Original Research

From victimhood to hubs of (trans)formation and local agency: Re-imagining poor urban communities

Kasebwe T.L. Kabongo
Verbum et Ecclesia | Vol 40, No 1 | a1998 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ve.v40i1.1998 | © 2019 Kasebwe T.L. Kabongo | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 31 March 2019 | Published: 05 November 2019

About the author(s)

Kasebwe T.L. Kabongo, Department of Science of Religion and Missiology, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa


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Abstract

This article was written from the perspective of a black African who has been unfairly subjected to colonialism, apartheid and neo-colonialism. This African is learning to simultaneously blame others for mistakes committed against him and interrogate his own agency in being an answer to his own prayers. He has observed that communities of poverty are usually seen as undesirable. As a consequence of this, most of its residents prefer to move away, if they have the option of doing so. This article explored the concept of thin places as a vehicle to nurture agency amongst people living in communities of poverty such as Soshanguve. It uses the narrative approach of storytelling to recount particular past events and present ones as a tool to cultivate a ‘can-do attitude’ in ordinary people. The goal is to raise agents of hope who will bring good news to their neighbours and anybody else, using biblical principles as a critical tool in their toolkit. Communities of poverty are usually seen as undesirable. As a consequence, most of its residents prefer to move out, if they have the choice to do so. This article reflects on the efforts of a missional team, InnerCHANGE, to help residents of the township of Soshanguve migrate from a victim mentality to become agents of their own hope. It uses a theology of place that alludes to concepts of thin places which challenges ordinary people to become participants in the flourishing of lives around them. A reflection on agency influenced by the Black Consciousness Movement and other African scholars gave context, meaning and relevance to such a theology of place. Stories of agency from Africa are remembered and retold to inspire ordinary people. Some of the latter have taken to heart these inspirational stories and have been transformed into agents. This article calls such people transformation agents. A conclusion was made that the Church needs to continue playing its prophetic role in society. Such a role could entail reminding people of existing assets they may have such as stories told around them of people who defied the normal victim mentality seen in poor communities and actively built thin places around them.

Intradisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary implications: This article was based on the field of missiology. It engaged historical facts (history) in a way that could nurture and develop agency in ordinary people. It challenges a general apathy towards community involvement found within the body of Christ located in South African communities of poverty.


Keywords

agency; community; flourishing life; neighbour; storytelling; transformation; thin places

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