1 Faith and Development Practice and Theory Forum Friday 26

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					                ‘Faith and Development: Practice and Theory Forum’
                      Friday 26th –Saturday 27th November 2004
       Centre for the Study of Faith in Society, St Edmund’s College, Cambridge


   1. Background
       Churches have developed over the centuries a large body of social thought.
However, much of faith-based social thought has evolved and is evolving in isolation
from secular thought and practical experience, often overlooking the complexities of
economic, social and political theory. In reverse, much of secular literature in social
sciences and debates in policy-making do not engage either with faith-based social
thought. This parallel evolution has been a great loss for both faith-based and secular
approaches to development. Indeed, a significant number of similarities exist between,
and a more thorough exploration of these similarities would deeply enrich both
approaches.
         Current development thinking has been dominated by what can be called the
‘human development school’, whose conceptual roots are to be found in the works of
the economist and Nobel Prize winner Amartya Sen. This development thinking can be
seen as resting on the three following foundational characteristics. First, the end of
development is to enhance people’s freedoms in all areas of their life (economic, social
and cultural). There are components of human well-being that the income measure
cannot capture. This is why the end of development cannot be reduced to a single
measure, but needs to be multidimensional and concerned with the nature of the lives
that people are living. Second, development policy should pay attention to the
institutional mechanisms enhancing (or decreasing) people’s freedoms, and favour these
mechanisms. Finally, development policy should be based on respecting people’s
freedom to make decisions about their lives. It should consider people as subjects and
actors of their own lives rather than objects of actions that are being made for them.
       When one explores the fundamental characteristics of faith-based development
thinking, one finds some strikingly similar features as within secular development
thinking. Individual freedom and dignity lie at the centre of faith-based social thought
too. The aim of development is a matter of ensuring provision of what enables human
beings to lead a life truly human, in the image of their Creator. However, in contrast to
secular development thinking, faith-based social thought emphasises that individual
freedom is to be seen within the context of the common good. Individual freedom is
seen as the ability to promote the conditions in which the well-being of oneself as a
member of a community can be enhanced. The focus on both individual freedom and
the common good in faith-based development thinking could greatly enrich secular
development thinking, and shed light on the complexities of the links between
individual freedom and the communities of which the individual is a member.
        Another central idea of faith-based social thought is that we are all responsible
for all, collectively, and not only as individuals. The notion of solidarity, collective
responsibility or care for each other’s well-being has been central to faith-based
development thinking. The freedoms that individuals enjoy is to be intrinsically linked
to solidarity with one another. The human being is fully free and human to the extent
that he or she is responsible for others. While faith-based development thinking has
emphasised the central role of solidarity with those who suffer from injustice and those
who are deprived of a full human life, it has not explored yet possible frameworks for


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the institutionalisation of solidarity links. In contrast, much secular development
thinking has emphasised the need for an adequate institutional framework in order for
justice to be implemented and to provide the conditions for human beings to live
fulfilling human lives. There could be a fruitful dialogue between the emphasis on
solidarity on the one hand, and the need for an institutional framework to build just
structures on the other.
        Finally, faith-based development thinking is based on the principle of
subsidarity, that is, larger associations should not assume functions which can be
performed efficiently by smaller associations. This principle is closely linked with the
idea of participation, and that of being an agent of one’s own development. In secular
development thinking, making people agents of their own development through
participation is also central, but it has achieved quite a coherent framework between
human well-being enhancement, institutional framework required, and participation.
Important insights could be gained by bringing faith-based and secular development
thinking into dialogue.


   2. Aim of the forum
         The ‘faith and development forum’ hopes to achieve two essential aims. The
first is to bring into being a dialogue between faith-based and secular development
thinking regarding their characteristic features described above. The second aim of the
forum is to generate a fruitful discussion between the theory and practice of
development, and uncover the two-way connection between development practice
alongside the poor, and spiritual renewal.
        The lack of dialogue between academics and practitioners/activists has been an
ongoing failure of both the academic and activist communities. For the former, the
engagement with the practice and ‘real world’ issues has often presented itself as a
threat to the pursuit of academic excellence and rigour. For the latter, the engagement
with the reflection of the academic world has often been perceived as time wasted that
could be given to action and transformation of the world. However, both communities
would have a lot to learn from each other: academics to frame their theories in the light
of the reality and practice, and practitioners to frame their actions in the light of
academic reflection. Therefore, one of the basic aims of the forum would be to give
development workers better theological and professional insights for their practical
work, both in the light of the Gospel and in the light of social analysis deriving from
secular development thinking, as well as giving academic theorists better insights in the
light of the practice.




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                        3. Provisional programme



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                                            Examples of questions which will be debated: How can a multidimensional approach to
                                            human well-being, and human and religious values, guide practical development work?
                                            How can a faith-inspired vision of poverty reduction influence the policy world? What
                                            are the tensions that may emerge between local faith-communities and Western NGO’s?
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                                        Examples of question to be discussed: How can solidarity links between members of a
                                        faith community improve the well-being of the wider community and promote justice at
                                        the institutional level? How can participation in faith activities be used to promote
                                        justice?)
                                                                                                                 '                           . !+




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