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Domestic Violence-Religion-Migration:

Integrating cultural and religious diversity in UK domestic violence and abuse services and developing a future roadmap for the sector

The conference will bring together researchers working at the intersection of religion, domestic violence and migration, policy experts and practitioners working in domestic violence and abuse (DVA) services, community-led ‘by and for’ organisations, counsellors working with DVA victims, survivors or perpetrators, and religious scholars and clerics over two days to share evidence, experience and good practices and to deliberate together on future directions for integrated, faith-sensitive DVA services and responses in the UK.

The Annual Conference is organised by Project dldl/ድልድል, a research and innovation project funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) that is led by Dr Romina Istratii at SOAS University of London, working in partnership with the University of Sheffield and Bristol and numerous indigenous organisations in Ethiopia. The Annual Conference is supported by a circle of related research institutions and DVA organisations and initiatives in the UK and internationally, including the Faith and VAWG Coalition, the Safe in Faith Initiative, Restored, the Dahlia Project, and other supporters.

In line with the decolonial vision of Project dldl/ድልድል, the Annual Conference seeks to promote religio-culturally sensitive, community-centred, transboundary and integrated responses to support DVA victims and survivors, as well as perpetrators, in diverse cultural and religious communities. The aim is to create a space where we can understand better the state of evidence, identify good practices and foster conversations that can lead to collaboration and long-term partnerships, and hence, a more integrated response in the sector to an increasingly diverse population.

The conference will comprise of evidence-based sessions presented by researchers and practice-oriented workshops facilitated by practitioners from leading DVA service providers, including ‘by and for’ organisations. The two-day workshop will conclude with a multistakeholder roundtable that will be open to anyone in the public. In the evening of day 1, Project dldl/ድልድል will hold a screening of its docudrama ‘Tidar’, an educational film co-produced in Ethiopia and the UK to raise awareness about the role of religious beliefs and faith in domestic violence experiences.


Project dldl/ድልድል is dedicated to the development and strengthening of religio-culturally sensitive domestic violence alleviation systems in East Africa and among ethnic minority and migrant communities in the UK. dldl/ድልድል means ‘bridge’ in Tigrigna, a term that reflects the project’s aim to promote integrated responses to domestic violence by fostering collaboration and knowledge exchange between various stakeholders, including secular domestic violence providers, religious leaders, seminarians and researchers. The project takes a distinct decolonial and transboundary approach to domestic violence and abuse in migrant communities, centring on communities’ worldviews and domestic violence experiences, and seeks to relate socialisation and conditions in home societies to the experience of domestic abuse in host societies. It also promotes a more substantive engagement with faith and religious beliefs in domestic violence service by cultivating religious literacy and collaborations with religious stakeholders.

In its first four years, Project dldl/ድልድል has completed extensive research in East Africa and among migrant communities in the UK, including numerous literature reviews and direct community-led research with diverse ethnic minority and religious communities (African and Asian of Christian, Muslim and other backgrounds) and is currently completing a sector-wide survey with domestic violence providers in England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. So far, the project has found that:

  • Clerics and religious teachers are usually not prepared to respond to domestic violence with awareness of safeguarding, trauma-sensitivity and theological confidence. Our direct interventions with clergy suggest that the latter can become more active in domestic violence responses, provided that: a) theological training is embedded in the religious traditions that faith communities consider authoritative, and b) trainers are fully versed in the cultural context, religious teachings and domestic violence realities that the religious teachers they train are faced with in their everyday life.
  • The existing evidence on religious sensitivity in the UK suggests that service providers are unsure about how to engage with the religious beliefs of their clients and may not always differentiate between cultural upbringing and norms from religious teachings. Service providers need to be supported to develop literacy about the religious beliefs of different faith communities they cater to in order to develop a basic understanding of religio-cultural differences and community backgrounds across geographies and cultural contexts, which can reduce tendencies to see members of faith communities a homogeneous.
  • The evidence suggests that domestic violence services may be challenged to adapt to cultural diversity and recommends that generalist services could incorporate culturally specific elements in their recruitment strategies and intervention approaches. Service providers are also invited to cultivate self-awareness and become more reflexive of their own cultural biases not to superimpose those onto their clients. Additionally, more culturally adapted and faith-informed services may need to emerge and be supported and integrated within the mainstream service sector so that together they can reach a larger number of communities in an integrated manner.

