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The desert shall bloom: A dialogue between experiences of supporting trauma survivors and Moltmann & Sölle’s theologies of suffering and hope

Ledgerwood, Elaine Claire (2010) The desert shall bloom: A dialogue between experiences of supporting trauma survivors and Moltmann & Sölle’s theologies of suffering and hope. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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Following the Second World War, a theological re-examination of ―suffering and hope‖ arose, led by authors such as Moltmann and Sölle; however, little has been written on the topic since the 1970s. Given this length of time, the question arose for me as to whether, in the light of a rapidly changing world, this past theology continues to provide a meaningful way of talking about suffering and hope. Would the reflections of contemporary Christians who have supported others in the depths of suffering have anything to add to how theologians explore the issue of suffering and hope?

In order to answer this, I decided to interview Australian Christians who had supported asylum seekers during a time of particularly severe immigration detention policies. Conditions experienced within Australia‘s detention centres have contributed to the distress of already traumatised refugees; thus advocates who supported them have a unique experience of suffering and hope.

Drawing on phenomenology, a social research methodology that seeks to explore the meaning made out of experiences, I systematically reviewed themes arising from the reflections of some advocates and compared these themes alongside the theologies of Moltmann and Sölle.

The themes, many and varied in their scope, have been divided into three sections. The first section explores the issue of suffering, including the necessity for Christian theology to hold the darkness of life without turning too quickly towards hope, and the nature of sin and evil. In the second section, hope is explored starting with the question of whether it is permissible for theologians from a relatively privileged background to write about hope and progressing to explore Christian anthropology, compassion and forgiveness. Finally, I consider the question of what can be learnt from these reflections about the nature of God.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Social Sciences and Humanities
Supervisor(s): Jensen, Alex and Harris, Patricia
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