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Church vital to development says report highlighting theology of global South

April 20 2012 - Christian Aid is giving a voice to theologians from the global South with a new report examining southern perspectives on climate change, HIV, globalisation and the global food crisis.

Full report: http://www.christianaid.org.uk/images/theology-from-the-global-south.pdf

Theology from the Global South highlights the religious thinking around international development from countries in which much of that work is taking place.

One area it looks at is the vital role of the church and understanding faith communities in tackling problems such as adapting to climate change and HIV.  Author Dr Paula Clifford, head of Theology at Christian Aid, said the church was often a more trusted source of information than politicians.

She said: ‘For development workers churches are an obvious means of communicating essential information.  Networks of churches extend into remote rural areas and their pastors are regarded as speaking with an authority that few politicians enjoy.  At the height of the HIV crisis in Uganda vital information about prevention and treatment was rapidly transmitted, while care networks based on the existing practice of Christian communities were relatively easy to establish.’

The report quotes Prof Jesse N K Mugambi of the University of Nairobi who has pointed out the importance of understanding the African theology of working with nature when trying to address climate change adaptation measures.

Prof Mugambi said: ‘African communities are struggling for survival while adapting to climate change in the best ways they can manage with meagre resources at their disposal, often with little or no support.’

He adds that religion is the most important focus for social mobilisation in Africa: ‘Any externally sourced adaptation initiatives which ignore, overlook or denigrate African religiosity will not succeed because they will be rejected as alienating innovations by the majority of African communities to whom religion is the essence of life and the basis for personal and communal identity.’

Dr Clifford said: ‘His comments are interesting in that they reflect widespread resentment in parts of sub-Saharan Africa that the North has largely caused the climate crisis and is now imposing its own solutions.  Theologically, the key idea has to do with ‘working with nature’ and with the implicit suggestion that African communities with their religious orientation are best placed to understand this and act accordingly.’

The report also examines the feeling of collective guilt felt by many in the global North around climate change and draws parallels between this and feelings of the white Afrikaner community in South Africa during apartheid.

Other areas covered include how relational theology underlines issues of gender injustice and unequal power relationships as well as southern perspectives on resilient societies, the challenge of HIV and the importance of faith in developing country communities.

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If you would like further information please contact Joe Ware on 0207 523 2418 or jware @christian-aid.org. For out of hours enquiries the 24-hr duty press number is 07850 242 950.

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Notes to Editors:

1. Christian Aid works in some of the world's poorest communities in nearly 50 countries. We act where the need is greatest, regardless of religion, helping people build the lives they deserve.

2. Christian Aid has a vision, an end to global poverty, and we believe that vision can become a reality. Our report, Poverty Over, explains what we believe needs to be done – and can be done – to end poverty.  Details at http://www.christianaid.org.uk/Images/poverty-over-report.pdf

3. Christian Aid is a member of the ACT Alliance, a global coalition of 100 churches and church-related organisations that work together in humanitarian assistance and development.  Further details at http://www.actalliance.org

4. Follow Christian Aid's newswire on Twitter: http://twitter.com/caid_newswire

5. For more information about the work of Christian Aid visit www.christianaid.org.uk