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The Global Role of Faith-Based Organizations

April 15, 2021


  • Elder Gerrit WGong, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
  • Eliot A. Cohen, Dean, Johns Hopkins SAIS
  • Moderated by Ben Smith '21 and Hayden Hubbard '21 

The school welcomed Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for a discussion co-sponsored by the Student Government Association on the global role of a faith-based organization.

The event started with Gong recalling the work that his organization does in supporting humanitarian and disaster relief operations around the globe. His presentation focused on the need to create harmony between the self, the natural world, the greater society, and the faith and values that groups hold. He then outlined how his organization works with major global, regional, and even local actors to try and facilitate a mitigation in human suffering and need. He noted that his organization works with people of all faiths and races, and that their success lies in not using humanitarian work as a vehicle for proselytization. On that point he also noted how his organization calls for being ‘good people and good citizens’ and is completely non-political in its activities (both local and international).

During the Q&A, Gong noted that ecological and sustainable developmental goals are the needs of the hour. He stressed that combatting COVID-19, assisting refugee populations, internally displaced persons (IDPs), and promoting education and self-reliance were the key sectors that developmental and humanitarian work should focus on. Gong in tandem noted that organizations need to demonstrate trustworthiness and integrity, through tangible actions. He believes that faith-based dignity and protection of essential human freedoms are necessary cornerstones in human development. He also noted how a myth of religious violence permeates in the popular imagination, when in reality through his work in maternal care, child nutrition, etc. he has seen cooperation and solidarity. Lastly, Gong noted that projects should push for human self-reliance not dictation and should be respectful about the questions and concerns individuals may have.