A special issue of the Canadian Journal of Development Studies/Revue canadienne d’études du développement offers several articles addressing the connections between religion and development. In the introductory essay, Charmain Levy, department of social sciences, Université du Qubec en Outaouais, writes:
“For many years, social sciences and development studies have adhered to a sociological view that holds that as societies modernise, religious institutions and beliefs will wane in their influence. Following the example of industrialised countries, it was assumed that societies in the developing world would follow the same path and that this would be a positive development. Until recently, development theories and practices were based upon the premise of rational, secular institutions and individuals; and the implications and contributions of religious actors were consequently either downplayed or completely ignored. In many developing countries, however, despite the secularisation of the state, religion remains to this day embedded in society; religious actors occupy an important place in civil society.
“All of the authors who have contributed to this special issue of the CJDS agree that different development theories have largely ignored the role played by faith-based NGOs in donor countries within international cooperation. This oversight is clearly represented by the gap in International Development Studies (IDS), both in Canada and elsewhere. In the past 10 years, however, several research teams and development organisations, based primarily in Europe, have recognised and documented the presence and importance of religious actors within development policy and practice in both donor and beneficiary countries.
“Several of these organisations have published research showing the importance of religion and faith in development and contributing to increased understanding of how they influence development policies and practice. However … until very recently, there have been few forums for Canadian scholars who are interested in issues related to religion in Development Studies.
“The articles in this special issue build upon existing research in order to simultaneously tackle unaddressed issues and raise the debate to another level with regard to identifying religious actors, assessing their importance and understanding how they influence development studies, practices and processes in both donor and beneficiary countries.”