Is humanitarian need blind?Â In college, my Christian fellowship sponsored a fundraiser for victims of the Southeast Asian earthquake and tsunami, sending money to the explicitly Christian humanitarian relief organization World Vision. During the fundraiser, several people approached the coordinators and expressed relief at being able to donate to a Christian organization. One person said, â€œI donâ€™t mind donating to a secular organization, but it somehow feels better to give to an organization that shares the same faith.â€ As one of the organizers, I asked myself, â€œWhatâ€™s the difference between secular and faith-â€‹â€‹based groups if theyâ€™re doing the same thing? Do you need to be a Christian to hand out food and medical supplies? Canâ€™t we all just work together?â€ All of these questions and struggles probe the complex issue of college Christian humanitarianism.
Wikipedia.org defines humanitarianism as â€œan informal ideology of practice, whereby people practice humane treatment and provide assistance to others . . . based on a view that all human beings deserve respect and dignity and should be treated as such.â€ We colloquially use the term â€œhumanitarianismâ€ to describe the general spirit behind the charity work that goes on in the world, but we must recognize that doing so ignores the fine distinctions between the philosophies that motivate such work. At first blush, these differences seem trivial or even unnecessary. We think, â€œSurely we can lay aside our prejudices and work together for a common cause.â€ There is an innate belief in our culture that charitable actions are â€” or at least can be â€” transcendent over differences, whether in race, culture, or religious belief. The chorus of the Nickelback song â€œIf Everyone Caredâ€ puts it starkly:
If everyone cared and nobody cried
If everyone loved and nobody lied
If everyone shared and swallowed their pride
Then weâ€™d see the day when nobody died.
After all, does a person who is sick care about the ethnicity of the person administering medicine? Does a person starving to death care about the religion of the person handing out food? Probably not. We tend to assume that acute need is blind in the same way that justice should be blind: unbiased, unassuming, and â€œfairâ€ to all people and all needs. [Read more…] about Issues in College Christian Humanitarianism: Part 2