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A Report on Religion and Development

In the hear our voices – the poor on poverty video, the video was able to feature some poor people and the challenges that the video referred to as the reason why the world poor are still poor are as below;

  1. Insecurity
  2. Lack of opportunity and
  3. Powerlessness.

As a part of the most critical observations from the video; the poor do not have a say in making decisions that affect their lives, and as such, this poses the danger of making decisions for the poor by the development practitioners.

The solutions that are usually designed by the INGO has always been their solution and not necessarily what the poor needed. As such, this kind of practice by the INGO and Development Players has been faulted for being one of the greatest challenges of the development sector.

In one of the readings for the class, the author concluded that overcoming poverty is not an act of charity. Instead, it is an act of justice – justice to humankind. I know this is not a reaction paper on the poor and development, but the point I am trying to drive at is how the poor can be reached through the established tentacles and network of grassroots of religion.

Is religion relevant in development?

I will be answering this question in a variety of ways, but just before diving into it, I will be quoting the recommendation of Lord Malloch-Brown in “the old-world humanitarianism faces new world challenges” where he suggested that we have come too readily to accept failure in humanitarian aid. He reminds us that the problem of the humanitarian system is “at the smaller end of the world problem” and yet tackling them will make a big difference for the people affected. He asked whether the humanitarian community currently has the mandate, competences and resources necessary to address these challenges. He calls for a collective restatement of the world responsibility to help the victim of conflicts and disasters, and for a reinvention of the agencies which dominates the humanitarian sector.

Peacebuilding and humanitarian aid should not be seen as a work of charity. Instead, a work of responsibility to humanity and this is what religion has to tell us.

As the International Environment Forum (2001) pointed out, ‘Values, or the application of spiritual principles, have been the missing ingredient in most past approaches to sustainable development….The exciting thing about addressing sustainability at the level of values is the potential to create self-generating human systems building a more sustainable and thus ever-advancing civilization.

If development is going to be sustainable, then the local actors need to be collectively involved in it; with the massive presence of religious bodies in the grassroots and hard to reach region for the humanitarian aid workers, religion is mostly relevant in helping solves the challenges of the world philanthropic sector and the hard to reach poor people of the world.

According to the Australian political philosopher Clive Hamilton; The source for the kind of transformation that is now needed lies beyond the cultural, political and social philosophies that have formed the bedrock of progressive thought. We need to look to religion or metaphysics–ideas about knowing and being that are beyond the psychological and social structures that condition everyday experience–to discover what unites us all in our humanity.

For a large proportion of the world’s populations, such metaphysical authority would come from religion, and hence there is need for religion, through civic communities and religious representatives, to be actively involved in interpreting the notions of ‘being’ and the ‘self’ in ways that promote social, economic and ecological justice.

The Buddhist approach to development according to the Sarvódaya paper says; Buddhist philosophy can play a role in attaining better development practice, and explains development as a process of awakening and empowering people, not only to determine their values, priorities, and capacities but also to help individuals and communities to make their own decisions.

This kind of approach doesn’t just give people hope, it is trusted, and it is also a way whereby the local people and the people in the underserved societies can be more useful in development. As such, development by itself has failed us, maybe if we look at it with the face of religion by equipping the local actor (the religious bodies), perhaps then we can have a sustainable development. Though, this will require a framework and some constraints in finding common ground between development and religion.

On the question “Does religion influence or challenge your view of international development? Your motivation for wanting to work in development?

I have always been disappointed with the international development approach to development as I have once advocated for the abolishment of the OSLO declaration on humanitarian assistance having seen firsthand how the funds are mismanaged and how it creates more room for corruption especially in the case of the North East Humanitarian Crisis in Nigeria.

I would say, reading the papers on religion approach and development and the works of Sarvódaya changes my perspectives on the way to look at development.

As my work as a grassroots activist from the past has made me seen sustainable development with sustainability tied with what the community can do for themselves. Just as religion is known to be a hope giver, I can say – there is much to the hope that religion can give to international development as I see with the case studies and recommendations, especially in the area of sustainability.

On the question “Various roles of religion in development are put forward in the readings. Which do you think are the most important? Are there some roles that you think religion has taken on that you think are not effective? Appropriate?”

In an observation, one of the authors mentioned the role of religion in development as he identified three ways in which religion may play a role in sustainable development–through the values it offers, through its potential for ecological, social and political activism (based on those values) and through its capacity to enable self-development.

I believe the role that the religion is not effective is the role in enabling of self-development. The papers and articles pointed to the good and the not so good role which was played by religion, and I think the role of self-development is faulty.

I think if the religion played this role well, maybe we won’t be having religious fanatics who later turned oppressor and terrorist. The religious bodies have turn itself to a silent paper faith practitioner, and they have always failed to condemn the attacks that are religiously motivated, the congregations are not called into actions,

and the religious bodies started to praise the highest donor/contributor to their coffer and as such, they create some inequalities between the church and the mosques. But I did think the Buddhist did an excellent job according to one of the papers in these regards.

Having witnessed religious fanaticism, intolerable religious practices and all sort of nuisance practiced all in the name of religion. I remember not identifying myself with any religion all because of this.

Maybe if there could be some alignment between religion and development, maybe we can have a more sustainable impact in both area.

Reading comment:

I am in support of Religion and Development with the reading providing more hope to explore this context, but I still find it hard to balance the gap between my recent acceptance of the role of Religion in Development and the experience I have on religion back home.

It is quite disheartening how the religion has been so eroded with politics that the supposedly faith-based community has eventually turned to an oppressor instead of hope-giving ministry.

Sometimes I wish the religious leaders come to terms with themselves and the denominations and different groups of religious societies/associations and how they can come to give unanimously interpretation of the scriptures with a constant control of what goes out from where.

Also, I am a big fan of control of religious activities and finances by the government. If the government can be forced to be transparent, then the religious bodies too should be responsible and accountable to the people they are serving. Only until this is done, I see no hope for development and religion cohabitating.


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