A decade ago, talk about religion in public spaces was largely limited to discussions about either theology, or terrorism – or both. Today, the role of religious organizations – whether churches, mosques, temples, or faith-inspired NGOs delivering critical development and humanitarian services, or religious leaders – is more normal a concern for both governmental and intergovernmental entities. Most Heads of State, or Government Ministers, in the so-called developed world, have at least one speech per year where they mention the role of “religious leaders,” when talking about developmental contexts as diverse as climate change, peace-making, or healthcare.
How did we get to the point where many of us working in and about development now talk – and work – on ‘religion and development’? What are the implications of increasing engagement with certain so-called ‘religious actors’ on our social and political landscapes – particularly when it comes to human rights?
In the following presentation, I attempt to provide a responsive series of narratives to these questions. I first present the background to my understanding of the terminology of development and the ways in which I perceive this unfolding universe of engagement. I then move on to showcase the rationale for why religion and development are a 21st century reality, and conclude with a critical review of the pros and cons of the nexus between religion and development today.