The conference will provide a platform to share and discuss this emerging evidence and to channel the project’s research findings into sector practices and policies, as well as enable frontline providers and ‘by and for’ initiatives to present and share their approaches with the rest of the sector. It will also facilitate international exchange by bringing together partners and collaborators from East Africa, the UK, the US and other countries.

Conference thematic areas

Thematic areas that are of particular interest to Project dldl/ድልድል and supporting organisations include (but are not limited to) the below:

Theme 1: Relationship between cultural norms and religious traditions
  • Understanding how to counter culture-specific accepted norms and attitudes around gender relations, marriage or the family that are often conflated with religious beliefs and contribute to DVA in faith communities
  • Exploring and improving knowledge of religious teachings on gender relations, marriage and DVA in different religious traditions and cultural contexts
Theme 2: Culturally adapted and faith-sensitive DVA services
  • Mapping DVA services and responses that adapt to the cultural contexts and religious beliefs of different communities
  • Understanding challenges in dominant DVA services to adapt to cultural and religious diversity
  • Identifying standards of good and ethical practice in faith-sensitive services
Theme 3: Best practices on integrating religious stakeholders in DVA services
  • Identifying types of collaboration between DVA services and religious stakeholders in different faith communities
  • Evaluating impact of interventions that engage religious teachers, clerics and other stakeholders to respond to DVA
Theme 4: Policy, funding and structural constraints in diversifying DVA services
  • Understanding how funding inequalities and other structural issues constrain culturally adapted or integrated DVA services and responses
  • Identifying policies that improve or hinder accessibility of DVA services to ethnic minority and migrant communities
  • Identifying good practices by funding bodies, dominant DVA providers and ‘by and for’ organisations to promote a diversification of services
Theme 5: Faith-sensitive and trauma-informed counselling approaches
  • Exploring effective approaches in faith-sensitive counselling and measuring effectiveness
  • Identifying ethical and effective faith-sensitive counselling models and approaches catering to DVA victims, survivors and perpetrators

Organisations and individuals working in the areas above can submit an expression of interest to make a presentation, lead a panel or deliver a workshop, under the categories below:

  • Research presentation (15 minutes)
  • Evidence panel (1 hour total., including Q&A)
  • Best practice workshop (1 hour max.)

If you’d like to make a submission, please submit an abstract of 150 words and a bio of 100 words to If you have any questions, please write to Dr Natalia Paszkiewicz at

Conference format

The conference will consist of evidence sharing panels and best practice workshops led by researchers and practitioners/service providers to achieve genuine cross-sectoral knowledge exchange and identify together good practices, new approaches and future priorities and directions in faith-informed and culturally adapted DVA services.

The conference will feature keynote presentations by leading figures in DVA research, policy, and services provision, group sessions and networking, and a roundtable to deliberate and delineate together a future roadmap for the sector.

Invited participants

Participants will be invited directly by email (they will be asked to RSVP) from the numerous stakeholder groups that the project engages with:

  • Researchers representing domestic violence studies, religious studies and theology, gender studies, migration and displacement studies, public health and other fields
  • Practitioners from the DVA service sector, including statutory services, charities, civil society organisations, foundations and other third sector actors
  • Faith-based organisations working in the area of DVA
  • Religious leaders and scholars engaged in family and marriage mediation and DVA support
  • Counsellors and psychologists supporting DVA victims, survivors and perpetrators, especially in faith communities


The event will be hosted at SOAS, University of London and will take place over two days. Project dldl/ድልድል is responsible for the planning and logistical arrangements, but invites the collaboration of partners and sponsors to achieve a wider representation of the sector at the conference. The envisaged number of participants will be 100-150 people. The working language/s of the conference will be English, but multilingual sessions can be explored in conversation with supporting organisations.

The conference organiser will reimburse the travel expenses and out of London accommodation of up to 2 representatives from supporting organisations and will pay a voucher or honorarium to DVA practitioners who deliver a workshop or presentation on any of the two days of the conference.

Project collaborations (co-Is, mentors, and project partners in Ethiopia) will be supported with travel and accommodation and these costs will be covered by the organiser.