Tony Campolo: Making Matters Worse in Haiti

Here is an interesting article by Tony Campolo titled “Making Matters Worse in Haiti” which I discovered through a link on the blog of Tim Archer.  The article discusses how charitable works may do more harm than good in the grand scheme of things because the way such charitable works are pursued do more to disempower the Haitians and make them more dependent on foreign (American) aid.  Campolo does offer an example of a charitable work that is doing more equipping and empowering of the Haitian people than just doing for them.

I believe there is some merit to what Campolo is saying.  While sometimes the immediate moral response is to feed a hungry person, I have seen in my own ministry that by giving people fish it deprives them of the opportunity (and need) for learning how to fish.  This article needs to be read by local churches and para-church ministries for several reasons.  First, how does this impact local benevolent work?  When is it morally right to hand out fish?  When is it morally right to insist that insist that individual(s) be equipped and empowered to fish on their own?  Secondly, planning short-term mission trips (especially service oriented trips to 3rd world cultures), what goals are we trying to accomplish?  Do these goals (as well intended as they are) empower the locals to carry on such work independently on their own?  Lastly, I am concerned about the ethnocentrism that innocently lurks behind our well-intentioned mission trips.  Do the goals of such trips come about as a result of dialogue with the locals realizing that they (especially local leaders) are in a better position to asses their needs and long-term solutions?

Lastly, let me just say that this is not to discourage charity and good works.  I believe there are times when the only moral option is to give whether that is feeding a hungry person or housing a homeless person.  But I have also been around the block long enough to know that asking the critical questions will help us actually help others for the long-run.

4 responses to “Tony Campolo: Making Matters Worse in Haiti

  1. Tony’s is an interesting assessment of charitable work. It takes critical judgment. It’s sometimes disturbing to think: “Has the charitable work that I’ve done in my life created more dependency than good?”

    Most of what Tony says is interesting. The film, “The Ordinary Radicals” features him and several other commentators of the effects of today’s church. Check it out.

  2. While he brings out a good point, the missions in Haiti with which I am familiar are nearly entirely staffed by Haitians. Work crews head down from the U.S., but they generally don’t do all of the work on a construction project.

    The problems in Haiti are all directly tied to the systemic evil present in the government, something the unvarnished Good News that Jesus is Lord can help remedy.

    Take a look at:

  3. Austin, thanks for the link. I will certainly check it out. And thanks for dropping by the blog and leaving a comment.

    Grace and peace,


  4. Adam,

    Thanks for the links. Somehow your comment made it into my spam folder but I don’t know why. Any ways, you are right about the Good News of Jesus and how it would change Haiti.

    Grace and peace,


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