Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Avoiding Dependency in Global Christian Mission

Spiegel Says (my emphasis): A goatherd with his flock on a road under construction north of Nairobi Kenya. Critics say Western aid, the way it is currently structured, has made recipient countries dependent on help from abroad.


Developmental aid for Africa from the West has long been of questionable efficacy; to cut a long story short this aid has so often encouraged unhealthy dependency. See for example this article on Spiegel Online:
See also the accompanying Photo Album:

Christian Mission has faced similar problems of unintentionally promoting African dependency on handouts.. Christian Missionary and Anthropologist Dr Jim Harries lives in Kenya and has spent much time pondering and writing about these problems. He is heading up the UK April 2015 conferences advertised here. Jim promotes a method of Christian Mission that uses local languages and local resources, without the potentially destabilizing effects of Western resources. Moreover, the use of local languages challenges missionaries to gain a deep understanding of the local culture and with it comes a much greater chance of reading the subtexts that tell us about the why's and wherefore's of Western project failures in Africa.

I may be presenting a paper at one of the conferences. If I do here is the abstract: 

De-polarising the dependency vs. independency dichotomy
What is at the bottom of the frequent failure of African development and Christian mission projects, projects prompted and assisted by Western Civilisation?  What prevents Western ways seamlessly grafting on to the African context?  This paper probes both the rural African and Western cultural mind sets and discovers incommensurability between the two. This incommensurability is very apparent in contrasting views about the source of “fortune”;  that is,  the hidden engine which drives everyday events.  Differences in the understanding of the nature of this engine lead to very different perspectives:  On the one hand the rural African has little inhibition about having a resource dependent identity but the downside of this is that it can compromise proactivity and responsibility. On the other hand the Westerner who feels he comprehensively grasps the underlying mechanisms that drive the cosmos may all too readily be prey to an unhealthy control freakery and an independence of the divine. Both perspectives have positives and negatives and constitute a thesis-antithesis pair crying out for synthesis.  This current paper, which grew out of a discussion document co-authored with Jim Harries , seeks a path between irresponsible dependency and the proud self-sufficiency of independency.

As the flint of Western thought grinds against the frizzen of Africa sparks are being produced igniting the fires of many fruitful discussions about African development. These discussions in turn could help address the problematical philosophical nihilism which so easily grows out of purely secular thinking thereby plaguing Western societies with deep existential crises.

(See also: http://www.vulnerablemission.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/OB_Spring_2014.pdf)

Spiegel says: Ideally, foreign aid should not offer anything that locals cannot do themselves. Expertise can be helpful, as here in Adama, Ethiopia. But foreign aid workers should not get in the way of local initiative.


Spiegel says: Many well known stars, such as Bob Geldof, have become heavily involved in African aid. But some say that we need to get away from the idea the more money necessarily means more help.

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