Formenti, “Winning Guinea-Bissau for Jesus”

Formenti, Ambra. “Winning Guinea-Bissau for Jesus: The Guinean Evangelical Minority, from the Origins to the Present.” PentecoStudies. 17(1): 54-76. 

Abstract: This article analyses the historical course of the Evangelical minority in Guinea-Bissau, its transformations, its recent expansion and its current engagement with the public sphere. First, I trace the trajectory of the Guinean Evangelical movement from the 1940s to the present, against the background of the process of decolonization and the post-Independence history of the country. Second, I examine the recent impact of Pentecostal and Charismatic forms of Christianity on local Evangelical churches, following the transnational circulation of believers and missionaries, on the one hand, and the arrival of new international churches, mostly from Brazil and other African countries, on the other. Third, I place the current flowering of Evangelical and Pentecostal denominations in the broader context of a general shift to universal religions throughout the country. Within this framework, I argue, this success can be read as expression of a widespread craving for modernity and mobility, both in rural and urban Guinea-Bissau.

Formenti, “Going for God”

Formenti, Ambra. 2014. Going for God: Mobility, Place and Temporality among Evangelical Guineans in Lisbon. Doctoral Dissertation, Dept. of Anthropology. Lisbon, Portugal: University of Lisbon.

Abstract: In the last decades the intensification of migratory flows has led to a gradual pluralisation of urban religious landscapes in Europe. One of the most relevant aspects of this process is the spreading of Evangelical and Pentecostal churches founded by African migrants, a phenomenon that contributed to the emergence of new configurations of Christianity in Europe. The town of Lisbon (Portugal), a place where different experiences of spirituality and distinct worldviews meet and interact, is an emblematic case of religious encounter between deep-rooted Catholicism and imported forms of Christianity. This dissertation provides an ethnography of Guinean Evangelical Christianity in Lisbon, focusing on the case of the Missão Evangélica Lusófona (MEL), a church settled in the outskirts of Lisbon and attended mostly by migrants from Guinea-Bissau.

Taking the MEL as a case-study of African Churches in the diaspora, I try to describe
and analyse the centrality of religion in the lives of Evangelical Guinean migrants in Lisbon.
My central argument is that, in this context, religious faith appears as a way to make sense of the experiences of dislocation and re-location of believers. Accordingly, in the following
pages I portray MEL as an emblematic example of how Evangelical Christianity sustains
migrants in their transnational movements while concurringly enables them to create a sense of place in the localities in which they chose to dwell.

Furthermore, by examining the experiences and life stories of MEL’s members, I
address a series of issues, such as: the meaning of conversion for individuals and
communities; the connection between religious faith and the condition of stranger; the
relationship between global/universal and local/particular dimensions of religious identity; the ways in which religious actors appropriate and transform the urban space where they live in; the emergence and transformation of peculiar visions of space and time, including the ways how human groups produce their past, present and future.