Christianity has been instrumental in fashioning the contemporary Western paradigm of humanitarian aid and development. However, as a secular agenda increasingly defines this space, the question of what difference a religious cosmology makes to Christian faith-based development organisations (FBDO s) becomes significant. While faith convictions initiated early humanitarian efforts, Christian FBDO s have arguably acquiesced to secular pragmatic rationales for their work, rather than allow theology to have explanatory and regulatory influence. In many ways, therefore, FBDO s are devoid of the influence of “faith”, or more specifically, the influence of a robust theological foundation. To address this deficit, a critique of the philosophical moorings of Western international development is mounted, with consideration given to nascent trajectories of an alternate Christian rationale and praxis. In particular, the paper argues that the ontological foundation for the dynamics of human well-being is divine well-being. Employing a Trinitarian relational ontology, the dynamic characteristic inherent to the actualisation of divine well-being is identified as a triune kenosis (self-giving). Such an ontology of divine well-being provides the context to articulate principles for actualising human well-being as a reiteration of the divine archetype. From such a perspective, the Trinitarian doctrine of God provides the pivotal foundation for a Christian cosmology necessary to articulate an alternative paradigm for sustainable development.
The South African Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities is one of the key institutions established by the Constitution of the country to strengthen its constitutional democracy. The Commission conducted investigations and released a report in 2017 related to suspicions that there are abuses of beliefs taking place in religious communities. The report was subjected to a number of challenges from academia, especially with regards to the constitutionality of some of the findings and recommendations of the Commission. In this article, it is argued that one of the contributing factors to the main shortcomings of the report emanates from a lack of nuance in the approach of the Commission. Considering the complex nature of religious beliefs, it is argued that the investigations by the CRL Rights Commission would have offered an opportunity for better conversation if the Commission had taken a human rights approach. In the main it is argued that a clear differentiation between the right to freedom of religion which vests on individuals, and the right of freedom of religious practice which vests on individuals in their capacity as members of religious communities, would have created a discourse that would better grapple with the complexity of ensuring maximum freedom of religion while creating safety for communal interests beyond specific beliefs.
Séverine Deneulin, Human Development and the Catholic Social Tradition. Towards an Integral Ecology. Routledge: Abingdon 2021. Pp. 118. Hardback: £35.99, ISBN 9780367639617.
This short book serves to relate Amartya Sen’s thinking on development to Catholic social teaching. The author is well equipped to do this, having completed a doctorate in development studies on Sen, and has also long studied Catholic theology since the Second Vatican Council 1962–1965. The book is an admirable introduction to both partners in the dialogue. Sen’s approach through “capabilities”, although of wider application, is particularly fruitful for development. Catholic social teaching (
Corrie Decker/Elisabeth McMahon, The Idea of Development in Africa. A History. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge 2021. Pp. 333. Paperback: $22.99, ISBN 9781107503229.
The title is the first hint that The Idea of Development in Africa by American historians Corrie Decker and Elisabeth McMahon is a book of significance. As readers familiar with African studies will recognise and the authors explain, it is a nod to Congolese philosopher V.Y. Mudimbe’s The Idea of Africa. In that seminal book, Mudimbe made the case that the very idea of Africa is rooted
This article introduces Religion & Development as a new transdisciplinary journal focusing on the nexus between religion and development. It outlines the motivation for establishing the new periodical along three central themes: the move towards sustainable development as dominant development paradigm; the reinvigoration of the post-development debate; and the emerging academic, policy and practice field of religion and development. The discussion proceeds to highlight the envisaged task of the journal as well as its transdisciplinary and collaborative span. Moreover, it delineates Religion & Development’s core editorial policies, before setting the scene for the contributions of the journal’s first issue.
