Fascinating insight into how Christian societies in the non-western world respond to sickness and death is given in the latest issue of Studies in World Christianity. Brian Stanley, Editor explains in his introduction that how to care for the sick and dying is a central human concern. He writes in his opening Editorial that –
Christianity has at its heart a claim about the universal significance of a single human death that promises not simply healing of persons at the most profound level of their need but ultimately a transcending of death itself. In modern western societies, the sophistication and relative affordability of biomedicine threaten to supplant the traditional function of religion as a framework of response to sickness and death, but this is a recent and far from ubiquitous trend. For much of the history of Europe, the Church played an essential role in the care of the sick and dying, and in many parts of the non-western world today, healing remains integral to adherents’ expectations of the churches. Indigenous understandings of sickness and healing have inevitably played an important part in the reshaping of Christianity that has followed on every case of its substantial penetration of a society, whilst at the same time the distinctive Christian hope of a life beyond the grave has proved one of the most powerful elements of the good news that indigenous and foreign communicators of the Christian message have offered their hearers.
The papers included in the issue cover themes from European missionary life in West Africa in the 19th Century to the role of the Fifohazana Revival in the spread of Christianity in Madagascar, and the impact of Swaziland’s Mbuluzi Leprosy Hospital. How Christianity affected change for the Mizos of North East India, who believed “the world was inhabited by spirits, some benevolent and some evil“, and the diverse range of healing strategies from herbal medicines to pilgrimages to holy mountains of revelation that are commonly used in African church life, are also considered.
FREE: Therapeutic Strategies in African Religions: Health, Herbal Medicines and Indigenous Christian Spirituality by J. Kwabena Asamoah-Gyadu. Published in Studies in World Christianity 20.1