Bringing Together Global Health and Religion

Holman (left) and Harvard Chan Professor Sue Goldie
Holman (left) and Harvard Chan Professor Sue Goldie

April 6, 2015. Last Friday Harvard FXB was pleased to host the launch of Beholden: Religion, Global Health, and Human Rights, a new book by Susan Holman. The book considers two approaches to achieving health and equity that are often classified as ideologically disparate. On the one hand there is the human-rights based approach, which is rooted in systems of economic development and public health, along with the language of social and economic justice. The other approach, motivated by notions of charity, philanthropy, and moral obligation, is more closely associated with religion. This difference is reflected in the divide between academic and religion. Holman’s book calls for a multidisciplinary investigation of that divide and for a new, common language that can be used by those on both sides of the argument to better integrate their common goals.

“Academics see religion as something that stands in the way of economic and social justice,” Holman said. But “religion can be another important and real tool for building positive changes in global health.”

Holman, who holds a PhD in religious studies from Brown University, is the author of six books, including The Hungry Are Dying: Beggars and Bishops in Roman Cappadocia and God Knows There’s Need: Christian Responses to Poverty.

The event was co-sponsored by the Global Health Education and Learning Incubator at Harvard University.   It was attended by some 40 members of the faculty, staff and student body from both sides of the Charles River.