"He Has Rescued Me from Danger"

Religious Music-Making, Trauma, and Resilience on the Ethio-South Sudanese Border


  • Sarah Bishop Harborview Center, Long Beach, California, USA




music and trauma; songwriting; resilience; religious music; cross-cultural music therapy


The Ethio-South Sudanese border is characterized by instability and conflict. Most populations in this area have experienced violence and displacement and face ongoing insecurity and political inequality. During my fieldwork in the region, several composers gave accounts of how composing and singing Christian songs provided them with comfort and hope in times of hardship, particularly following episodes of violence. Using ethnographic research and interviews as primary methodologies, this article explores how these individuals use religious music-making as a means of coping and resilience in the wake of trauma. The primary goal of this article is to provide a platform for their stories. The secondary goal is to explore resonances between their accounts and scholarly observations about potential roles of music-making in trauma resilience across disciplines. I focus particularly on themes of embodied music-making, community connection, and spirituality. All point to the same phenomenon: that music can play a role in human resilience and meaning-making. Finally, I make suggestions on how to enhance mental health care in culturally-relevant ways in a religious society such as in Ethiopia, as well as draw out cross-cultural implications for mental health care in the western system.

Author Biography

Sarah Bishop, Harborview Center, Long Beach, California, USA

Sarah Bishop received her MM in Clinical Music Therapy from Arizona State University and her PhD in Musicology from Ohio State University. Her graduate research focused on music, ethnic politics, and violence in western Ethiopia, as well as cultural heritage preservation of Anywaa song and instrumental traditions. She currently provides music therapy and directs the activities program at a mental health rehabilitation center in the United States and continues to offer workshops on music therapy for musicians and psychology students in Ethiopia. Her research interests include music and violence, Protestant Christian music and movements across Africa, music and authoritarianism, and music and trauma.

Photo of Author, Bishop




How to Cite

Bishop, S. (2024). "He Has Rescued Me from Danger": Religious Music-Making, Trauma, and Resilience on the Ethio-South Sudanese Border. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy, 24(1). https://doi.org/10.15845/voices.v24i1.3906