This paper considers the links between religion and disaster relief through a detailed case study of the activities of Christian churches following the Aitape tsunami of 1998 in northwest Papua New Guinea. Based on primary fieldwork data, we argue that Christian religion was central to the way in which the Combined Churches Organization conducted its relief work and to why it sought to undertake it in the first place. A comparison of the perspectives of this organization and of other religious and governmental organizations as to the causes of this disaster and what remedies they should undertake suggests that greater attention should be paid—both by aid and development researchers and practitioners—to aspects of religious belief and the way they inform theory and practice. Much remains to explore concerning the ways religion informs the theory and practice of aid and development, particularly in the Pacific. Through the detailed case study offered here, this paper adds to the fledgling debate engaging with the links between religion and development and calls for the initiation of an agenda toward that end.
The Contemporary Pacific – University of Hawai'I Press
Published: Aug 31, 2004