Faith-based international development work: A review

Dan Heist, Ram A. Cnaan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the wake of the Faith-Based Initiative in the USA, substantial research has resulted in an increased awareness of religious congregations and faith-based organizations as welfare service providers. The next frontier appears to be the role of religious organizations in international social and economic development, a topic that only recently started to attract academic interest. In this paper, we review available literature on the role that religious, or faith-based, organizations play in international social and economic development. We also provide results from our own study of USA international NGOs1 that are faith-based. We divide the paper into the positive contributions of faith-based international NGOs and the drawbacks of these NGOs. We find that faith-based nonprofits constitute almost 60 percent of USA-based international development organizations, and their contribution to international social development is quite considerable. We conclude with a call for further research and nuanced understanding of the role religion plays in international development.

Original languageEnglish
Article number19
Issue number3
StatePublished - 25 Feb 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • Faith based organizations
  • Faith-based NGOs
  • Humanitarian work
  • International development
  • International social and economic development
  • Religious community

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Religious studies

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