Original Research - Special Collection: Faith Based Organisations

Advocating the value-add of faith in a secular context: The case of the Knowledge Centre Religion and Development in the Netherlands

Brenda E. Bartelink, Ton Groeneweg
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 75, No 4 | a5510 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v75i4.5510 | © 2019 Brenda E. Bartelink, Ton Groeneweg | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 23 April 2019 | Published: 11 December 2019

About the author(s)

Brenda E. Bartelink, Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies, University of Groningen, Groninge, the, Netherlands
Ton Groeneweg, Mensen met een Missie, The Hague, the, Netherlands

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This article analyses how faith-based civil society organisations have advocated the value-add of faith to governmental and non-governmental development actors in the highly secularised context of the Netherlands. Its social value lies in the space for reflexivity it opens up on how the religious and the secular are entangled in the field of development through shifting the gaze towards secularised Europe. Its academic value lies in how it combines the study of faith and development, with a critical analysis of the secular formations in which much of the thinking around faith and development is shaped. The article builds on an academic study of and long-term engagement with the Dutch non-governmental organisation (NGO)-based Knowledge Centre Religion and Development (KCRD), offering a critical overview of the KCRD’s work between 2006 and 2016. Data were gathered through interviews, document analysis and participant observation as part of the academic research, as well as informal observations and analysis through professional engagement. The KCRD, because of its institutional setting, had to adopt an instrumental approach towards the role of religion in development, which prevented it from challenging the reigning secular paradigm in development and its biases towards faith-based actors. The article will recommend that future initiatives on faith and development more consciously anchor their approach to faith in their institutional practices and mainstream discussions on the European continent.


Religion; Secularity; International development; Faith-Based organisations; The Netherlands


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