theguardian: by Sophie Ayling.
Religious groups the world over have been trying to improve the welfare of poor communities long before such work became a branch of international development. However, with the ascent of secular enlightened thinkers and later Marxist doctrine, faith-based organisations have been viewed with scepticism because of the religious elements they employ when dealing with the poorer segments of society. Marx famously described religion as “the opium of the masses”, and many regarded religion as a tool that the elites used to oppress and control the less educated.
Following the recent debate on faith and development on the Guardian Development Professionals Network, I am trying here to present key points of the counter argument: that instead of regarding religion as increasingly irrelevant to the process of development, its role as a longstanding institution and dynamic actor in the process of social change is something from which today’s post-modern development practitioners would do well to learn, rather than seek to avoid.
There are three core reasons why a better articulation of dialogue between faith and development could enrich both sectors: