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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 8. Restoring Dignity

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RESTORING DIGNITY

Ever since I came to know Malagasy people as a little girl, and later as an adult, I have been struck by how prevalent and visible the struggle for basic human dignity is for many people in Madagascar, especially when faced with poverty. In this book I have sought to share, through anthropological work and human encounters, my experiences from a life-long relationship with this country. What I have seen, and what I have presented in this book, are stories of lived lives and experiences of the human dignity of people who live in Madagascar, a society that survives in a context of vulnerability, both social and economic. The stories show how everyday life is lived when there are unfulfilled needs and when decent living conditions are but a dream. The book is primarily concerned with commitment to Christianity in a changing society, and focuses on church members’ experiences of the diaconal work of the Lutheran church in the context of their everyday lives. Stories of individuals tell of lives in which many have met compassion and participation, and of how individuals and institutions have given priority to the task of upholding human dignity.

I have wished to describe the significance of the diaconal work of the church and how new opportunities and challenges create new life stories and changes in people’s experience of human dignity. The conclusion I have come to is that local people’s commitment to Christianity...

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