‘Faith-based organisations’ (FBOs) are gaining increasing attention within development circles – amongst practitioners, funders, and policymakers as well as academics. While some discussion has taken place over the meaning of the term ‘FBO’ in academic circles, little empirical research has been conducted as to the relevance and interpretation of the term in different contexts and what role religion plays within organisations engaged in development-related activities. This paper contributes to this discussion by comparing a range of organisations engaged in charitable and development-related activities in the city of Karachi and elsewhere in the province of Sindh, Pakistan. The findings reveal a broad distinction between local charities, which depend on individual donations for their funding, and for which religious values and beliefs are intertwined to differing degrees in their work, and professional development organisations, which rely on domestic and international institutional funding and have no apparent relationship with religion. However, not all organisations fit neatly into these two categories, demonstrating that religion operates in complex and varied ways within organisations engaged in development-related activities in Pakistan.
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