humanitarianism in africa



Christianity and Western diplomacy: Strange or obvious bedfellows?

The relationship between Christianity and diplomacy in the modern Western world is a very old and very important one, but it rarely gets the attention it deserves. Yet, if we dig underneath the secularist assumptions for international politics, we can easily see the degree to which religious – and, in particular, Christian – ethics, actors, and thought have always been an integral part of diplomatic practices.

Cecelia Lynch, UCI political scientist and director of the Institute for International, Global and Regional Studies, has been analyzing this tumultuous relationship for more than 20 years. She says that in order to understand contemporary diplomacy, it is useful to understand its roots in a Christian history of conflicts between universalism and particularism, from the early modern period through the creation of global organizations to the present, post-Cold War era. This history also enables us to see how Christian actors – despite the fact that they do not speak with one voice – continue to be influential as negotiators and humanitarians in diplomacy today. Additionally, exposing the symbiotic relationship between Christianity and diplomacy in the West brings to attention how both Christian actors and Western diplomats must increasingly take into account the ethics and practices of other parts of the world to achieve goals of order and peace among states and peoples.


Cecelia Lynch received a $450,000 grant in 2015 from the Henry Luce Foundation’s Initiative on Religion and International Affairs for a three-year project on connections between religion and humanitarianism in Africa.

Currently in her second of a three-year study to better understand connections between religion and humanitarianism in Africa, Lynch says we have a ways to go.

“These connections remain insufficiently understood in many important respects, negatively affecting perceptions about religion and policies regarding humanitarianism on the continent,” she says.

Through further research and knowledge sharing, she hopes to spark more informed debate among those who provide aid and lasting egalitarian and humanitarian relationships among donors, NGOs and aid recipients.



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