Faith Dribbles Away?

November 11, 2019

This is a guest post by Doug Fountain, the Executive Director of Christian Connections for International Health. CCIH is an Accord member and is an association that serves over 160 organizations and several hundred individuals around the world who advance health and wholeness from a Christian perspective.

A gathering of leaders a few days ago at the World Bank focused on engagement of faith communities in global development. We mostly listened as officials from governments, the Bank and others spoke highly of religious communities.

But as we listened, one of the presenters said something I didn’t expect to hear: “Several of us thought that one day, with good development practice, people’s reliance on faith would just dribble away.”

I sat up at that… and wished I could hit pause and replay to make sure I heard that right.

His point, thankfully, was much more positive: “Now we know” that faith is vital in development. Over 80 percent of the world’s population belongs to a major religion; to think we’d change people’s hearts and minds without involving religious communities is nonsense.

We agree! But isn’t it sad that, in 2019, that’s still the conversation?

Faith-based organizations make up a substantial share of health services in low- and middle-income countries. For example, there are over 5000 Christian hospitals and clinics in just 30 sub-Saharan countries; there are countless more community-based programs. Many of these face uphill challenges with governments and funders who prefer to support public/government services.

“Mind and Body Dialogue”

Thankfully there are glimmers of hope. First, during UNGA, PEPFAR once again demonstrated excellence by hosting a community of faith breakfast – a well-attended, diverse event that featured firsthand accounts of how faith communities help in managing HIV/AIDS on a global scale. Zambia’s minister of health, for example, highlighted the pivotal role of the church in all facets of addressing the AIDS crisis.

Second, UNICEF and the Joint Learning Initiative just launched Faith and Positive Change for Children – a global effort to unify faith communities for social and behavior change. They see great change occur when faith leaders promote “dialogue between mind and body.” I love that. As Christians, that “dialogue” is at the heart of our understanding of wholeness.

We can do better as a faith community to ensure our voice is heard. Data – evidence – of both our scale and our impact will help. Data are not just numbers but credible stories of who we serve, how we are different, and what value communities and leaders place on our service.

This is partly what is behind CCIH’s 30×30 Health Systems Initiative – to demonstrate the power of faith-based organizations to improve 30 health systems by 2030. We’ll do this by raising awareness of what faith-based organizations are doing, raise support and resources to come alongside them, and to track their success. Right now, we’re collecting commitments from FBOs about how they intend to improve their health systems.

Efforts like ours that are inspired by faith and based on evidence won’t go away. Let us keep our focus, share our experience, and lift each other in prayer in unity of the Spirit.

Categories: Accord Network

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