Thandi Soko-de Jong
Thandi Soko-de Jong is a Malawian-Dutch activist-theologian. She is a PhD candidate at the Protestant Theological University in the Netherlands where the focus of her studies is within Intercultural theology. She holds degrees in African Studies (African studies Centre Leiden, Leiden University, the Netherlands), Theology and Development (University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa), and Biblical Studies and Mass Communications (African Bible College, Malawi).
She is a tutor at the Foundation Academy of Amsterdam, a columnist, and is involved with various networks and working groups, including the Werkgroep Heilzame Verwerking Slavernijverleden (an initiative of the Evangelical LutheranCongregation Amsterdam in partnership with the Evangelical Brotherhood and the National Institute of Dutch Slavery History and Heritage (NiNsee)), and serves as a board member of the MissieNederland (formerly Evangelical Alliance). Her motivation for activist-theology stems from her interest in examining and interrogating theologies that inform and sustain social injustice.
Thandi Soko-de Jong, “Post-Liberation, Stress, and African Youth”
Liberation Theologies and Liberation Hermeneutics (LT&H) have been in existence for less than a century but have already made a major impact on issues of social justice around the world. Generally, LT&H includes many theological strands such as Womanist, Feminist, Latin American, Queer, African American/Black, and Disability Liberation Theologies. Each aims to resist particular social, political and economic hegemony relevant to their marginalized community through faith-based approaches centered on being: (a) life-affirming, (b) encouraging of holistic human flourishing, and (c) grounded in a justice-based approach. These theologies often draw on passages like Luke 4:18 to emphasize that human beings are created in God’s image (imago Dei) and are, therefore, worth an existence in which they experience liberation from systems that seek to oppress them.
Given the eDare 2022 themes, the current paper offers an interrogatory approach of LT&H. I argue that Liberation Theologies pay less attention to the challenges faced by community members at the personal level after becoming emancipated. That is to say, Liberation Theologies appear to stop theologically accompanying marginalized individuals post their struggle for liberation.
This, I suggest, leaves a theological void for helping those individuals who continue to seek spiritual meaning in their post-liberation struggles. To better illustrate this worry, I turn to the popular Liberation Theology method of see, judge, act (the pastoral spiral). The pastoral spiral can help us examine a particular struggle that is observable in post-colonial and post-Apartheid southern African countries today. In particular, it can help us observe mental health challenges faced by communities that have been recently politically emancipated. I also trace what I describe as “post-liberation stress”.
The paper is divided into four parts. Part 1 begins with examining the theme of mental health and post-colonization as offered in Tsitsi Dangaremgba’s post-independence Zimbabwe 1988 novel, Nervous Conditions. This will serve as an opening for grounding a discussion of three critical observations, which encompass the remaining parts:
- Rising suicide rates, particularly among young people in Southern Africa. Although the rise of suicide rates has been recognised for some time in the region, there is renewed concern in the wake of suicides and suicide attempts/ideation by (male) celebrities in the region.
- The emergence of popular music (such as the 2020 song “Home” by the late South African artist, Riky Rick and internationally, the 2022 song “L’enfer” by Stromae) and celebrity interviews that directly refer to struggling with or overcoming depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation among young people of African descent.
- The call for action by young people, recognizing that there are no unified theological approaches that are life-affirming by giving meaning and spiritual purpose to people in their life post-struggle.
Finally, the paper will forward some suggestions for theological praxis in the light of the above concerns by arguing for the place of liturgies infused with story-telling methods. This can help create a space for developing theologies that acknowledge (and advocate) the recognition of impacts of “post-liberation stress”.