Religious actors are of great importance to people around the world - and therefore also in the work with the global goals. To work for peace between people, to serve one's neighbor and to safeguard creation is a foundation in world religions. As active in the Church of Sweden's Youth and the Church of Sweden, we see no contradiction in a development cooperation that is both faith- and rights-based.
At a recent seminar on religion and aid at Sida, Mercy Niwe, a member of the Faith Partnership at the World Bank, justified the importance of working with religious actors to promote global sustainable development. In many countries, trust is very low in politicians and decision-makers who may not even be democratically elected. In many contexts, trust in religious leaders is significantly higher than in those in power.
In addition, local religious actors will remain long after international aid actors leave the site. It further underlines the importance of collaboration with religious actors in the work on Agenda 2030 and the global goals that the countries of the world have agreed on.
Is there a negative image of religion in aid
We often encounter a simplified and very negative picture of what aid work on a religious basis has looked like and still expresses itself, but the research shows a much more nuanced picture. In several contexts, it has been through religious contexts that the work with human rights has been able to be pursued.
One example is the civil rights movement in the United States, where people met in churches for strategic non-violent training. Another example is the progressive theological college MIT in Burma / Myanmar, which during the military dictatorship was for a long time among the few that could teach human rights, then under the code name "Human dignity".
Act The Church of Sweden is the Church of Sweden's organization for development cooperation and is a member of the Act Alliance. Act stands both for acting and as an abbreviation for Action by Churches Together and is, one of the largest aid networks in the world, something that may not be known to so many.
Very groundbreaking work within the church
We are proud of the groundbreaking aid work that can be conducted through Act Church of Sweden partners. We are thinking, among other things, of the Church in Tanzania, which works with sexual and reproductive rights. We are thinking of the grassroots work of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt, which works with education and against genital mutilation. And we are thinking of the driving youth organization in South Africa that is acting against the exploitation of the mining industry.
The Lutheran Church in Costa Rica often expresses that they see it as their role "to be a stone in the shoe" and point out the existing injustices they see around them - just as deacons, the church's social workers, do when they encounter poverty in close quarters. Sweden.
Serious religious aid actors work according to the same humanitarian principles as secular actors, without discrimination and with established systems around complaint mechanisms and anti-corruption.
Difficult to understand the role of religion
In the exceptionally secular context that exists in Sweden, it can sometimes be difficult to understand the role religion plays in people's lives around the world. No matter what we think, religion is important for the majority of the world's population.
Anyone who has lived in another country for a long time knows how it can manifest itself. The church, temple, mosque or synagogue continues to be present in people's lives. Religion and religious practice are not the opposite of modern development - they are part of a modern society.
A spiritual dimension is needed
We therefore believe that it is relevant to also include a spiritual dimension as a complement to the environmental, social and economic dimensions of Agenda 2030. This is not least important when we see how many, especially young people, suffer from anxiety and worry in the climate crisis and where Mental illness continues to increase among young people in Sweden.
Here, religious actors may have a special existential responsibility. We take this very seriously and we often cooperate between religions around that responsibility. In line with striving for peaceful, inclusive societies - goal 16 in Agenda 2030.
In development cooperation and work with the global goals, it is important to look after the whole person. We must take people's concerns seriously and offer opportunities to talk about even existential reflections of life. The psychosocial aspect of Agenda 2030 is as relevant in the global south as in Sweden. Injecting hope and courage into people's lives is of great importance for a globally sustainable world.