Lindsey Black

Faith in Aid: Exploring the Evolution of Religious Humanitarianism in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries

Western humanitarianism blossomed in the twentieth century, and religious actors mobilized charitable acts into structures of "organized compassion," as defined by Michael Barnett. Three such religious actors include the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) formed by Quaker Friends, Catholic Relief Services (CRS), and World Vision International (WVI) created from Evangelical Christian roots. I will argue that, despite distinctively different religious identities, each organization has followed a similar evolutionary framework of emerging at a time of war and upheaval, shifting from relief into development work, and creating an emphasis on peace-building initiatives. Furthermore, the three organizations continually share concerns over how to stay true to their core religious identities, engage with the US government, and remain relevant and useful in the twenty-first century. I draw these conclusions through combining archival research with a series of employee interviews conducted with AFSC, CRS, and WVI. The three organizations serve as case studies for how religious humanitarianism at large must continually and actively work to find its place in the constantly changing field of international aid and development in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.