Faith and Development

A One Just World Forum at the University of Sydney

19 October, 2011

Does faith and religion have a role to play in international aid and development? Historically, religious institutions have been providers of aid due to their dedication and willingness to assist. Most would agree that it is important to operate by a value system. In the context of faith based organisations, this value system is usually based on a religious code. In secular organisations, this is generally based on a non-religious code of ethics.

Some would argue that faith-based organisations risk influencing recipient communities to adopt their beliefs, or even imposing restrictions such as on family planning and some traditional practices. Others would argue that a secular approach doesn't provide the most important ingredient, that of spirituality.

Do faith-based and secular aid development organisations have distinct and different characteristics that impact their performance and behaviours as development agencies? Can one approach be seen to be more effective than the other?

The forum featured and exclusive interview for One Just World with Dr Catherine Hamlin AC, Co Founder, Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital, on the topic of faith and dvelopment.

  • Dr Catherine Hamlin AC was born in Sydney, Australia and graduated from the University of Sydney in 1946. In 1950 she married Dr Reginald Hamlin and shortly after, the couple accepted a contract with the Ethiopian Government to set up a midwifery school in Addis Ababa. The Hamlin's were horrified by the many women suffering the devastating effects of obstetric fistula caused by prolonged and obstructed childbirth and, in response to this, developed a surgical technique to repair the condition. In 1975, the Hamlins opened Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital and since then, have treated over 30,000 fistula patients. Today, Dr Hamlin continues her work at this hospital, serving as a senior consultant and chairing the Board of Trustees.


  • Dr Laura Beth Bugg (PhD and MDiv, Harvard University; MURP, University of Sydney) is a Lecturer in the Department of Sociology and Social Policy at the University of Sydney. Her areas of research include religion and urban planning, religion and social welfare and religion and migration. Her most recent project is a multi-site study of transnational Hindus and informal development aid in Gujarat, India.


  • Duncan MacLaren is the former Secretary General of Caritas Internationalis and currently lectures at the Australian Catholic University on Catholic approaches to humanitarian and development work, as well as coordinates ACU's Refugee Program on the Thai-Burma border which offers university education to Burmese refugees in camps in Thailand. Duncan has spoken and written extensively on humanitarian and development topics, refugees, Catholic agency identity and Catholic Social Teaching, and as of next year will be teaching the new Bachelor of International Development Studies at ACU.
  • Professor Matthew Clarke is Head of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Deakin University. He has worked in the aid sector for twenty years. During that time he has worked for aid agencies and taught development studies at the post-graduate level. Professor Clarke has authored six books, including Development and Religion: Theology and Practice. His research interests include religion and development, aid effectiveness, the Millenium Development Goals, and disability in developing countries.
  • Joel Negin is a Senior Lecturer in International Public Health at the University of Sydney and a Research Fellow at the Menzies Centre for Health Policy. Joel has managed health and development projects, worked in a number or countries including Kenya, Cote d'Ivoire, Liberia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa for UN agencies, government departments and academic institutions. He maintains an ongoing appointment at the Earth Institute at Columbia University where he previously worked on Jeffrey Sachs' Millenium Villages Project. His research focuses on HIV service delivery and health systems strengthening in sub-Saharan Africa and the Pacific.
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Sydney Ideas is delighted to be hosting the second One Just World Forum at the University of Sydney in 2011.

One Just World is a national series of free, after-work speakers’ forums designed to involve the community in conversation and debate on key international development issues facing Australia, the Asia-Pacific and beyond. Past topics covered reflect the diversity of issues in this area: whether climate change, gender equality, international development, food and nutrition, human rights, or disability and development. All forums feature panel of experts that may include academics, economists, scientists, policy makers, and community workers. And you, the audience, will have an opportunity to put your questions to them.

One Just World a partnership between World Vision Australia, the International Women’s Development Agency (IWDA), AusAID and a University in each state. One Just World was launched in July 2008 at Melbourne’s Federation Square by Bob McMullan, Parliamentary Secretary for International Development Assistance, and has so far held 50 successful forums in capital cities around Australia.

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