There is Something We Long For
What is it that we African and European Christian Theologians long for? How do we want to frame our personal future, the future of our societies and churches, to contribute to the wellbeing of our vulnerable habitat Earth? What are the situations that challenge us most and in which way do biblical texts inspire us? In this book – a project of the intercontinental network Tsena Malalaka – nineteen women address these questions, practicing intercultural dialogue. They invite you, readers of diverse backgrounds, to join them.
In 2010, the intercontinental dialogue forum Tsena Malalaka was founded. In the spirit of boundary breaking relationships a series of personal meetings and discussions had taken place beforehand at different locations in Europe and Africa. They had led some of the women who are now members of Tsena Malalaka to create something new, to let our commitments and common projects grow in a newly created binding form…
… and they grew: Since Tsena Malalaka’s foundation innumerable meetings, visits, divine services, bible studies, presentations, conferences, banquets, parties, workshops, online-discussions, real and skype-conversations have taken place in and between Antananarivo, Kinshasa, Wattwil, Lucerne, Bamberg, Genève, Yaoundé, Zürich, Harare, Fribourg and more. Some of our activities are displayed on our website http://www.malalaka.org, but the network of personal relationships that has been built in the meantime by far exceeds the official or semi-official events. What is special about Tsena Malalaka is that our activities are not fuelled by the procedures of an established organization, but by friendship. They usually do not take place in big conference halls, but migrate from private homes to parish centers to terraces to lakesides to vicarages… Economists probably would call us a “start-up enterprise” as we are – and want to be – versatile and innovative. However, although the Malagasy term “Tsena Malalaka” can be translated as “market place”, our aim is not growth in terms of quantity or finance but in terms of exchange and common pilgrimage. Nor do we claim to be a model that is “representative” in the conventional sense of the word. What we long for is… more than what is already established or approved by traditional structures: “Dear friends, now we are children of GOD, and what we will be has not yet been made known…“ (1 John 3,2)
What you hold in your hands is a Tsena Malalaka meeting in the form of a book. We have written texts that are meant to continue and extend our talk-in-progress. The texts are written in two languages: French and English. As all contributors to this book have grown up in another mother tongue, this means that we have all used a foreign language. To express one’s feelings, thoughts and desires in words that are not the ones we knew in our early childhood is normal in our globalized present. It is also in a way symbolic for women theologians who, for centuries, have been largely kept away from official theological discourses, be it in the “higher spheres” of church authorities or of academia. Being constrained to express ourselves, at least partly, in a foreign language, however, does not silence us anymore. On the contrary, we willingly take this risk in order to cross boundaries between traditions, confessions, genders, cultures, in order to mediate between contexts that have often been called incompatible or considered as too distant or too corrupted by illegitimate rule and suppression. Yes, we are convinced that it is possible to build bridges between very different contexts provided that we are ready to listen, to acknowledge still existing unjust structures, to resolve misunderstandings, to forgive. “With YOUR help I can advance against a troop; with my GOD I can scale a wall.“ (Psalm 18,30)
The thoughts that unfold in this book do not mirror a coherent view or the position of the four editors. Rather, they are open to a critical and constructive debate that is, for a start, represented by the attached comments written each by a theologian from another context. Simultaneously with the publication of this book we will provide a website on which all our texts will be published in other languages: the originally English texts in French, the originally French texts in English first, then perhaps all of them step by step in other languages, too. We invite all our readers to contribute to our virtual home by commenting and questioning them, by adding new texts and ideas:
In order to facilitate orientation, all texts are prefaced by abstracts in French and English. The subjects addressed by the texts that we have arranged in three chapters range from reflections about the meaning of being a Christian theologian or a doctor of theology to experiences in church hierarchies, parishes or local initiatives, from the interpretation of biblical texts to problems of translation and God-talk, from real to metaphorical travel experiences, from feelings of grief, amusement or fury about still existing discrimination to thoughtful dialogues with historical or contemporary theological texts to biographical narratives and beyond. Although we have strived to combine personal involvement with academic accuracy we have welcomed different genres: from classical articles to an interview, from narratives to a poem, a prayer and a picture. At the end of the book two professors of theology with long-standing experience in cross-cultural dialogue, one European, one African, contribute an evaluation of the entirety of all texts and further thoughts concerning the core question of our individual and common longings.
We want to thank all those who have in any sense contributed to this book: the authors, translators, proof-readers, correctors, interlocutors, Tsena Malalaka members and friends who hosted our meetings, the staff of the printery in Kinshasa, web-consultants, distributors, sponsors and last but not least you, our readers who will tie on our thoughts and feelings. We welcome many curious women, men and others, Christians and members of other religions, believers and non-believers, old and young to join us on a common journey.
Verena Naegeli, Josée Ngalula, Ina Praetorius, Brigitte Rabarijaona