Four guided missiles packed with explosive material hurtled into the morning sky. Though the day was brilliant blue and cloudless, no one saw them coming. They were aimed at a nation that did not see itself at war. Moreover, it was a nation convinced that missiles fired in anger no longer posed a serious threat to its security. The weapons were conventional in the strict sense: they did not carry nuclear warheads.
Posts Tagged ‘development’
In this post I explore the case of Bangladesh: the state of secularism there and the tensions and polemics that accompany the pursuit of an ideal secular state and society. I do this by reflecting on reactions surrounding women’s turn to greater religious engagement fostered through their participation in Quranic discussion circles in Dhaka. In outlining some of the tensions underlying the reactions, I wish to draw attention to the stakes of remaining confined to a binary view of religion and secularism, especially as new religious forces and faces come into the public space with the intent of developing and transforming it.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) recently released a new guide, Partnering with Religious Communities for Children, intended to support UNICEF staff and other child rights organizations build effective partnerships with religious communities, in particular religious leaders, networks, and local faith communities.
At African Arguments, Knox Chitiyo and Lucy Mbugua investigate the potential for faith-based groups to contribute to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals in Africa.
About eight months into my fieldwork, I began to have dreams about the morning disciplinary routines at OISCA’s training centers. I told a couple of staff about it, and they laughed, telling me that the routines, and perhaps OISCA, must finally be seeping into my body (mi ni shimitsuite kitanda). The morning routines at the training centers require a heightened awareness, and it’s not surprising that it takes time for it to leave one’s senses. . . . OISCA staff acknowledge that the training style is alien to most people. However, it is thought that repetition of the routines over the year will open people’s minds to understand what the trainings are about: how to work in harmony with others toward the goal of development. The saturation of repetitive bodily experiences is thought to draw the person out of one’s comfort zone, out of one’s self, and craft a sense of community bound by an awareness of each other and a shared commitment to disciplinary demands coming from a place external to everyone, including the staff. The discipline, in this view, circulates.
Despite its roots in a religious entity, OISCA [The Organization for Industrial, Spiritual and Cultural Advancement] is registered as a non-religious group. Many of the staff express ambivalence about the religious aspects of OISCA’s vision, staff composition, and history. In an avowedly “secular” Japanese society—an environment crafted in the immediate years after the Second World War by the U.S. Occupation, which was intent on eradicating the principles of “State Shinto” that were seen as the basis of an evil imperial regime—the term “religion” often triggers an allergic reaction. The terrorist attacks by the cult Aum Shinrikyō, in 1995, have not helped either. Wedged between a religious heritage and demands for secularity, OISCA offers a telling case in which religion and aid work entwine in complicated ways. How does the religious-secular boundary sharpen or blur in the trainings described as “person-making” (hitozukuri)? What kinds of persons are made in these activities?
Azza Karam is the Senior Culture Advisor at the United Nations Population Fund, where she has pioneered efforts to make human development work more attentive to religion. Karam was born in Egypt and grew up, as the daughter of an Egyptian diplomat, in countries around the world, eventually earning a doctorate in international relations from the University of Amsterdam. Her several books include Transnational Political Islam (2004) and Islamisms, Women and the State (1998). Prior to joining UNFPA, she worked for the World Conference of Religions for Peace, the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, and the United Nations Development Program, among other organizations.
For most of the second half of the twentieth century development was assumed to be consonant with modernity and its attendant practices: secularism, reason, and science. However, it is increasingly apparent that the secularity of development should no longer be taken for granted. This is visible not only in recent initiatives for “faith-based development,” but also in movements that seek to develop faith by emphasizing religious ethics conducive to economic rationality.
Katherine Marshall, co-chair of the SSRC’s Project on Religion and International Affairs, speaks of her tenure at the World Bank, where she helped to guide the Bank’s initiative on religion and global development, and her current work at Georgetown’s Berkley Center, overseeing regional and issue analysis concerning the development work of faith-inspired organizations around the globe.