Journal of Social Sciences

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There is a need to understand how faith-based development organisations (FBDOs) express their religious identity, values and beliefs in development practice. Using the World Vision Foundation of Thailand (WVFT) as a case study, this paper examines the extent to which Christian values, beliefs and identity shape the international organisation's understanding of its development programme with Karen hill-tribe communities in Mae Sariang, northern Thailand. This paper analyses World Vision's concepts of 'transformational development' (TD), 'Christian Witness' and church partnerships in practice, where development is not only the improvement of material well-being of the poor, but also their experience with God and spiritual development. These concepts are key aspects of the organisation's mission. The extent of these efforts in influencing the development programmes and organisational culture at WVFT is examined. Data collection is from both primary and secondary sources. An actor-oriented ethnographic approach is employed to understand the construction of knowledge relating to the religious beliefs of WVFT staff vis-à-vis that of the organization, the patterns of behaviour of WVFT staff, and relationships between WVFT staff and community members. Secondary sources like theological documents which guide WVFT's values and beliefs, and programme documents were studied. As an international FBDO, with roots in the American Protestant Christian movement to respond to social issues,World Vision has been seeking to align its Christian identity and mission globally and to maintain a balance between keeping its Christian values and pursuing development goals. At the same time, Thailand presents a unique context to study the national entity of World Vision as it is a Buddhist nation where understandings about development, including that of Christian FBDOs, are influenced by Buddhist beliefs.

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