For a long time faith-based organizations have played an important role in foreign aid. One of the great advantages brought by these organizations is their ability to connect their congregations in developing countries with their counterparts in industrialized nations. But is there really a difference between the contributions of secular versus religious organizations with regard to foreign aid?
Partnerships with faith-based organizations based in countries affected by poverty, natural disasters and other crises has been key in providing access for development agencies and NGOs in these countries. Some would even argue that without faith-based organizations the flow of aid would be halted to a minimum. This argument is supported by the notion that religious individuals or groups find it much easier to translate compassion into action.
However, this argument loses some of its strength if we consider aid not as a charity, but as an investment. What is more, there are certainly large secular organizations such as Doctors without Borders or Oxfam that have made a huge impact on poverty alleviation.
There is certainly a premise within religious indoctrination that drives to donate for charitable causes. It is even specifically included in the various religious customs and traditions. However, this does not necessarily mean that there would be no aid without faith-based organization.
According to Fiona Fox, founding director of the independent press office Science Media Centre, to improve people’s lives is as much the mission of science as it is of religion. There are countless individuals and groups who do not abide by any religion, and who work arduously to fight hunger and poverty.
In fact, an expanded definition of aid which includes the work of institutes such a the Welcome Trust and the Medical Research Centre dedicated to finding solutions to many health problems in the developing world shows that faith-based organizations do not stand alone in fighting the human plight.
It is difficult to support the idea that there would be no aid without religious organizations. However, it would also be unfair to assume that these organizations do not do their fair share of the work. In the end, it should not matter how much is contributed by a faith-based versus a secular organization, but taking note of the real impact and what kind of results are being generated by both.
– Sahar Abi Hassan