Original Research - Special Collection: Practical Theology

The concept of shalōm as a constructive bereavement healing framework within a pluralist health seeking context of Africa

Vhumani Magezi, Benjamin S. Keya
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 69, No 2 | a1285 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v69i2.1285 | © 2013 Vhumani Magezi, Benjamin S. Keya | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 21 June 2012 | Published: 05 March 2013

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Vhumani Magezi, School of Ecclesiastical Sciences, North-West University, Potchefstroom Campus, South Africa
Benjamin S. Keya, School of Ecclesiastical Sciences, North-West University, Potchefstroom Campus, South Africa

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Absence of health, that is, sickness in Africa is viewed in personalistic terms. A disease is explained as effected by ‘the active purposeful intervention of an agent, who may be human’, non-human (a ghost, an ancestor, an ‘evil spirit), or supernatural (a deity or other very powerful being)’ (Foster). Illness is thus attributed to breaking of taboos, offending God and/ or ancestral spirits; witchcraft, sorcery, the evil eye, passion by an evil spirit and a curse from parents or from an offended neighbour. In view of these personalistic theories of ill health, treatment is through ritual purification, exorcism or sacrifices. For an appropriate diagnosis and intervention, it is imperative to determine ‘who’ caused the illness and then ‘why’ it was caused, to which answers are offered through divination by a healer. This interpretive framework, is applicable to all types of sickness, facilitates co-existence of African traditional healing and biomedical treatment, that is, plurality of health seeking practices. The approach fails to offer a constructive approach and contradicts the biblical healing framework whereby one may not have explanatory causes to a situation of ill health. This article engaged the biblical concept of shalōm as a relevant constructive framework. The Hebrew concept of shalōm, though distinctly salvific, is inclusive of holistic and personalistic healing aspects. The concept encompasses constructive aspects of completeness, wholeness, health, peace, welfare, safety, soundness, tranquillity, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, harmony and the absence of agitation or discord, which provides a useful holistic healing theological framework. It therefore provides a health and well-being framework that is relational, sensitive and applicable to healing patterns in Africa. Using the case study of the Abaluyia people of East Africa, this article discussed bereavement as a state that requires healing and how the biblical framework of shalōm could be applied in fostering bereavement healing.


shalōm as healing paradigm; healing in Africa; shalōm, sickness and healing; African sickness and healing; sickness and healing in Africa


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