Religion and development in Ethiopia
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Since the 1980s there has been a search for alternative approaches to development that encompasses different variables of the social systems. The most recent evolution of development thought has been characterized by a multidimensional approach to development, also referred to as the human development approach. In this approach attention is drawn towards the significance of ethics and values in development. The recognition of development as a value-based process opens up to address the role of religion in development processes. In this thesis I have explored the role of religion within a value-based conception of development. The geographical area of focus for this research is Ethiopia and the Norwegian Church Aid (NCA) presence in this country. During my fieldwork I have, through interviews and observation, gained understanding of how NCA understands the role of religion in development in Ethiopia. The thesis shows that in some areas of NCA’s development practice collaboration with religious leaders and faith-based organizations (FBO) is especially emphasized and regarded as essential to achieve certain development objectives. NCA have involved religious leaders at both local and national level into their development practice. Religious leaders influential mandated position and credibility, in local communities and national institutions, is recognized as both potentially constructive and obstructive to the process of development. Examined cases, conducted interviews and observations in this thesis reveal an instrumental approach to religion in NCA’s development practice. However, this does not provide the full picture. NCA also appears to facilitate for a more informed understanding of development that takes place at a conceptual level. Religious leaders and FBO’s are encouraged and challenged into conceptualising processes where religious norms and values are explored and examined in relation to development. The outcome of these processes seems to pave the way for the emergence of new values that better incorporates and acknowledges the existence and interest of both religion and development. The role of religion in NCA’s development practice appears as a dynamic dialogue between the sacred and the profane where religion is regarded as a natural and almost an inevitably part of development. NCA’s objective seems to be focused on finding common ground between religion and development in fighting poverty. The analysis and discussion in this thesis shows that the role of religion in development is not merely about how religion can inform the concept of development, but also about how development can inform the concept of religion.