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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 7. Life Stories About Finding New Foundations

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LIFE STORIES ABOUT FINDING NEW FOUNDATIONS

I will now present some stories of unemployed youth in Antsirabe, who have taken part in courses at the diaconal center, and who have experienced that the support of the church center has helped them to find work that can provide their livelihood and has given them a new relationship to the Christian faith.

The life stories that I present here are based on qualitative interviews and conversations with three individuals in the city of Antsirabe, as examples of those who – as a result of unemployment and lack of resources – have found themselves in difficult situations.

The subjects of the study represent young people in the church’s diaconal activity, young people who have set up their own companies or young people who have become salaried workers. I have met people who wanted to talk about themselves, and of how their lives have been changed through a meeting with the diaconal center of the church.

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