Are Faith Related Initiatives Important In Development And Peace-Building?

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This profound article by Jenny Lunn stunningly encapsulates the correlation between religion, spirituality and faith, to development. Using the Critical Theory methodology, she breaks down the approach into three, and provides strong reasoning as to how religion does play a positive role on development. From the first critical theory principle of collection, analysis and interpretation of data, the three areas of development theory and academia, development policy and institutions, and NGOs are addressed. From the second principle-dialectical process, she critically analyses three aspects of religion- religious organisations, religious values and religious worldviews. With the third principle of self-determination and emancipation, she concludes that there is a potential for the future for …

There are three ways to look at religion and development. First is to think that religion plays no role in development, second is to think that it plays some role and the third is to think that it plays a major role in development.

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Focusing on the first principle, we understand that data on development, up until the 20th century, does not show any strong attributions to religion, as the neo-Marxist approach believed that economic growth goes hand-in-hand with secularisation, and that religious practices was an impediment to economic advancement. Some cases even believed that religion was the ‘opium of the people’ and that it lacked the motivation to better the society. The lack of data attributions, whether purposeful or not, shows a kind of cultural imperialism that is believed to have some sort of a hinderance to developmental research. It is only from the 21st century that we see active attributions and mentions of religion by the non-western scholars and western scholars. The 1990s gave rise to more frameworks of post-developmentalism, post-colonialism, post-structuralism and post-traditionalism, allowing a multi-faceted approach that included religion. Since most present-day international bodies worked around religion, without involving it, more and more people realised that sustainable development can be achieved if we involve religion in developmental strategies. Apart from these, there is a special mention of ROs, and how actively they work towards development.

The second principle then focuses on how different religious bodies work for the people and are active at the different levels of society, in the different parts of the world. They are well distributed and very often manage to bridge the gap that governments fail to. They stand out because of their zeal and commitment for the people and communities. It is this reason that makes them more trustworthy than any governmental organisation, but they sometimes tend to evangelise and convert the people and are therefore looked upon with suspicion.

Major religions of the world focus on values such as works of charity and respect for all, compassion and care for those in need, justice and equality, and care of nature. These values, along with a framework of “do to others what you would have done to you”, would make for a common ground of universal aspirations and a ‘space for cultural and religious diversity’. This would also give rise to a new world of generosity, care, respect and co-operation.

The third principle draws attention on how religion should be seen as a basis for development, as it comprises of societies that are instrumental in making progress. Suggestions of a dual approach has been made by certain scholars, which encourages the use of sacred/spiritual methods alongside secular developmental strategies, to work with local communities to arrive at a middle ground for progressing sustainably. This part ends with the thought of whether we are discovering potential religious world-views for development, or simply just rediscovering it.

Analysis: Religion, whether active or passive, plays a key role in the shaping an individual, regardless of whether they have a religious outlook of life. Often, it helps them justify their actions- good or bad. Religions build communities based on common values and principles that work towards creating a better life. For a long time, the activities undertaken by religious bodies have been undermined, overlooked and taken for granted. Despite the division of the church and state, religious bodies still actively work to provide for the community. The article highlights how gaps are filled by these bodies, irrespective of whether they have a hidden agenda (evangelisation and conversion) or not.

Although religious practices are viewed as traditional, and perhaps even outdated, yet they are still relevant to the very core of communities- individuals. Incorporating their values into the modern-day society might be our only hope in creating a sustainable tomorrow.

In a dog eats dog world, a more collective approach to society, I believe, will pave the way for a better future as it will make us more mindful of our actions and its consequences. A combination of common religious values, local communities, governing bodies and international agencies should work together to form sustainable developmental strategies that is unique to the needs of the people and the state, whilst maintaining peace. There is no universal religious/faith-based approach you can take for peace-building and development, neither can you take a completely secularist approach in this modern world, but it is when both opposing worldviews combine that you can actually see progress.

Discussion: On the onset, everyone agreed that religion does play a significant role in development. Although there are different religions in different parts of the world, what really unites people is their motivation for development and betterment. Nobody is neutral. Despite being independent thinkers, everything we do is highly influenced by our backgrounds, experiences, upbringing, culture, communities and religion. You can claim that you are not religious, but your very outlook of life is influenced by religion in some way or the other.

For a long time, religious heads did have a say in the affairs of the state, and that together worked for the welfare of the people in the state. Since the formal separation and introduction of secularism, religious heads are not that involved. However, these religious institutions, in the name of charity, do work for the betterment of society, whether within the state or outside of it. Education and healthcare and other basic needs are the key areas of focus. International NGOs and FBOs need to understand the need of the people they are trying to help and not try to disrupt their way of life because of the religious beliefs of their organisations; i.e., who they are, where they come from and who they are helping (ref. ‘White Saviour Complex’). At this juncture, someone in the group shared about how she had to sign the Apostles’ Creed when she joined a Christian NGO, although she wasn’t a practicing Christian. Another person in the group, brought out the idea that most Western people tend to impose their ideas on the local community. People on missions tend to evangelise the lesser fortunate, and that most international bodies, due to various reasons, tend to focus more on what their needs are rather than what the community needs (for example, missions perhaps build schools and toilets for local communities but fail to ensure that they have all they need to keep these facilities up and running, only because they want to show numbers).

In conclusion, we believe that religion, although formally separated from the state, does influence and affect development in more ways than one. Most religions branch out of from the idea of, “do to others what you would have done to you”, so we need to act collectively in order to work for development regardless of what aspect of faith, religion or spirituality motivates them. There should be a middle ground that works for and in unison with the local communities and governing bodies in order to achieve the same. As more and more efforts are being made to work towards building a sustainable tomorrow, we should not leave behind some of the core values we get from religion. Despite the many challenges, I believe that both religion and development can go hand-in-hand to work for the people, and that religion does, significantly, contribute to development.

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Are Faith Related Initiatives Important In Development And Peace-Building? (2022, February 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 20, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/are-faith-related-initiatives-important-in-development-and-peace-building/
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Are Faith Related Initiatives Important In Development And Peace-Building? [Internet] Edubirdie. 2022 Feb 17 [cited 2024 Jun 20]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/are-faith-related-initiatives-important-in-development-and-peace-building/
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