitarian actors;
  • an ability to analyse the impact religion has on humanitarian relief;
  • an ability to critically and constructively explain religion’s impact on humanitarian relief and communicate this analysis orally and in writing;
  • justified and applied methodology and scientific methods correctly in an original piece of humanitarian research;
  • studied a research topic in depth, and conducted and completed a medium-length research project largely self-directed;
  • a critical understanding of the humanitarian principles and standards and the problematic nature of the dilemmas involved;
  • demonstrated the ability to formulate adequate and ethically sound recommendations for humanitarian action grounded in the humanitarian principles and values, translating these in innovative, practical terms to policies, strategies and programme management;
  • highly specialised knowledge and a critical understanding of humanitarian concepts and theories; innovative expertise on a particular current theme in humanitarian action with an interdisciplinary understanding in terms of its political, legal, anthropological, public health and management aspects;
  • specialised skills to conceptualise, interpret and critically analyse complex humanitarian crises and interventions on the basis of a variety of sources, generating new interdisciplinary expertise to help solve complex humanitarian problems;
  • demonstrated the ability to position one's own research findings in the broader context of humanitarian action; have developed an open attitude towards acquiring new knowledge and understanding about professional and academic developments in humanitarian action;
  • specialised problem-solving skills to promote the best and safest response in humanitarian emergency contexts in terms of personal and social implications and foreseeable harm by humanitarian interventions;
  • a critical understanding of opportunities and threats of current trends in the humanitarian sector;
  • demonstrated a range of coaching and management skills to carefully assess the relevant factors for decision-making in terms of operative context, possible effects and risks and the best way for successful implementation of strategic decisions;
  • demonstrated the ability to act on decisions made; adopted the reflective practice of analysing personal learning goals and ways to achieve them; the ability to stimulate the involvement and development of team members and partners to achieve a successful humanitarian project;
  • a highly specialised knowledge of the diversity of actors and stakeholders, their interaction and competition, and a thorough understanding of the importance of coordination between different levels in the humanitarian system;
  • demonstrated the ability to listen to beneficiaries and stakeholders and taking into account their considerations, to communicate humanitarian expertise and research findings in a structured, intelligible way to specialists and non-specialists in a multi-cultural humanitarian setting; the ability to cultivate relations of sensitive respect in terms of cultural and gender diversity and to cooperate in a quest for mutual benefit or compromise;
  • a highly specialised knowledge and critical understanding of the impact of various humanitarian action interventions on the needs and rights of crisis-affected people and their interaction with interests of relevant actors in a certain professional regional context;
  • problem-solving skills combining interdisciplinary knowledge and understanding of the range of needs and capabilities of crisis-affected people in a certain regional context toward relevant, evidence-based solutions for effective response;
  • the ability to learn from past experiences, identify opportunities to overcome humanitarian dilemmas and propose new work methods for increased efficiency, effectiveness and stakeholder accountability in complex and unpredictable humanitarian environments. 


The course focuses on the benefits and challenges that religion poses to the humanitarian field, including the contribution that religion can have for initiating and sustaining conflicts and how religious actors can contribute to peace-building efforts.


The teaching on this campus course includes both lectures and seminars. Attendance at seminars and at least 75% of lectures is compulsory. Students who miss seminars must compensate for this absence. In general, students who miss more than 25% of lectures must also compensate. However, students who are absent for substantially more than 25% of lectures must instead take part in lectures the next time the course is provided. Participation in all lectures is highly encouraged since the lectures facilitate reading and analysis of the course literature.
The language of instruction is English.


The course is examined through a written paper and individual and group presentations. Grade: VG, G or U (Pass with Distinction, Pass or Fail).

If there are special reasons for doing so, an examiner may make an exception from the method of assessment indicated and allow a student to be assessed by another method. An example of special reasons might be a certificate regarding special pedagogical support from the University’s disability coordinator.

Transitional provisions

Students retain the right to be examined on the course according to this syllabus for 3 semesters after their course instance has ended. Normally, instruction will be given according to the latest version of the course syllabus only.

Reading list

Reading list

Applies from: week 25, 2018

  • Barnett, Michael; Stein, Janice Gross (eds.) Sacred Aid: Faith and Humanitarianism

    Oxford University Press, 2012


  • Renard, John Fighting words : religion, violence, and the interpretation of sacred texts

    Berkeley: University of California Press, c2012.

    Find in the library


  • Shah, Timothy Samuel.; Stepan, Alfred C.; Toft, Monica Duffy Rethinking religion and world affairs

    New York: Oxford University Press, 2012

    Find in the library


  • Article compendium

    Department of Theology,