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Resources for Good Practice
Update May 2013

Member Care in Mission/Aid

Faith-Based Perspectives

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This month we enter into the heart of what motivates many people like ourselves in member care, mission/aid, humanitarian, and development work: serving fellow humans as a tangible expression of one's faith (e.g., Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, etc.). In our case, our commitment to know, love, and serve Jesus Christ is a core motivation for our work, and thus similar to organizations such as World Vision International. Motivations and commitments like these (i.e. spiritual/religious) are usually referred to as being "faith-based" in the humanitarian/development sectors.

In general, being faith-based is respected within these sectors, provided that the following two caveats are embraced: do not make assistance/services contingent on the recipients' religious or political affiliations/beliefs--especially vulnerable people/populations; and do not use experiences like conflicts/calamities as opportunities to "proselytize" or otherwise "share one's spiritual/religious beliefs"  with vulnerable people/populations (often viewed as being exploitative and unethical). Not everyone agrees fully with the latter caveat--in which faith-based efforts can be viewed as faith-biased affronts--and there are many views on the appropriateness of including spiritual/religious matters in humanitarian/developmental work. 

This month we explore several materials that are relevant for the faith-based community with a primary emphasis, mostly positive, on Christians working in the overlapping mission/aid, humanitarian, and development sectors. Those of us with member care responsibility would do well to familiarize ourselves with these materials. The first set of materials include perspectives from guidelines and codes and the second set of materials present perspectives from articles and books. Rounding off the Update is a TED Talk by Rick Warren, addressing why he is whole-heartedly using his affluence and influence to serve humanity both as a fellow-human and as a Christian pastor (author of one of the all-time best-selling books, The Purpose Driven Life).

Warm greetings from Geneva,
Kelly and Michèle O’Donnell

"On February 5, 1597, twenty-six Christians—six European Franciscan missionaries, three Japanese Jesuits and seventeen Japanese laymen including three young boys—were executed by crucifixion in Nagasaki. These individuals were raised on crosses and then pierced through with spears." Wikipedia--  See also the final comments/prayer of Paul Miki--one of the Japanese Jesuits who was martyred:

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion;
this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom,
either alone or in community with others and in public or private,
to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression;
this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference
and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas
through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Articles 18 and 19

Resource Area One:
Perspectives from Guidelines and Codes

Code of Conduct for The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and NGOs in Disaster Relief (1994)
Principle 3 of the 10 Principles:

"Aid will not be used to further a particular political or religious standpoint. Humanitarian aid will be given according to the need of individuals, families and communities. Notwithstanding the right of NGHAs to espouse particular political or religious opinions, we affirm that assistance will not be dependent on the adherence of the recipients to those opinions. We will not tie the promise, delivery or distribution of assistance to the embracing or acceptance of a particular political or religious creed."
To review some comments on this principle and the other 10 principles: A Living Document? Code of Conduct... Disaster Relief (20 September 2004). Here is an excerpt:
"Faith-based organisations are generally well aware of the restriction of Article three [in the Code of Conduct], sometimes to the extent that, in the words of a Christian aid representative: ‘We rather give money for a Mosque than for a Church to avoid the impression of proselytism’. A long-time observer of aid noted that: ‘I have seen little evidence of aid tied to religious choice’. The events that led up to the arrest of Shelter Now staff in Afghanistan in 2001 appear to be rare. This does not preclude that faith-based aid affects recipients, or that this is never intended. One respondent remarked that ‘aid is not given to directly further the Christian viewpoint, but it is hoped that beneficiaries might in the longer term reflect on Christian values’. Somebody also said: ‘in some cases the beneficiaries of aid are seen to be tilting towards the faith of the relief providers’." (page 17)
Christian Witness in a Multi-Religious World: Recommendations for Conduct. World Council of Churches, Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, World Evangelical Alliance (2011)
“The purpose of this document is to encourage churches, church councils and mission agencies to reflect on their current practices and to use the recommendations in this document to prepare, where appropriate, their own guidelines for their witness and mission among those of different religions and among those who do not profess any particular religion. It is hoped that Christians across the world will study this document in the light of their own practices in witnessing to their faith in Christ, both by word and deed.” (quoted from the Prologue)

For some perspectives on this document, see the article Top Evangelical, Catholic, and Mainline Bodies Issue Evangelism Rules, Chris Norton, the Christianity Today (June 29, 2011)
“Missiologists applaud unity effort, but note what's missing and what will raise eyebrows.”
Proselytism Policy Statement. Micah Network (2007)
“1. While longing to see people coming to a personal faith in Jesus Christ we reject manipulative or coercive proselytism as a way of propagating the Christian faith
2. It is absolutely abhorrent to us to exploit people’s vulnerability in order to put pressure on them to convert to our religion. Conversions gained in this way are often superficial and bring no credit to the converts or the Christian faith in general.
3. There is a crucial difference between using aid in order to put pressure on needy people to convert and dispensing aid while hoping and praying that those who receive it come to believe in Jesus Christ. “ (excerpts)
Building from Common Foundations; The World Health Organization and Faith-Based Organizations in Primary Care. Geneva Global and World Health Organization (2008)“The World Health Organization (WHO) worked with faith-based organizations (FBOs) in preparing for the Alma-Ata Declaration of 1978. Together they gained a clearer picture of healthcare in the developing world, and then established the concept of primary healthcare. This report is intended to assist in the process of rejuvenating dialogue and partnership with FBOs in the face of widespread health challenges in communities around the world, not least of which is HIV/AIDS. The revival of the primary healthcare model within WHO underscores that if this framework is to be promoted as a more sustainable system of health servicing and delivery, then the inclusion of FBOs will add greater potential for breadth and effectiveness.”


