Challenges of Church-Based COMDEV in the Philippines (Part 2)


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B.  Challenges Associated with the Philippines

1.  Cultural Factors

-“Utang na loob“. This term literally means “inside debt”. This is an implied obligation one experiences after receiving a gift or help. Since community development is about interdependency, “utang na loob” tends to prevent this interdependency. Instead, it tends to promote dependency (“rice Christian” effect)

-“Bahala na”. This term describes a sort of resignation to fate or luck. Quoting Tomas D. Andres, “Bahala na works against Individual and social progress, … It harnesses one’s behavior to a submissiveness that eats up one’s sense of responsibility and personal independence. It provides one with a false sense of self-confidence to proceed with an unsound action in the belief that somehow one will manage to get by.” Bahala na sounds Christian (Thy will be done), but only if one confuses a personal God with impersonal fate.

-Datu mentality. The datu (local leader) mentality limits growth and innovation because of the tendency of decisions to be made by one with little creativity. Community development works best when the creativity and power is shared broadly within the community.

2.  Historical Factors.

-As mentioned before, community development in the Philippines came through the government, foreign government, and non-governmental organizations. Therefore, churches lack history in community development.

-Historically, the track record of the community development groups are questionable. Often based on flawed beliefs (or theology), or bad methodology, there is little real change seen.

-Many churches assume all government to be corrupt, so to work with governmental organizations is impossible, or will lead to compromise.

C.  Non-contextual Factors

-The tendency of money to create dependency. Glenn Schwarz has pointed out that if rich countries simply giving money to poor communities worked, “then Haiti should be a shining example of development in our world.” Dependency destroys rather than develops.

-Development is often linked to economic wealth. Wealth doesn’t always develop a community… sometimes it destroys it. To develop wholistically (not just economically) is a challenge.

-Although development is not about money, money will always be a factor. The lack of money in communities makes local church-based development difficult.

-Another problem is the uncertain role of social ministry within the church. Ballard describes five basic attitudes:  Spiritualistic, “Social Gospel”, Convenience, Ulterior Motive, and Wholism. Only a wholistic attitude is likely to genuinely produce solid interdependent community development. However, this may require a major change in attitude of the local church

-Fragmentation is another problem. Partnership is needed for community development, but that means mature sharing of power and vision. However, people and organizations like to accumulate power and act according to their own vision.

-Outside help is often needed to do community development, but leadership must be developed within the community to take over. Power and skills must be transferred to to local elements.

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So, can the church be involved in community development in the Philippines? YES.  It has much to offer.

1.  Community development should be wholistic… this means that it concerns itself with all aspects important to human and social development. This includes spiritual.

2.  Churches SHOULD provide a model of interconnectedness in community. If they don’t, there is something wrong with the church.

3.  Local churches are already in the community. They are an important institution that exists incarnately within the broader community.

4.  Churches already have a (hopefully wise ) group of leaders within the community that can help with development.

Additionally, there are characteristics of the Philippines that can help with community development.

1.  The barangay system sets up community government. This removes some of the difficulty of setting up community structures for development.

2.  The Catholicism of the Philippines helps. The common understanding of God and His role in reaching out to communities and individuals is important to wholistic work.

3.  “Pakikisama” and “Bayanihan” are two Philippine cultural traits that describe coming together with purpose for common good. Building community development in line with these cultural values may be more successful than in the US where Individualism takes precedence.

GOOD EXAMPLES OF REAL CHURCH-BASED COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT IS LIMITED IN THE PHILIPPINES… BUT TIMES ARE CHANGING. LET’S PRAY THAT THE CHANGES OCCUR SOON.

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