As a global organization, working in five diverse contexts, World Vision (WV) has
had to continuously review her strategy and approach in facilitating a
Christian, child-focused and community based transformational development.Since
it opened its first base in Africa in the early 1970s’, World Vision in her
efforts to be an authentic witness in all her community based integrated
development projects has had to confront three distinct religious contexts:Context 1: Islam and Christianity are given equal
recognition. The dominant view is that both are religions that came from
"outside."Context 2: Islam and Christianity are practiced in the same geographic location.
Generally, Muslims and Christians are members of different ethnic groups. Context 3: Islam is the dominant faith and Christianity is the minority faith.
Some Christians are government employees from outside the area and belong to a
different ethnic group.
Overcoming the Challenges
In a study done in 2008 to help position our ministry more
strategically for greater impact, four crises that impinge on WV operations, as
a Christian organization, were identified. They include the following:
Since then we have embarked on a strategy aimed at promoting field staff capacity,
confidence and understanding for building constructive relationships within
communities, faith leaders, and organizations in caring for those affected by
poverty and especially by the drought in the Horn of Africa, leading to
positive community acceptance and credibility to bear witness among the most
affected communities. We seek to achieve this through (1) Capacity enhancement,
(2) Partner engagement and (3) Innovation and learning on faith and development
in multifaith communities.
What Are We Learning So Far?
Working in multifaith contexts is often complex and messy and World Vision has seen it
all. In a recent rapid learning review conducted to understand the impact of
our focused engagement in multifaith contexts, the findings
have demonstrated that our ministry is not only growing in these areas but also
new opportunities to engage with faith leaders in contributing to the
improvement of the well-being of children, families and their communities.
Some of the Emerging Better Practices from Our Interfaith Programing in the Horn of Africa
Intentional Integrated Programing: In many of the
communities in Africa, faith is an integral part of life and therefore, any
development effort must intentionally integrate worldview issues and how they
shape the development agenda in any community. WV’s success in these
communities has been largely influenced by our commitment to a holistic
approach to development that recognizes faith as an integral part of people’s well-being.
Key Lessons and Recommendations
Realizing child well-being and community impact for
Christian humanitarian agencies calls for appropriate strategies that are
rooted in local realities. Our experience has shown us the need for the following:
1. Ministry models tailored to context
A key emphasis for World Vision has been to “tailor our
ministry to context.” In other words, our work would be greatly enhanced if the
strategies that guide what we do are understood and tailored to the specific
conditions of each country. Context is everything and its value cannot be
2. Building strategic advocacy networks and building bridges
Working in multifaith contexts calls for sustained
partnerships and engagement with other players to maximize impact and synergy. The
starting point should always be Building
Our Bridges with local faith leaders, faith based organizations, political
leaders as well as other partners who share the burden of sharing God’s love in
ways that respect and honor the local people. Both Muslim and Christian
communities share a lot in meeting the needs of their constituencies.
3. True discipleship for the development agent
Our identity calls for True Discipleship, the ultimate
purpose of which is character formation. In many of the communities where we
work, our Muslim brothers are able to distinguish “good” Christians from “bad”
ones. Our intention remains witnessing to the saving grace of Christ and this
is the essence of witnessing by life, word, deed and sign. In fragile countries
within the Horn of Africa, strengthening and nurturing the Christian formation of
our staff and organization for authentic ministry and witness is a prerequisite
to achieving quality results in our work.
4. Innovating and learning for greater impact
Given the fast changing landscape today, it’s obvious that
yesterday’s strategies may not deal effectively with today’s dilemmas. Through
our Learning Center approach now in its third year, World Vision has
prioritized the need and value to continuously develop innovative models that
help mitigate today’s development challenges. To effectively do that,
partnering and learning from others becomes a key pillar for doing development
and bearing witness in a multifaith context.
For World Vision, these four broad approaches are couched in our Development Approach.
As one of key Partnership Leaders has noted, “There is no such thing as a humanitarian
organization that is not also a witnessing organization.” Hence, as followers
of Christ, as expressed in our Mission Statement, we are entrusted with extraordinarily good news, the good
news that floods our hearts with hope and propels us into the world to give
tangible evidence of God’s love to a hurting world regardless of faith, race,
gender and status. Our commitment and challenge therefore is how to faithfully
present the Whole gospel, to the Whole person, in the Whole World!
1. See http://www.worldvision.org/.
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Daniel Muvengi PhD., is the Director for Faith & Development, Eastern Africa Region at World Vision.