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 24: Religion and development: prospects and pitfalls of faith-based organizations

Gerhard Hoffstaedter and David Tittensor


For a long time international development and religion were seen to be mutually exclusive – a somewhat ironic turn of events, considering that many of the largest secular aid and development agencies today owe their beginnings to some aspect of faith and/ or religious ideals, and that much of the reconstruction efforts in Europe after World War II were undertaken by Christian organizations. Indeed, such was the ubiquity of Christian aid groups that a research report in 1953 found that 90 per cent of the postwar relief was provided by religious agencies (Ferris, 2005). This about turn took place in the 1960s and 1970s with the emergence of many countries from colonial rule, particularly from Africa and Asia. For these countries the notions of modernity and development – and how to achieve them – took centre stage. As a result some countries looked to Europe and North America, which represented the Western development model, whilst others turned to the communist East in Russia, East Germany and Hungary for inspiration (Anderson and Woodrow, 1998). Yet, while these camps represented two starkly different approaches to obtaining the ‘developed state’, they contained a couple of important commonalities: (1) both believed in the primacy of the state in governing and improving society; and (2) both expressed that there was no role for religion. In the post-World War II period, communism sought to replace orthodox Christianity (and in some cases Islam) with militant atheism, while the West became enthralled by the ‘secularization theory’, which proposed that religious institutions and actors were losing their social significance. The net result of these trends was the view that development could only be provided by government policy and programmes that were material and technical in their orientation.

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