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From Misery to Hope

Encountering God in the Abyss of Suffering

Series:

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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Part I: Absence 1

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Part I Absence Chapter 1 An Abyss of Human Misery By any accepted standard of reckoning … Africa has fallen well behind other developing areas of the world; the region is slipping out of the third world into its own bleak category of the nth world. — Paul Gifford1 On the ground, at least, Africa felt less like a terminal ward than a seeth- ing, writhing, operatic drama charged with intrigue, dominated by larger- than-life characters trapped in Macbethian logic, compelled to shed ever greater quantities of blood merely to survive. — Bill Berkeley2 Africa – sub-Saharan Africa, at least – has begun to look like an immense illustration of chaos theory … Africa has become the basket case of the planet, the “Third World of the Third World,” a vast continent in free fall, a sort of neo-post-colonial breakdown. — Lance Morrow3 On Christmas Eve, 1989, a small group of foreign-trained, dissident Liberians under the leadership of Charles Taylor attacked a small border post in the north-east of Liberia along the border with Côte d’Ivoire.4 The extremely 1 Paul Gifford, Christianity and Politics in Doe’s Liberia (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993) 309. 2 Bill Berkeley, The Graves Are not yet Full: Race, Tribe and Power in the Heart of Africa (New York: Basic Books, 2001) 7. 3 Lance Morrow, “Africa: The Scramble for Existence,” Time, International edition (September 7, 1992) 28–39, at 28–30. 4 A comprehensive overview of the conflict can be found in Stephen Ellis, The Mask of Anarchy: The Destruction of...

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