The Sustainable Development Report 2019 points out that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) might not be achieved, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa (sic). This paper tries to investigate alternatives to the hegemonic “development” discourse and ideas of “development”: what would be the notion of “development” in Ubuntu? The paper proposes a contextual understanding of “development” rooted in tradition, religion and culture by using Michel Foucault and Ferdinand de Saussure as a theoretical basis. The heterogenous understanding of Ubuntu and its diverse understanding definition of “development” are an argument against universalising “development” ideas, but for tailor-made solutions. The paper follows the hypothesis that the SDGs rely on premises of epistemologies of the Global North which are (post)colonial. It also proposes that failing “development” strategies rely on epistemologies from the Global North which are excluding, imperial, Eurocentric and rely on abyssal – extractive and postcolonial – productions of knowledge (Sousa Santos 2018). The paper is a contribution to the decolonisation of knowledge in the Global North, to challenge hegemonic northern epistemologies and to bring them into contact with knowledge from epistemologies of the Global South.
The secular approach to development has treated religion as anti-developmental. However, the history of how development was part of missionary activity, such as the provision of health and educational infrastructure in some African countries, has been widely acknowledged. In this paper, therefore, we contend that the marginalisation of religion in development discourse is a result of a faulty and fractured understanding of religion. We argue that sustainable development, if attainable in contemporary Africa, would require that organised and institutional religions in Africa as well as their religious cosmologies, convictions and orientations feature and remain integral to such processes. With reference to neo-Pentecostal economies in Africa, we intend to discuss why and how religion – religious cosmologies, ontologies and institutions – is indispensable in the sustainable development process in Africa. Specifically, keeping in focus the human dimensions of development, we intend to argue that the beliefs, teachings and activities of neo-Pentecostal churches on human salvation, progress and/or transformation, such as prosperity and wealth creation, which has seen them emerge on the socioeconomic scene, indicate the potentials of neo-Pentecostals in particular, and religion in general, to contribute immensely to sustainable development. This, however, is not to gloss over some of the challenges they potentially pose to sustainable development.
The article reflects on the practical experience of the Side by Side Faith Movement for Gender Justice (SbS): faith actors often play a decisive role in the formation of values, concepts and beliefs that determine how women and men see themselves and each other and how they thus practise gender equality – or not. In both cases, faith actors are key partners in the transformation of ideas and practices towards achieving gender equality – SDG 5. SbS began in 2015 in response to a gradual dominance by restrictive faith actors’ voices in the international debate on gender. Faith-based development agencies and local faith actors already involved in pro-gender-equality practice began building national chapters of SbS to mobilise, organise and strategise our work and have it reflected in international advocacy – including for a change of policy towards improved engagement with religious actors. The article presents this experience in the practical realm of “Community”, whilst the progress made in that realm can only be understood with its intimate link to the realm of “Cosmology”: it is because of what we believe as faith actors that we do what we do. Therefore, interventions for change (Agenda 2030) must be rooted in people’s values, convictions and beliefs if the change is to be sustainable.
The COVID-19 crisis is affecting millions of lives and has wreaked some of its greatest havoc and suffering among the vulnerable and marginalised populations of the world, many of whom belong to religious and faith-based communities. In times of crisis and difficulty, religion and faith are a source of hope and strength for many. In this paper, we underscore the critical role and impact that some faith-based organisations have had in the pandemic crisis response and management of three countries: Brazil, Indonesia and Sri Lanka. In Brazil, Pastoral da Criança is leveraging their mobile phone application to fight mis-information about COVID-19. In Indonesia, Muhammadiyah launched a COVID-19 command centre to support treatment in hospitals, to disseminate guidelines for religious activities backed by science, and to provide water, sanitation and hygiene packages, food and financial support to the most vulnerable and neglected. In Sri Lanka, Sarvodaya is working closely with religious and community leaders on risk communication and community engagement messages and is also providing hygiene care and economic relief packages to the marginalised. We further discuss some of the challenges these organisations have faced and propose recommendations for greater engagement with this group of global public health actors to maximise their contributions and impact in the crisis management of and response to future infectious disease outbreaks, epidemics or pandemics in low-resource settings.