Author: Dr Dewi Hughes, Theological Advisor for Tearfund
What does biblical flourishing (“development”) look like? This is a very good question, especially for those who work for relief and development agencies. Answering it should help to clarify our objectives.
It is not surprising that this question has not been high on the agenda of those who claim to focus on the poorest of the poor. Our focus is on providing the very basic necessities that are obviously needed in order to make any human flourishing possible at all – food, clean water,
sanitation, employment with adequate remuneration, shelter, basic health care and education
are obviously needs that must be met if human life is to flourish at all.
It does not take much imagination or many interviews with sufferers to conclude that people deprived of the most basic necessities are unhappy or that they experience a low level of subjective well being. I will never forget a father living in a Delhi slum saying bitterly in a Tearfund video that animals were better housed than he and his family – and that father and his family were unquestionably happier in the new home that they built with the help of a Tearfund partner.
The need to focus on the question of true wealth comes more into focus when we look at what is happening in the so-called “developed” countries – those countries whose economies have embraced market growth as their fundamental economic principle for improving the well-being of their people.
At one time, growth in GDP alone was seen as an indication of development in a country. In time this came to be seen as inadequate and the human development indicators [HDIs] were devised by the UN to measure infant mortality before the age of five, average life span and literacy. The HDIs were devised on the basis of the reasonable assumption that in countries
where infant mortality is going down, people are living longer and an increasing number of people are literate, the general level of human well-being will be rising
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