Secular vs Religious Organisations: A comment

October 23, 2009

Marianne is writing an interesting series of blog posts addressing questions about aid and development organisations at Zen and the Art of Peacekeeping.  Today’s post was on a topic I have great interest in, Secular vs Religious Organisations.  I attempted to leave a comment on there but typepad will not accept it so I am posting it here:

“Great question, more relevant than most secular NZers would probably realise. I don’t know what it is like in Afghanistan, but here in Honduras there are literally thousands of volunteer and professional development agencies and a huge percentage are religious. As a result I have spent a lot of time with religious groups in the course of my research. I certainly agree that there is a clear distinction between evangelical (proselytising) and non-evangelical groups, and that the development efforts of the latter are often amongst the best. I do have some concerns however, from my close association with religious groups and my own religious upbringing, regarding religious agencies. We are all products of our culture and history, and Christian agencies carry the legacy of their background and beliefs with them wherever they go. These do have an influence on where they go and what they do. This may be positive (a focus on peace, acceptance of all, preference for the poor), or it may be negative (restrictions on the types of programs that can be run, ultra-conservative moral values). I guess as with all decisions about support for aid and development, the key is to research well the organisations you are interested in, find out what type of programmes and projects they run, and investigate their underlying values so that you know your money is going where your heart is.”

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