Resource Area Two:
Perspectives from Articles and Books

Evangelicals a Liberal Can Love. Nicholas Kristof,  New York Times (February 3, 2008)
"In parts of Africa where bandits and warlords shoot or rape anything that moves, you often find that the only groups still operating are Doctors Without Borders and religious aid workers: crazy doctors and crazy Christians. In the town of Rutshuru in war-ravaged Congo, I found starving children, raped widows and shellshocked survivors. And there was a determined Catholic nun from Poland, serenely running a church clinic. Unlike the religious right windbags, she was passionately “pro-life” even for those already born — and brave souls like her are increasingly representative of religious conservatives. We can disagree sharply with their politics, but to mock them underscores our own ignorance and prejudice."
See responses to this article on from Nicholas Kristof’s On the Ground Blog:
Humanitarianism, Islam, and 11 September. Jonathan Benthal,  Humanitarian Policy Group Briefing (July 2003, pp. 1-2)
“The extensive literature on Western humanitarianism seldom does justice to its religious traditions. Western humanitarianism was moulded by Catholic monastic orders, by the Geneva Calvinist founders of the Red Cross, by the Salvation Army, by the Leprosy Mission and by the Oxford Quakers who helped to found Oxfam. Church organisations dominated international aid until the Nigerian civil war of the late 1960s, with the founding of the secular agency Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). Even today, strands of Christian humanitarianism are strongly represented by Caritas, World Vision, the Order of Malta, Christian Aid and the Nordic churches…Although it is likely that practising Christians are in a minority among the personnel who work for Western humanitarian agencies, the West is widely perceived as Christian, and the liberal humanism underpinning Western humanitarianism, even in its ‘secular’ form, is arguably itself underpinned by a heritage of Judaeo-Christian values.”
Some Myths about Faith-Based Humanitarian Aid. Wilfred Mlay,  Humanitarian Exchange 27 (July 2004, pp. 48-51)
 "This search to find cultural underpinnings for the travails of humanitarianism is remarkable in its neglect of any serious exploration of its religious aspects. Thin attempts to do this often create caricatures of religious humanitarianism, and thus perpetuate misunderstanding. Humanitarianism is best served not by a navel-gazing examination of the many values of its large cast, but by a dedication to greater accountability and transparency to those for whom faith-based humanitarian agencies claim to act. However, caricatures and generalisations lead to commonly-held assumptions about the role of faith in humanitarian assistance that are false and inhibit the effectiveness of the ensemble. Three prevalent myths about Christian humanitarian organisations are worth our attention.

Myth no. 1: Christian humanitarian organisations embody the West's clash with Islam....
Myth no. 2: Religious approaches create conflicts, rather than solve them...
Myth no. 3: Faith-based organisations cannot carry out neutral or impartial humanitarian assistance because their real intent, whether overt or covert, is religious conversion."
When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor…and Yourself. Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert (2012)
 “While this book exposes past and current development efforts that churches have engaged in which unintentionally undermine the people they're trying to help, its central point is to provide proven strategies that challenge Christians to help the poor empower themselves. Focusing on both North American and Majority World contexts, When Helping Hurts catalyzes the idea that sustainable change for people living in poverty comes not from the outside-in, but from the inside-out.” (from the book's website, home page)
The Hole in Our Gospel: What Does God Expect of Us. Richard Stearns (2009)
 “There is much at stake. The world we live in is under siege—3 billion are desperately poor, 1 billion hungry, millions are trafficked in human slavery, 10 million children die needlessly each year, wars and conflicts are wreaking havoc, pandemic diseases are spreading, ethnic hatred is flaming, and terrorism is growing. Most of our brothers and sisters in Christ in the developing world live in grinding poverty. And in the midst of this stands the Church of Jesus Christ in America, with resources, knowledge, and tools unequaled in the history of Christendom. I believe that we stand on the brink of a defining moment. We have a choice to make. When historians look back in one hundred years, what will they write about this nation of 340,000 churches?”
The above quote is taken from four pages of core excerpts from the book:
For more perspectives and critique about this book:, see the DeYoung, Restless, and Refomed blog

Final Thoughts

There are an estimated 7.13 billion people in the world today. Muslims number 1.63 billion, Hindus 982 million, Non-religious (agnostics)  684 million, Buddhists 509 million, etc.  In addition, 2.35 billion people have some type of Christian affiliation, and there are over 12 million "national" and 426,000 "international" Christian workers (Johnson and Crossing, IBMR, January 2013, p. 33). Also, there are the estimated 274,000 humanitarian workers (ALNAP, 2012, p. 9).

We close this Update with Rick Warren's challenging and encouraging Ted Talk about how our worldviews affect how we use our "affluence and influence:"

Living a Life of Purpose.



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