Giving hope to persecuted Christians since 1995
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By Lisa Navarrette, ICC Fellow

Long-term aid often creates a “charity mentality” and stifles the creativity and God-given talent of individuals. A 2020 study found that people who receive charity feel shame. These feelings are derived from not being able to reciprocate the charity and only being on the receiving end.[i] This is one reason long-term aid is not only not sustainable but harms the recipient(s) and their children. There is an innate human desire in parents to care for their children, to obtain a decent standard of living, and to work hard and see the profits of that effort. Charity will never allow for these desires to be fulfilled.

Capital, not charity, will allow parents to see their dreams become reality. In most countries, being poor is a generational life sentence. The poor, uneducated, foreigner, refugees, and/or religiously persecuted have little to no opportunity to change their class in life. Necessities like education, medical care, housing, and nutrition are difficult to meet, leaving no hope of access to vocational or small business training and funding. Organizations like Grameen Bank and International Christian Concern (ICC) know capital is the way out of generational poverty. Capital can change people’s lives – even on a minuscule level.

In 2006, Muhammad Yunus won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work providing capital to the poor – in the form of microfinance.[ii] He founded Grameen Bank in Bangladesh on the belief that capital is a human right. Yunus was no banker, but an economics professor working at the University of Chittagong when a famine struck Bangladesh in 1974. Seeing how his neighbors were suffering, Yunus began loaning small sums of money – often less than $25 USD – to aid the poor in starting small businesses. He noticed that they did not have a charity mentality but were hard-working people who wanted the dignity of working to support their families. The only thing standing in their way was access to capital.

The poor have an especially challenging time in countries where they lack access to capital. Prior to Grameen Bank, many Bangladeshi villagers were forced to turn to local loan sharks for money. The interest was so exorbitant that one small loan for medical treatments or school fees could enslave an entire family for generations.

Interestingly, Grameen’s borrowers are ninety-six percent women. The bank identifies a community of women who wish to start or have already started a small business to support their families. From sewing to convenience stores, women started a small local economy. Several women receive initial funding, which they pay back monthly into the community pool of funds. The interest is extremely low, making repayment possible. The funds are then distributed to the next few women in the pool to start or grow their businesses. As each entrepreneur pays back their loans, they are then able to borrow larger sums to continue to grow their business.

When asked why Grameen only lends to women, Yunus explained that women, in general, take care of their families and their communities. They will sacrifice to see that their children are fed, clothed, and educated before they will spend the money frivolously on themselves. The accountability achieved through this community model has achieved phenomenal results with repayment rates over ninety-eight percent. [iii]

Because of access to capital, whole villages in Bangladesh were lifted out of poverty. Grameen Bank now operates in 11 countries serving more than 1 million clients.[iv] Its success has been a model for other microfinance organizations. ICC not only meets the immediate needs of our Christian brothers and sisters but supplies the capital and training. Being a persecuted or displaced person no longer is a generational life sentence of low education, marginalization, and poverty. Aid should include vocational training or business training with capital. This is part of the way that ICC partners with aid recipients. Following country-specific guidelines from the UN Humanitarian Aid Charter, ICC supports its recipients with livelihood training and cash assistance projects.

Muslims who convert to Christianity face immediate dangers including physical violence, lack of community and familial support, prosecution, job loss, displacement, and even death. ICC supplies at least six months of basic care. It includes not only a safe place to live, medical care, food, and education for their children, but also job training, small business training, and start-up capital. This holistic approach of “generation transformation” combines quality education for the children, while providing vocational and small business training and funding to the parents. This partnership allows displaced Christians to become self-sufficient. When parents can once again provide for their children, a sense of dignity is restored. ICC’s Hope House in the Middle East is the perfect example of success stories using this approach.[v]

In recent years, Nigeria has been ranked the most dangerous country for Christians. Believers are attacked, displaced, kidnapped, and killed for their faith. ICC has worked hard to identify needs and put programs into action. Here, the business is farming. Community farms have been established as both livelihood initiatives and sources of sustainable food.[vi] Communities receive seeds, gifts-in-kind, and ongoing training to ensure their success. Through generous donors, 20 farms have been set up in Nigeria, but the work does not stop there. ICC has identified other communities that need such farms. While gifts-in-kind and short-term aid are necessary, training and access to capital is a generational game-changer for the poor and persecuted.

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[i] Parsell, C., & Clarke, A. (2020, October 21). Charity and Shame: Towards Reciprocity.


[ii] Nobel Prize. (2019). The Nobel Peace Prize 2006.


[iii] Kamaluddin, S. (n.d.). Grameen Bank, Bangladesh. Retrieved January 11, 2023, from


[iv] Grameen Foundation. (2023). Grameen Foundation.


[v] International Christian Concern. (n.d.). Generation Transformation. International Christian Concern. Retrieved January 11, 2023, from


[vi] “Nigerian Christian Farmers in Crisis.” International Christian Concern, Accessed 9 Jan. 2023.