You are on page 1of 3

Voices

55

Report

REFLECTIONS ON THE WORLD FORUM ON LIBERATION AND THEOLOGY
PORTO ALEGRE, JANUARY 21-25,2005

The 33 presentations* from a variety of contextual and experiential perspectives were considered under five major sub themes: Another world is possible; God for another possible world; Religion for another possible world; and finally, Theology for another possible world. It was, of course, difficult to articulate the same, not even the features of it, given the preliminary nature of this global initiative and the programme that was meant to be primarily a fair of theological reflections committed to the liberation paradigm. It was indeed a bold and creative initiative that has the potential to inspire new ways of doing theology in partnership. At the end, it was decided to meet again when the next WSF meets in Africa in 2007, and possibly to make it an ongoing activity. I would like to reflect on some features of the conference which I think have relevance to the work we do in the WCC and to highlight the reasons for future accompaniment and involvement. 1. Theology as an ally of those who believe they can make a difference in the world: The forum, even though it could not enter into dialogue with the ideological orientations of the social movements that were to congregate in the same city the following week, was meant to explore the possibility of envisioning theology as an active ally of those who are not only resisting the visions of the world according to the powerful but also seeking and proposing alternatives. It was an attempt to dream of God's oikoumene together with those who dream of another world, one that is radically different from the way the hegemonic powers as well as the escapists do. Its aim echoes with the call given by the Harare Assembly: "How do we live out our faith in a globalised world?" In spite of the contextual specificities of these theologies, there was an honest attempt to identify points of similarities in order to evolve common strategies and shared visions. As such it was not an attempt towards a universal liberation theology, but one on liberation and theology; an attempt to view and explore these together for mutual accompaniment and accomplishment.

Deenabandhu

Manchala

This event has to be seen as a major milestone alongside Medallin (1968) that inspired the emergence of liberation theology, Detroit (1975) that proposed socialist option, and Dar-es-Salaam (1976) that brought the EATWOT into being. Over 150 theologians from many parts of the world participated in this event that was sponsored by a collective of theological associations in Latin America, North America and Europe. The overall theme: Theologyfor anotherpossible world was intended to resonate with the theme of the World Social Forum -Another world is possible. The WSF is a global event of thousands of people's movements from all over the world that meets parallel to the World Economic Forum where the wealthy and the powerful meet to fine tune their own visions of the world.

it was said that theological task needs to promote a spirit of appreciation of diversity and work towards the creation of a civil society with a safe distance from the market. militarisation. if I may interpret. perhaps. Incidentally. gender injustice. these are the issues that we too have been working on in the Council. religion and politics. I would also like to point towards three areas where I found the forum disappointing: . This inevitable reality also has profound significance to the way we understand and pursue ecumenism. in the present climate of the empire and the overwhelming nature of its value orientations.56 Voices Voices 57 2. the politics of the powerful. How do we view the other? How do we understand ecclesiology. nurturing multiculturalism. What was distinct about these reflections were the analyses of these issues and their interconnectedness and the articulation of theology from the perspective of those who are most affected by these realities. So were the social movements that gathered the following week from around 100 countries. theology has a much reduced space in the public realm. theology of religious pluralism. needs to be conscious of this critique of western universalistic monocultures coming from those who are most affected by them. These in a way point towards the need of a public theology for the 21 st century. Theological activity involves negotiation for new spaces. 3. Spirituality of life: The theologians present there came from various confessional and cultural backgrounds but that diversity was hardly an impediment for them to find a common ground in a bio-centric approach. 4. Since religions and theologies have. the forum also viewed the global reality of religious pluralism and identified the need to search for new methods for appropriate theological responses. The reality of religious pluralism: It is in the same spirit. violence and wars. the predicament of international structures of accountability. Role of religion in creating monocultures in a pluralistic world: In response to the spirit of the social movements gathering at the WSF which reject all attempts towards monocultures and false universal isms. These reflections pointed towards further work on political ethics. these are the new tasks of theological vocation. a spirituality of life seems be the energy that brings and binds these forces together and this. Discussion on these issues echoed with some of the theoretical questions in our ongoing discussion on the reconfiguration of the ecumenical movement. religious conflicts. the abuse and misuse of power. perhaps. transformation of all structures of human relationships. The affirmation of the basic pluralistic character of life and of God's creation and seeking unity of all peoples for justice and life. environmental degradation. In an increasingly pluralistic world. Reflection on the contours and content of ecumenism in the 21st century. the forum examined the interconnection between religion and culture afresh. and an examination all aspects of life that are touched by the values of economic globalisation. to a great extent. Issues of life and people as subject matter of theology: The issues that featured prominently in these reflections were: economic globalisation. so is the effectiveness of Christian response to global problems. We may draw on this resource as well as challenge the same on the basis of our engagement with churches in many parts of the world. Christology and eschatology in the context of this new global reality? Shall we be apologetic in our response? Or shall we tread this path cautiously because we don't want to rush into syncretistic responses? Or shall we view it as a coming together of pro-life forces and as trans-religious responses in faith to the God of life? 5. A passion for life. violation of human rights. partnerships and opportunities. needs to be viewed as the new site of God's mission in praxis. created and nurtured monocultures and thus served the unifying strategies of the empires and the powers-that-be. etc.

there were a couple of them who spoke on other issues but most of the presentations were made by men. If the prime addressee of theology is not the church. However. Theological reflection towards the goal of a transformed world. Big names. Alienation from their life-world has often drifted theology away from God's world and people. It was as though women theologians only can and should speak on gender issues. through which theology needs to find expression. remain as they are. In fact this aberration was also pointed out in the group discussions. must also transform our ways of doing theology. theology can turn out to be a mere intellectual exercise or the preoccupation of some intellectuals while the churches. The forum seemed to have operated on the assumptions of a predominantly Christian Latin American context where theology still has a respectable public space. what disappointed me was when some of these women were asked to make presentations on gender issues. the faces and names of the disinherited and the disempowered from whose vantage point these theologies are done were invisible. C. Notes * These presentations can be found (date-wise) at: www. our ways of understanding and exercising power. B.pucrs. Dreams remain unrealistic when we don't allow them to challenge and change the reality.br/pastoral/fmtl . papers and presentations: Many radical things were said and a searing analysis of the world realities was done by some of the finest theologians. It is one thing to dream of another world and a theology for the same but it is completely another thing to make it a reality. Of course. Who cares for these theologies anyway? The forum did not seem conscious of the fact that many Christian communities in the world today live out their Christian faith with NO or narrow or outdated theologies. there was hardly any attempt to take stock of the state of the churches. While a bio-centric approach does provide a common ground for a wider theological discourse. Furthermore. Women only for gender issues? There were some outstanding women theologians who made their presence felt through their interventions. the danger of losing the distinct honour of being theologies from below. except for some input from Dalit and indigenous peoples' perspectives. As an Indian / Asian Christian belonging to a fragmented minority in a predominantly multi-religious context where the negotiating space for my theological reflection is very narrow. no mention of confessional theologies and the need to challenge the same in the light of the challenges of today's world. neglect of the option for the poor poses for these theological reflections.58 Voices Voices 59 A. I felt frustrated when I heard what theology can and must do. Be that as it may.