In Swedish development cooperation there is often a lack of knowledge about religion, which can hinder effective development cooperation. We have therefore started a work to increase knowledge about the role of religion in development cooperation. We cooperate with Diakonia, PMU and the Church of Sweden.
Religion plays a large role in most people’s lives and the importance of religion appears to be increasing in the world. In poor countries the church, mosque or temple are sometimes the only bearing structures in society. If development cooperation is to be effective, religion must become an essential part of analysis and the basis for our development strategies.
Religion must be included
Issues concerning equality, education, HIV and AIDS and other health issues cannot be addressed without the realization that religion is an essential factor.
Many faith-based organizations, FBOs, are very active in social work. A large part of all healthcare activities are carried out by churches and other religious organizations in many countries.
Without knowledge about, or access to, these arenas development cooperation becomes ineffective.
However, much more can be done to utilize the potential that exists in the religious commitment. The relationship between religion and development can be further developed and researched and this knowledge should be translated into action.
In Sweden religion is often seen as something private, perhaps a pastime among others. There is a lack of understanding that religion is fundamental in many people’s lives. This has become an obstacle for constructive development cooperation in many countries.
Religion is a hot issue
Religion and development is a hot issue in many parts of the world. The World Bank, the UN’s population fund (UNFPA), the British Department for International Development, DFID, the Norwegian Foreign Office and many others are conducting research projects in this area and in addition allocate recourses to the faith-based organizations.
In Sweden we are in dialogue with the Department of Foreign Affairs about this issue and organize seminars.