"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Monday, September 16, 2019

Healing of African Memories

One of the issues that has haunted me for a long time, especially in Orthodox-Catholic relations, is what to do with the memories of our divisions and denunciations of each other--"heretics," "schismatic," etc. Given the climate in the Church today I'm of the view that such terms should be locked away in a specialized laboratory, the way the Centres for Disease Control keeps copies of deadly viruses under guard for exceedingly rare occasions where their resurrection might occasion some social good. Otherwise, lacking such a secure and controlled setting, you have the chaos of social media where every half-wit gong-show operator flings about accusations of "heretic" every few seconds based on a reading of Church history one can only regard, at best, as jejune. These kinds of antics can be damaging to the Church and her unity.

But there are other, much more sinister, forces doing real damage to individual lives as well as the life of the Church, and Christians continue to grapple with how to respond to such traumatic incidents and their pathological sequelae. It is not at all clear how to begin healing from some of these challenges, and too often notions of the "healing of memories" remain unhelpfully vague. A recent book I'm greatly looking forward to reading examines some of these problems and proposes some concrete ways forward: The Healing of Memories: African Christian Responses to Politically Induced Trauma, ed. Mohammed Girma (Lexington Books, 2018), 208pp.

About this book the publisher tells us this:
Africa has seen many political crises ranging from violent political ideologies, to meticulous articulated racist governance system, to ethnic clashes resulting in genocide and religious conflicts that have planted the seed of mutual suspicion.The masses impacted by such crises live with the past that has not passed. The Healing of Memories: African Christian Responses to Politically Induced Trauma examines Christian responses to the damaging impact of conflict on the collective memory. Troubled memory is a recipe for another cycle of conflict. While most academic works tend to stress forgiving and forgetting, they did not offer much as to how to deal with the unforgettable past. This book aims to fill this gap by charting an interdisciplinary approach to healing the corrosive memories of painful pasts. Taking a cue from the empirical expositions of post-apartheid South Africa, post-genocide Rwanda, the Congo Wars, and post-Red Terror Ethiopia, this volume brings together coherent healing approaches to deal with traumatic memory.

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