Handbook of Research on Development and Religion
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Handbook of Research on Development and Religion

Edited by Matthew Clarke

With eighty percent of the world’s population professing religious faith, religious belief is a common human characteristic. This fascinating and highly unique Handbook brings together state-of-the-art research on incorporating religion into development studies.
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Chapter 22: ‘Do not turn away a poor man’*: faith-based organizations and development

Michael Jennings


Despite the long trajectory of development and humanitarian action undertaken by faith- and religious-linked organizations in developing countries, the role of such organizations in development remains controversial amongst donors and academics. Accused of propagating teachings that undermine efforts to reduce and eliminate poverty, of expounding faith tenets that serve to disempower marginalized groups (especially women), of focusing on fellow faith adherents to the exclusion of others, or propagating discrimination and violence, faith and religious-linked organizations are believed by some not just to be problematic development actors, but outright dangerous in their impact and effect. Whilst donors have since the late 1990s sought to engage with faith-based organizations, especially those that lie outside their normal field of vision (a trend sped up, but not created, by post-9/11 politics and the wars that followed), that engagement remains patchy and controversial within donor organizations. In part this reflects the failure of understanding of how FBOs work in development, and upon sets of assumptions as to the role of religion and religious identities in fermenting divisions, tensions, conflict and discrimination.

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