Faith and development – should they still be connected?

Faith and development – should they still be connected?

Do faith and religion continue to have a role to play in international aid and development?

On October 19 Sydney Ideas will host a One Just World Forum at the University of Sydney to debate the appropriate international role of faith-based organisations in providing assistance to those in need.

Some argue that faith-based organisations risk influencing recipient communities to adopt their beliefs, or risk imposing restrictions, such as on family planning and traditional practices. Others argue that a purely secular approach to aid does not provide the essential dimension of spirituality.

Do faith-based and secular aid development organisations have distinct and different characteristics that influence their performance and behaviours as development agencies? Can one approach be judged as more effective than the other?

The forum will feature:

  • an exclusive interview recently filmed in Ethiopia with Dr Catherine Hamlin AC. Dr Hamlin, an alumna of the University of Sydney, is widely celebrated for her medical aid work. In 1975 Dr Hamlin was the co-founder, with her husband, of the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital which has treated over 30,000 women to repair the devastating effects of obstetric fistula, which can be caused during childbirth
  • Dr Laura Beth Bugg, Department of Sociology and Social Policy at the University of Sydney, who will moderate the forum.  Her areas of research include religion and its relationship to urban planning, social welfare and migration. Her most recent project is a multi-site study of transnational Hindus and informal development aid in Gujarat, India. Dr Bugg has just returned from Ethiopia where she interviewed Dr Hamlin
  • Duncan MacLaren, former Secretary General of Caritas Internationalis, a major international faith-based aid organisation. He currently lectures at the Australian Catholic University (ACU) on Catholic approaches to humanitarian and development work and coordinates ACU’s refugee program on the Thai-Burma border, which offers university education to Burmese refugees in camps in Thailand
  • Professor Matthew Clarke, Head of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Deakin University, who has worked in the aid sector for twenty years. He has written six books, including Development and Religion: Theology and Practice. His research interests include religion and development, aid effectiveness, the Millennium Development Goals, and disability in developing countries
  • Joel Negin, Sydney School of Public Health and Menzies Centre for Health Policy, both at the University of Sydney. He has managed health and development projects and worked throughout Africa for UN agencies, governments and academic institutions. He has previously worked on Jeffrey Sachs’ Millennium Villages Project. His current research focuses on HIV service delivery and health systems strengthening in sub-Saharan Africa and the Pacific.

One Just World is a national series of forums designed to involve the community in discussions of key international development issues facing Australia, the Asia-Pacific and beyond. One Just World, launched in 2008, is a partnership between World Vision Australia, the International Women’s Development Agency, AusAID and a University in each state.

This is the fourth One Just World forum to be hosted at the University of Sydney. The forum will include audience Q and A.

Faith and Development – A One Just World Forum will be held at the Seymour Centre, the University of Sydney. The event is free but registration is encouraged.


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