Disaster relief

Religion and spirituality are often not directly associated with humanitarian aid. Humanitarian organisations have the obligation to provide humanitarian assistance wherever is needed and to whomever is in need, regardless of political orientation, ethnicity or religion. Many western humanitarian organisations have their origin in Christian mission, yet over the course of the centuries humanitarian aid has become more and more secular. Both in terms of faith-based organisations downplaying their religious identity as in the emergence of secular elements in disaster relief, such as governance, commerce and bureaucratization. At the same time a process of sanctification is taking place, in which humanitarianism and its secular guiding principles of impartiality, independence and neutrality are viewed as sacred, pure and separated from the everyday and physical world. The Knowledge Centre Religion and Development explores these processes of secularisation and sanctification, focusing on tensions in all phases of humanitarian aid: from identity issues on the caritas market to the practice of disaster relief in spaces often highly permeated by religion and spirituality.