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Restoring Dignity in Rural and Urban Madagascar

On How Religion Creates New Life-stories

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Marianne Skjortnes

Christian churches across the world such as the Lutheran church in Madagascar have long been engaged in what we would today term «development». The church has been deeply involved in humanitarian assistance and development work, especially in the areas of education and health. Restoring Dignity in Rural and Urban Madagascar analyzes this phenomenon and presents stories of human dignity in the lives of the people in this society, a society that survives in a context of vulnerability, both social and economic. The stories show how everyday life is lived despite unfulfilled needs and when decent living conditions are but a dream. The book is primarily concerned with a commitment to Christianity in a changing society and focuses on church members’ experiences of the development work of the Lutheran church in their everyday lives. Christian faith and Christian values such as human dignity, ethics, and belonging represent added values to these people and express value systems that are tied to ethical reflection and moral action. For those who choose to participate in the church’s development work and spiritual activity, therefore, new ethical standards and norms are created. This approach challenges the traditional emphasis on cultural continuity thinking to explain the sudden change in values that people say that they have experienced.
The book will be essential assigned reading in university courses in development studies, anthropology, and missiology.
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Chapter 5. Life Stories on Restoring Human Dignity

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LIFE STORIES ON RESTORING HUMAN DIGNITY

In this chapter I will present some of the Bara people who have chosen to take part in the Lutheran church’s development work. They have chosen new solutions to the challenges they face in their everyday life and they have joined the church.

The life stories that I present here are based on qualitative interviews and conversations with three individuals, who might serve as examples of people who have experienced difficult and critical situations. Methodologically speaking the stories cannot be said to be representative of people in difficult situations in the Bara region. They stand out as examples and tell us something about the breadth and diversity in this special context. In many ways they share such things as the framework conditions that are in place, and which define the possibilities and the limitations which pressure these people.

At the same time the content of these stories is perhaps especially representative, in the sense that they tell us about the lives of people whose encounter with the development work of the Lutheran church has created new possibilities, and new hope, in an otherwise difficult situation in life.

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