As you know, there has been quite a bit of discussion about missionaries in the Congo on this blog. This is the central post pointing to everything else, and at Minnesota Atheists you’ll find a link to today’s radio show on the topic.
It turns out that a number of calls and emails did come in to the station today but we were unable to get to them. Among the emails, there is this two parter from from Jason Thibeault:
I have a two part question for Greg Laden. In conversations on your blog related to the topic prior to this show, you mentioned that there are secular missions to many of these areas, the purposes for which are to provide the services that the religious missions provide, only omitting the proselytizing. You said at the time that you didn’t know much about them — have you managed to find out more about any existing missions since then?
When I look up “secular mission” on Google, I find stuff about missions where the word “secular” is used for some reason or another, and I find myself. This is not good.
Perhaps the secular “mission” right now is the UN, and in some cases USAID (but if you want that to work, you’ve got to contact your representatives in congress and push for critical evaluation and positive reform) and various NGO’s that are not religious. I think we need to do more research on this, and also, to make things happen.
Also, the thought of setting up such a mission without the backing of a church or religious institution seems particularly daunting. How do you figure one might go about putting together such a mission, if not supported by a religion or university; for instance what would it involve with regard to raising funds and establishing contacts in the countries in question? I’m not suggesting I’m going to do it personally, but hypothetically, if someone like me wanted to, is it possible?
I think the thing to do is to work directly with existing semi-autonomous developing communities. These things exist. I can’t advise specifically regarding the Congo at this time, but in South Africa, I’ve worked with communities that have an internal structure, are fitted to the existing governmental system, and work with secular NGO’s. An outside entity could hook up with some existing partnership such as that and provide grant money for specific, defined projects (this school or that goat farming operation or this water supply program or whatever).
Thanks for the questions, Jason.
Also, as long as water has come up, browse through this blog site for ideas as to how to get involved in that specific issue.