Melissa Browning, Ph.D.
Atlanta, Georgia USA

Melissa Browning is a theologian, ethicist, and activist who studies congregational and community-based responses to injustice. Melissa teaches at McAfee School of Theology at Mercer University where she is the Assistant Professor of Contextual Ministry. For the past 17 years Melissa’s study and fieldwork has been tied to East Africa. Her recent book, "Risky Marriage: HIV and Intimate Relationships in Tanzania," builds on a year of fieldwork completed in Mwanza, Tanzania where women were asked to re-imagine Christian marriage as a space of safety and health for women. Melissa is also active in death penalty abolitionist work in Georgia and is an ordained Baptist minister.

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Street Children and Moral Agency

By on September 4, 2013

“Morality on the Streets: An Examination of the Beliefs and Moral Practice of Street Children in Light of Christianity and African Traditional Religions,” in Ethnography as Christian Theology and Ethics, Christian Scharen & Aana Marie Vigen, eds. Continuum, 2011.



In Kenya, and in Nairobi especially, the problem of street children is overwhelming. There are more than 250,000 children living and working on Kenya’s streets. Within African Traditional Religions there is the demand to care for the stranger, yet Kenyans are so overwhelmed by these children that no response seems adequate. Everything in Kenya fits within a framework of community, and these children exist outside of common community frameworks. This book chapter was written in an attempt to place street children back in the framework of community through an examination of religious belief, which is considered central to African identity. Within this chapter, key themes from African Traditional Religions and Christianity such as blessing, community, and life-force are explored in relation to street children. Drawing on my own ethnographic research conducted in Nairobi, I argue that for street children, morality and faith are redefined in the context of survival and forced choices.

Related Presentations

Morality on the Streets: An Examination of the Beliefs and Moral Practice of Street Children in Light of Christianity and African Traditional Religions, Loyola-Marquette Colloquium, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Jan. 27, 2007.