|Christian Aid Organizations
The Religion eZine - Christians
By Alexandra Weaver - 2007.
"We’re here to demonstrate the love of Christ to those in need." - 'Acts of God', disaster relief Organization.
Religious organizations have been important to international aid for decades. Church groups, organizations with religious objectives, and religiously motivated individuals have participated in such things as disaster relief, feeding the hungry, as well as building schools and health clinics.
However, when do religion-run organizations or groups go from helping the disadvantaged to taking advantage of those they want to help?
I discuss Christianity and Christian-run organizations in this article due to their existence at the forefront of many international aid organizations, although several other religions can and do hold charity based organizations as well. Many religions hold similar beliefs concerning helping others and what is required or expected as an individual of that particular religion. Treatment of the poor, for instance, is identified in on of the pillars of the Islamic faith. The question and debate is whether or not religion should be imbedded in practices and institutions of aid, rather than strictly giving personal guidance and purpose to those delivering the aid itself.
World Vision, the primary source of such debate due to its immense popularity, states that it aids children from any ethnic, racial, or religious background. Yet part of the money from sponsorships offered by World Vision goes to the education of children giving them “the chance to learn about Jesus and his love.” It is not necessary that religion and education be correlated, nonetheless World Vision has chosen this path.
It is possible that they feel their religion could be beneficial to the children, but did the children ask for it? If the objectives of World Vision aren’t to aid and educate only Christian children and Christian families, perhaps they should not implement Christian teachings in their programs.
It can be argued that if the child, or families, in impoverished situations accept such aid, then World Vision is doing nothing wrong. Conversely, World Vision could be seen as taking advantage of the situations of the children and families in order to spread their faith and beliefs, albeit perhaps not intentionally. If a family is in need of money, food, and opportunities for their children, and an organization, possibly the only one that is visible in the area, offered to help, would the family question their intentions? One would hope the intentions of the organization were to help the individuals and communities at hand, as they have seemingly offered, instead of satisfying their own needs and their own goals.
I wish not to anger, but only to question the objectives and goals of religious-run organizations and their donors. Although religion has been seen as a good way to get people together who share similar beliefs and feel the desire to help those less fortunate than themselves, I question the need for religious practice and preaching in such organizations as World Vision.
There are many religion-run organizations that may act in the same manner as World Vision, aiding others and spreading their faith at the same time. However, I do not want to imply that all organizations with religious backgrounds are the same. Many Christians and Christian-run organizations look upon the act of giving as part of their calling. Church groups that travel to Haiti and Ghana have been appreciated in their work on development projects, water wells, and birthing kits. These groups have similar projects to those of World Vision, but are unlike World Vision in their delivery of such projects.
Across the world, especially in developing areas, individuals and communities lack resources, access to health institutions or doctors, and schools. When international organizations from developed nations enter the communities in need to help build, create, and teach, they must not assume that what works at home, and what is common at home, is necessary for a community to function. We have all grown up with different backgrounds, different lifestyles, and different beliefs, but we are all able to come together, if we wish, in order to come up with ways to build institutions, wells, etc., that the community desires. Religion and religious beliefs vary across borders. It cannot be assumed or acted upon that everyone shares, or that all could or should share, the same beliefs.
Worldwide, religious organizations, groups, and individuals have done ample work to help those who ask and/or require it, often when other organizations would or could not. Many of these organizations, even if run by religious intent or are titled as religious, do not put their beliefs on others because they feel their choice in giving is their own and not a choice that is obligatory by faith.