Imagine this scenario: You’re handing out food baskets to refugees fleeing a conflict. There are women, children, and men asking for help, including several from the local population who aren’t refugees. Several wounded fighters are asking for help including those from a terrorist group and those from an oppressive military regime largely responsible for creating refugees. You don’t have enough aid to provide to everyone. So, who do you give it to, and in which order?

As a humanitarian organisation with limited resources, we and our partners are regularly required to make difficult, often heart-breaking decisions of who to help and who to turn away. The reality is that when providing aid you need to make distinctions between people and prioritise them accordingly. The question is: what’s a fair way to do this, and what’s unfair or discriminatory?

Fortunately, we have the United Nation’s humanitarian principles and a consistent Christian theology to adhere to.

The principle of impartiality explains “provision of humanitarian assistance must be impartial and no discrimination on the basis of nationality, race, gender, religion, political opinion or class. It must be based on need alone. Priority must be given to the most urgent cases of distress”. Furthermore, the principle of neutrality states humanitarian organisations must not take sides in a conflict.

This gives us a fair method by which to make distinctions and treat people, similar to triage in a hospital: need, and need alone. This approach is important because as history has shown us, ideologies and movements that discriminate are harmful and even deadly to those on the wrong end of them. In fact, they’ve resulted in the worst atrocities of human history.

On a more macro level, in the context of global development, we use these principles to prioritize which groups or categories of people are in the greatest need of aid. This includes communities, and sometimes age groups, ethnicities and genders. For example, child sponsorship focusses on those aged up to 18. In many of the contexts we work in, women tend to be more vulnerable, so some of our projects are specifically catered for them. And our programmes helping persecuted people groups can focus exclusively on an ethno-religious group. Although this involves a level of differentiating based on categories such as gender, age, and ethnicity, it’s done through a lens of assessing the needs of different groups, relative to others.

This approach of helping those in need regardless of who they are is also consistent with our Christian beliefs. The bible teaches us that all people are made in the image of God and deserve to be treated with dignity and the love he has for them—exemplified by Jesus dying for us all on the cross. Jesus also asks us to love our neighbour regardless of the categories they fall in, as shown in the Parable of the Good Samaritan. In the Sermon on the Mount he goes a step further to say “love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for those who persecute you”, demonstrating benevolence shouldn’t be withheld from anyone.

We hope that helps to answer the question! Read more about who we are here.


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