Afe for Vanguard

March 8, 2023

Philanthropy and sustainable development (2)

Philanthropy and sustainable development (2)

By Aare Afe Babalola

PHILANTHROPY and Christianity: In relating philanthropy with Christianity one must place side by side the love of mankind demonstrated through contributions or giving in form of money, time and material with the teachings of The Lord JESUS CHRIST or the spirit of Christian religion.

The natural question that readily comes to mind in view of the aforestated is: What are those teachings of Christ that have correlation with philanthropy? This question becomes apposite or imperative given the fact that Christ’s teachings are multidimensional and all-embracing. But for purposes of this short discourse, we shall concentrate on those areas that have bearing with love of mankind, care and giving.  

Good neighbourliness: Jesus Christ taught good neighbourliness in the parable of the good Samaritan as recorded in Luke 10: 25-37. In that story while answering the lawyer who wanted to know who his neighbour was, Jesus Christ made the point clearly that one’s neighbour is that person to whom one renders assistance in his moment of need. In that parable, the Lord Jesus Christ told his audience how a man going from Jerusalem to Jericho fell among robbers who stripped him, beat him and departed leaving him half dead.

Surprisingly a priest, who was passing by shortly after the incident, did not render any assistance. Ditto for a Levite who also left the wounded man unattended to. But a Samaritan – regarded by the Jews of those days as an outcast did the unexpected. When he came to the scene, he showed compassion by binding his wound, pouring oil and wine on him and placed the half dead on his beast (animal) which served as vehicle and eventually brought him to an inn (hospital) where a full blown medication was administered on him. The good Samaritan footed all the medical bills single-handedly.

Feeding the multitude: In the story of the feeding of five thousand hungry people recorded in Mathew 14:15-21 and four thousand people contained in Mathew 15: 32-39 and Mark 7: 1-10, the emphasis was on compassion and care as a demonstration of love for others in need.

The reluctant rich young ruler: In Matthew 17: 16-22, the rich young ruler approached Jesus Christ for purposes of knowing what he must do to inherit the kingdom of God. Having told the young man that he must love his neighbour as himself (which injunction the man admitted he had been observing) Jesus Christ admonished him to go and sell all he had and give to the poor in order to have treasure in heaven.

The divine directive: In John 15:12, Jesus commanded His followers to love one another as he had loved them. In the same manner, He commanded them to also love their enemies and pray for them (See Matthew 5:43-48). Going through the above teachings in the Bible passages referred to, one would discover that the underlying theme in all of them is love for others or care for fellow man employing the instrumentalities of money, material, time, care, etc, to realise same.

This is where philanthropy comes in. A careful examination of philanthropy and Christianity, therefore, reveals marked relationship that cannot be divorced from each other. The underlying factor, therefore, remains: Love For Others.

The early missionaries and philantrophy: When the missionaries began to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ, they did not come to their “targets” empty handed. Specifically, schools were built, hospitals were strategically constructed, etc. In fact, for the very first time, modernity and development become gradually entrenched. To their eternal credit, most if not all the hospitals and schools built by the missionaries still stand solid till today simply because of their quality and excellent maintenance culture. In fact, the Irish missionaries are noted in this regard. Sad enough, many structures upon which millions/billions of naira are expended cannot be compared with the old structures built by the missionaries.

Other enduring legacies of the missionaries: Out of this willingness and readiness to help us in this part of the globe, the missionaries introduced first primary education, later secondary education and, finally, the tertiary education. Interestingly, the history of great universities across the world is replete with the spirit of philanthropy.  

The founding of early universities as a classic example of philanthropic gesture: The fact that universities are charitable organisations and non-profit ventures has its root in history. The historical fact is that early universities were corporations of students and masters, who were chartered by the Pope and later by Emperors and Kings and now by parliament or State Governments. Such universities included the university at Constantinople which was founded in 2 B.C. and the universities of Alexandria, Antioch and Athens.

They were established in many of the principal cities of Europe to wit: Montpelier (1220) and Aix-en-Provence (1409) in France, at Padua (1222), Rome (1303) and Florence (1321) in Italy, at Salamanca (1218) in Spain, at Prague (1348) and Vienna (1365) in Central Europe, at Heidelbert (1386), Leipzig (1409), Freiburg (1457), and Tubingen (1477) in what is now Germany, at Louvain (1425) in present-day Belgium, and at Saint Andrews (1411) and Glasgow (1451) in Scotland. The George Washington University is a classic example of what operated  in the new colony of America. 

Fully conscious of Washington’s hopes, but motivated primarily by a great missionary urge and the need for a learned clergy, a group of dedicated ministers and laymen sponsored a movement for the establishment of a college in the District of Columbia.  Inspired largely by the zeal and energy of Reverend Luther Rice, they raised funds for the purchase of a site and petitioned Congress for a charter. After much delay and amendment, Congress granted a charter, which was approved by President Monroe on February 9, 1821.

In the case of the University of Oxford, it was first established as a lay corporation under common law and was later incorporated by statute formally.  The early history of the university shows that it evolved from a group of Masters and students residing in Oxford in the latter part of the twelfth century. The university met in the churches of St.Mary’s until 16th C.  The academic society which they collectively brought into life paralleled similar associations at other centres of learning in Europe, notably Bologna and Paris.       

To be concluded…

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