The Swiss feminist theologian Marie-Claire Barth-Frommel died on 22 December 2019 at the age of 92. She stood up for the rights of women and played a major role in the development of theological education in Indonesia. In 2011 she received an honorary doctorate from the Faculty of Theology of the University of Basel.
Dr. h. c. Marie-Claire Barth-Frommel was born in Geneva in 1927. She studied theology in Geneva and Zurich and then began working as an interpreter for the World Council of Churches. At the age of 29 she decided to go to Indonesia with the Basel Mission. In the capital Jakarta she worked as a study secretary for the Indonesian Christian student movement, and later as a lecturer in biblical subjects. In Indonesia she met her future husband, the pastor and theology lecturer Christoph Barth, a son of the influential Swiss theologian Karl Barth. Together the couple had four children.
In 1965 the family traveled back to Europe. However, Barth-Frommel remained connected with the Indonesian churches, especially the Protestant Church in Kalimantan (Borneo), throughout her live. She wrote numerous scientific Bible commentaries in Indonesian and also translated the dissertations of Indonesian doctoral students. She also advised the Indonesian Christian community in Southwest Germany. In Basel, Barth-Frommel was member of the management of the Basel Mission from 1980 to 1983.
After the death of her husband in 1986, she travelled to Indonesia for several months every year to work as a lecturer in theology and advisor for women’s work in the churches. After her retirement she continued to work as a translator and exegete, and in 2018 she published a book together with her son, the psychoanalyst Daniel Barth, about the suffering of Job, “I give up and console myself”.
2011 she received an honorary doctorate from the Faculty of Theology of the University of Basel for her great commitment over decades in the training of theologians in Indonesia, her peace work and her commitment to women’s human rights.
Mission 21 is extremely grateful to Marie-Claire Barth-Frommel for her active commitment to the Basel Mission, the partner churches in Indonesia and feminist theology. During decades her work has contributed significantly to the fact that more women from our Indonesian partner churches are studying theology to become pastors or church leaders.