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Joe Harbison

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Compassion that drives the humanitarian service of Christian, faith-based agencies transcends process and policy through informed practices leading to positive and compassionate engagement bringing transformational change among people in calamity and unjust systems. This dissertation explores the transformative role that faithbased agencies need to play in contemporary humanitarianism in order to span the gap between procedure and mercy in action. Further, it is an examination of theological, historical and practical applications of compassion at work demonstrating God’s unconditional love to all of humanity.

Faith-based humanitarian agencies struggle to serve marginalized communities and people groups, but are pulled in different directions by stakeholders. Donors who are highly motivated toward proclamation, expect a strong Gospel message. Local communities desire significant inputs to bring visible and tangible change. Institutional donors expect clear goals and outputs that belie evidence-based results. Local governments may welcome faith-based agencies but forbid religious proclamation especially where Christianity is a minority religion. Faith-based agencies are held to the same standards which govern all humanitarian agencies, creating new and complex challenges to serving the poor as ambassadors of God’s good will and love.

Part One deals with the unique historical and contemporary context within which faith-based humanitarian agencies operate. The reality and complexity of structure and policy, and the demand to meet greater humanitarian needs creates an environment of scrutiny and competition to fund, staff, resource and implement larger and more complex interventions. These developments are examined and reviewed in the light of contemporary agencies that have developed along parallel paths yet compete for resources. Part Two reviews theological underpinnings of faith-based humanitarianism. Beginning with a biblical reflection on the design and concept of neighborliness and concludes with three case studies along the themes of Justice, Policy and Mission providing a framework for understanding practical applications of mercy in action.

Content Reader: Kurt Fredrickson, PhD

Degree Name

Doctor of Ministry (DMin)

First Advisor

Fredrickson, Kurt

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Humanitarianism; Humanitarian assistance


Missions and World Christianity


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April 2018

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