How do U.S. faith-based NGOs (FBOs) in international development educate and mobilize their constituencies – their members, supporters, or members of religious institutions that sponsor them?

Religious Voices in the Politics of International Development: Faith-Based NGOs and Political Mobilization (Palgrave/Macmillan, 2021) compiles a decade of research on faith-based NGOs’ political roles and shows that most pursue cautious reformist agendas, but FBOs have sometimes played important roles in civil society. In this book, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public and International professor Dr. Paul Nelson unpacks those political roles by examining the prominence of advocacy in the organizations, the issues they address and avoid, their transnational relationships, and their relationships with religious and secular social movements. 

This work provides the first systematic study of the political voice of faith-based international humanitarian groups.

Most FBOs were created as charitable agencies to deliver material aid, and political activism is sometimes an awkward fit with that mission. The agencies that educate and mobilize constituencies most actively are associated with small Christian sects or with non-Christian U.S. minority (non-Christian) faiths with historic commitments to social justice. Specialized advocacy NGOs play important roles, and emerging movements on immigration and climate may represent fresh political energy.

In a chapter focused on faith-based responses to climate change, COVID-19, and racial injustice, Dr. Nelson argues that how religious agencies respond to these crises will shape the future of religion as a moral and political force in America, and of NGOs in international development.