September 1, 2009

Religion Matters in the Hood

While fatherhood hasn't left me much time to blog of late it has left plenty of odd moments (i.e., the wee hours of the night) to read blogs and one I've been especially enjoying of late is Tales from the Hood. Today's post is a good example why as it deals with a topic near and dear to my heart, the intersection of religion and development, here's an excerpt:
I am saying that we need to see religion as more than a curiosity or a barrier. I am saying that I see significant room in the aid industry to expand our understanding of the ways in which Religion affects people, broadly speaking, and the ways in which religions are powerful forces in the communities where we work. If the statistic is right and 85 percent of the recipients of aid that we deliver are religious (it’s actually probably higher than 85 percent), then we see a necessarily incomplete picture by sticking with the concrete, the tangible, the scientific. I’m not saying that we should all embrace religion (this is a very personal choice for everyone), but I am suggesting that we need to move beyond arm’s-length tolerance: It is not enough to simply know intellectually that communities in southern Laos are Theravada Buddhist: we need to know what that means specifically in the life of that community and in the lives of those who are to benefit from what we do there. It is not sufficient simply to know that recipients of aid in rural Afghanistan are Muslim; it’s not even enough to overtly make the link between that fact and what it means for us and how we structure and run programs there…

The aid programs that we design and implement and monitor and evaluate nearly always take place in contexts where religion is a central part of peoples lives. For us to be less than complete in our understanding of what that means necessarily limits our ability to fully comprehend the impact of those aid programs.
The whole thing is recommended. My previous posts in a similar vein are tagged under "religion matters."