The Power of Biography

For those who would like to deepen their knowledge of African Christianity, a remarkable treasure trove is the online Dictionary of African Christian Biography – This is the fruit of a project begun almost 30 years ago when few people had much idea about the potential of online publishing.

The idea behind it is a simple one – the stories of African Christians deserve to be told. It is well known that Africa has passed through a profound religious transformation as Africans in their millions have become Christians. But analysis often stops with a big number – 500 million! Go deeper and you find the stories of the people who have made African Christianity what it is today.

This is what the Dictionary seeks to do. Anyone can contribute but contributions have to satisfy exacting editorial standards before they can be published. The result is a burgeoning and ever-expanding account of the people who have embraced and expressed Christian faith in the African context.

It has been a gift for our Church History Masters class at ZTU. For postgraduate students it is a big prize to be able to do some original writing and even better if you can publish it. In Malawi very few biographies have been written so it is a very open field and our students have been exploiting it to the full by carrying out field research and writing up the results. By now, thanks to the Dictionary, all ten members of last year’s class have become published authors – and are justly proud of themselves.

Through their efforts you can now read about such fascinating people as Yuriah Chatonda Chirwa –,

Martha Mwale –,

Wyndham Chechamba –,

and Sande Mwale ––stoneham/.

The overall effect is to bring much more personality and texture to our understanding of African Christianity. At ZTU we are keen to play our part in this effort, adding to the sum of knowledge and helping to create deeper and more nuanced understanding.

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