No longer the opium of the poor; Linking Faith and Glocal DevelopmentDesmond Situma January 19, 2020 2 Comments
Whether the concept of religion is a westernized rhetoric or has some sense in an African context is a debatable ideation that warrants scrutiny. However, my intention to have a look at religion in the sphere of sustainability is because the African continent has become enormously religious. While some people are using religion to benefit themselves, whether politically, monetarily, or by misleading interpretations, faith remains an essential tool that sustainability advocates should use to impart positive change. A lot of research on faith-based Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) has been done, with a focus on it as an important educational tool. Yet, we can potentiate faith to go beyond simply education, to an action-based behaviour, that is not only morally based but also practice-oriented in terms of sustainably using resources. Most religions advocate for conservation, but different interpretations of religious books might lead to varied behaviours towards the environment, economy/money/wealth, and society.
Similarly, even without going deeper into the religious books, there is no doubt that many people ascribe to a certain form of faith, and chances are so high that such individuals would listen to their religious leaders. In any case, faith has some higher power that motivates individuals to act in a certain manner. For Christians for example, the faithful are likely to be obedient to preachers or teachers of the gospel (but not always). If we could only train faith leaders on matters sustainability, it would be easy to reach a huge audience through proper sustainability education and ESD concepts taught in the context of faith teachings. Many religions, for example, Christianity, Islam, Hindu, Judaism etc in one way or another advocate for conservation. As sustainability experts, we should rethink glocal approaches, which would ensure communities capitalize on the faith-based teachings that enhance social and economic sustainability.
This brief writing is not intended to provoke an anthropological argument on religion, but to encourage those ascribing to certain forms of faith to study, and embrace teachings that encourage them to work towards social and economic sustainability. Most development stakeholders, including governments in the Global South, have underutilized the potential of faith to mobilise citizenry for economic revitalization. A change of thought, as well as change of tact, is exigent to realise sustainability, without quashing religion or faith in the development agenda. This way we will be able to change the notion of ‘religion as the opium of the poor’.
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Desmond Situma is a sustainability expert and enthusiast. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Education from Kenyatta University, Kenya, and currently a Master of Science in Sustainable Development from the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KU Leuven) in Belgium. His areas of interest pertain communicating research and ideas in sustainability especially in the fields of Food Systems and Agriculture, Development Cooperation, Climate Change, Environmental law and policy/politics, Geography of Development, Inequalities, rights, and Just transitions, Society- Environment interactions among other areas related to ecosystems services, landscapes, livelihoods & culture, and Environmental Economics. Understanding the inter-relationships between these and other domains of sustainability presents a reasoned approach for rethinking sustainability pathways for sustainable development especially in the Global South, but also in the West.