Abundant Life, Access, Africa Week, Anthropology, church, Disability, Exclusion, faith, Inclusive, Interfaith, journey, Liberation, Masters, New College, Nigeria, Scotland, Sociology, Thankful, Theology, University of Edinburgh
Jessie Fubara-Manuel is studying for a Masters Degree at the University of Edinburgh’s New College. Here she shares with us her story as part of the University of Edinburgh’s Africa Week.
As I pick my backpack and head for school, I realise afresh that I am on what Kwok Pui-lan describes as an “intellectual journey ‘to struggle to know’.” Pui-lan says it is a journey because the learner must spend years learning what others consider important so as to earn the requisite skills to talk about oneself.
I believe that Pui-lan, a notable Asian postcolonial feminist theologian, has earned the right to speak not just about herself but also about what is important to her. It is this right that I am at the University of Edinburgh to earn, to equip myself with applicable theological knowledge and to have the platform and language to speak about my passion and my calling.
One of the challenges within my Nigerian context is that of creating safe inclusive spaces within Christian communities for all persons created in the image of God. Unfortunately, the church is informed by the gendered, traditional and stereotyped lenses which have interpreted Scripture in a way that excludes people living on the margins of society. This marginalised group includes people who are disabled, who face barriers due to flawed policies and inaccessible physical structures.
How can the church reconstruct theologies that eliminate exclusion in all its forms? How can we ensure that a religion that offers abundant life, and liberation for all of God’s children, can truly accept the inclusion and participation of all persons within its life and worship? How can we engage with other religions as well as sociological and anthropological approaches to understand the place of minorities in different contexts?
I believe that my studies for a Master of Science degree in World Christianity will equip me to respond to these questions. Here we are being trained to think creatively and critically in our interface with all aspects of Christianity as a world religion. We are encouraged to maximise the multi-disciplinary nature of this study to engage with our reason(s) for being here.
And so, as I continue this intellectual journey of faith and walk into the historic architectural masterpiece that is New College as part of a limitless-space on which the University of Edinburgh occupies within Edinburgh’s beautiful breath-taking city, I repeat the lines of a poem I wrote in 2004:
Let me listen
Let me understand
Let me feel
Let me care.
And I am thankful. I am thankful to God for the privilege of studying at the University of Edinburgh. I am thankful for the generous scholarship from the World Mission Council of the Church of Scotland. I am thankful for the gift of supportive family and friends helping me through the shocks of loneliness and a very temperamental Scottish weather.