For decades the mission organisations have been working with the cultural and religious dimensions of the development process.
The holistic understanding of development, which is characteristic of their social and humanitarian development work, is an important distinctive feature of the mission organisations and their partners. This understanding of development is based on the necessity of combining material and technical development with the spiritual and personal development of the whole being in order to create harmonious and sustainable local communities and active and prophetic actors in the civil society.
Material and economic growth alone may lead to the abuse of power and corruption. The preservation and strengthening of moral and personal integrity is a necessary safeguard against this. Christian ethical and spiritual awareness emphasizes the care of the weak, the responsibility for one’s neighbour, the respect for each individual human life, the protection of basic human rights, the responsible management of resources and environmental considerations.
Another important feature is the long-term and mutually binding partnerships. The mission organisations’ historical partnerships with churches and church organisations in the South go back more than 150 years in some cases. The partnerships are usually characterized by long-term and mutual collaboration, which is more than just a business-like partnership limited in time and scope only concerning the implementation of one or more projects. An exchange of ideas, knowledge and employees and a transfer of know-how and funds have taken place within the framework of such partnerships long before concepts like development projects and developing countries emerged. Many partners and the organisations and institutions they run today have considerable qualifications by virtue of targeted support to local capacity building.
The mission organisations wish to develop these equal partnerships further in such a way that both the mission organisations and their partners learn from the experience gathered, positive as well as negative. The mission organisations and their partners must be able to challenge, commend and criticize each other freely, and the mission organisations intend to work to reduce negative financial dependence and other kinds of dependence as much as possible.
Today, the partners of the mission organisations are typically independent African and Asian Christian churches, which have their own ideas as to what sustainable development may mean in an African or Asian context. They challenge their Danish partners and their national civil society with specifically African Christian and Asian Christian suggestions as to what a desirable development should look like. Here pre-colonial roots are combined with Christianity in an understanding of development in which personal integrity, cultural identity, spiritual values and modern technology are united.