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From Misery to Hope

Encountering God in the Abyss of Suffering


Joseph Egan

How can one believe in a God of love amid all the evil and suffering found in the world? How does one do theology ‘after Auschwitz’, while vast numbers of people still have to endure violent oppression every day? This book seeks to address such questions from a standpoint informed by life in Africa, which in the face of extraordinary difficulties bears witness to Gospel hope by demonstrating forgiveness in action and promoting reconciliation.
The work unfolds in two parts. In the first part, a description of the misery that characterises much of life in Africa in the recent past opens up to a theological consideration of the underlying causes and of God’s response to them. In the second part, the joy which is so characteristic of life in Africa even in places of immense suffering sets the scene for detailed reflections on liturgy, memory, forgiveness and hope.


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Introduction ix


Introduction Suffering is endemic in the world, writ large in the events of daily life for millions of people with no means of escape, whether because of war, more generalised violence and persecution, disease and sickness, or a variety of other factors including poverty, environmental destruction and natural dis- asters. Even those of us who are sheltered from these grim realities in their extreme forms cannot easily avert our eyes from the images of anguished pain that fill the daily news bulletins and which, however sanitised, never cease to remind us of the brokenness of the human condition and of the fragility of human relationships in a world where vast numbers of people count for nothing, without rights and without dignity. Hand in hand with those images go stories of unremitting cruelty on the one side, and of sheer terror on the other, that constantly bring to our attention the depths to which humanity can sink in acting inhumanly towards others and destruc- tively towards the world. In previous eras of human history when the means of communication were not as developed as now, it was perhaps somewhat easier to “mind our own business” and “take care of our own patch” with- out undue concern for events in far off corners of the world. Nowadays, however, while denial is still an option, it is an increasingly difficult path to follow with an easy conscience; it is no longer possible to ignore the pain of so many crying for help or...

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