Home > Feature > Crossing Boundaries and Development: Missionary and Faith-Based Approaches to Development

Missionaries still have a lot to contribute in developing countries, and their contribution is unique. That was the message at an event hosted by Misean Cara on Thursday, May 31st.

Speaking at the event, ‘Crossing Boundaries and Development – An exploration of Missionary and Faith-based Approaches’, Misean Cara CEO, Heydi Foster said that missionaries are about transforming lives.

“It’s the work of compassion, of justice, and of fighting for rights. It’s about creating a better life”

The event, attended by over 65 people at the Wood Quay venue, was addressed by speakers from Ireland, the UK and the Netherlands, and heard about the unique way that missionaries work to make a difference.

Sr. Kate Nolan of the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary, spent over 30 years as a missionary in Brazil.

“It’s about being there for the long haul, staying with a community and tackling issues together”

A big aspect of the Missionary Approach to Development is helping others to help themselves. “It is about being in solidarity, not to lead, but to walk side by side until they’re in a position to lead”. Sr. Kate, a native from County Wexford first went to Brazil in 1980. She spoke about the importance of building trusting relationships over time. “Bonds of trust are forged over the years, and that makes it possible to achieve extraordinary things”.

This sentiment was echoed by Rick van der Woud, of Dutch NGO Mensen met een Missie, which has worked in conflict resolution in the Philippines. “Trust is essential”, he said.

“Dealing with groups in conflict with each other is a delicate thing. You’re asking people to take risks in even approaching their sworn enemies, and people will not take risks unless they completely trust the person asking them. This is where missionaries can make such a difference”.

Catriona Dejean, from Tearfund, talked about the wide-ranging, holistic approach of a faith-based organisation.

“We look at physical health, emotional well-being, personal relationships, stewardship of the environment, all in the context of faith, and work with communities to find solutions to their challenges”

Catriona also emphasised the long-term nature of the work. “Transformation takes time, but it’s long-lasting!” she said.

Seamus O’Leary from Misean Cara, highlighted the courageous work of personal witness that he’d seen time and again in the work of Irish missionaries. “They go the extra mile, work the extra hour and bring compassion to all that they do”. Seamus spoke about how missionaries cross boundaries, not only in a geographical sense.

“Missionaries lift boundaries imposed by circumstance, by poverty and by injustice so that all can live the life they value”

Closing the event, Misean Cara Vice-Chairperson, Fr. Brendan Carr, himself a veteran of many years of missionary work in Angola, stressed that missionaries still have a lot to contribute to communities in developing countries.

“Missionaries work with the whole person. The missionary movement is global, vibrant and highly relevant today. There are schools and hospitals that have been set up. Livelihoods are improved, and rights are being asserted. This is vital work, and missionaries are doing it”

There were calls throughout the event from all of the speakers to continue to cross boundaries, build coalitions and work together.

Photo: Seamus O’Leary from Misean Cara, Caitriona Dejean from Tearfund, Rick Van Der Woud from Mensen Met Een Missie, Sr. Kate Nolan from the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary, Fr. Brendan Carr, Misean Cara Vice-Chairperson at the Crossing Boundaries and Development event on 31st May 2018.