Conference: theologians challenged to indentify new struggles

2010-10-20 00:00

ALTHOUGH liberation theologians played an important role in the advancement of the struggle against apartheid, in the post-apartheid era “they are dead and play no significant role in the new struggles facing our society”.

This view was repeated by Professor Itumelang Mosala in an interview with The Witness after delivering his address at the theological conference which took place at the Imperial Hotel in Pietermaritzburg last week.

The conference, hosted by two theology institutions, Ujamaa Centre and the Theologians’ Forum, was attended by top theologians in the country and abroad, among them Dr Allan Boesak, Mosala, ex-Cope parliamentary leader Dr Mvume Dandala, Professor Albert Nolan and many others.

Mosala described liberation theologians as “children of the struggle” and said attainment of freedom in 1994 had led to the death of black liberation theologians “as they are failing to identify new challenges facing our society”.

“Since the death of apartheid they don’t exist as they cannot generate post-apartheid black theology. It seems as if their existence depended on the struggle. They must understand that this is not a theology of settlement. We must find new suggestions.

“I am throwing a challenge to black liberation theologians out there to identify those new struggles. It is those struggles that will guide the development of a new black theology and what we developed during the struggle is irrelevant now,” Mosala said.

Mosala identified poverty and the need to defend freedom as some of the new struggles which could form the basis of the new liberation theology in South Africa. He dismissed suggestions that theologians should revisit the Kairos Document, with the intention of using it as a basis for the new post-apartheid-type of Kairos Document. The Kairos Document was established in 1985 by various progressive South African theologians as religious communities’ response to the apartheid repression.

Mosala said poverty is a fundamental issue that has “the potential one day to make people rise up and vigorously struggle against the post-apartheid regime”.

“When that time comes, people will destroy more than we have salvaged these past years. Their anger will be more than what they showed against the apartheid regime,” Mosala warned.

On defending freedom he said: “We do not apportion appropriate value towards our freedom. It seems as if we have forgotten the ultimate cost it took us to achieve it. ”

‘Your generation (the fathers and mothers) has failed and the poverty of the world speaks to that in all religious traditions. Will we (the sons and daughters) speak the same words and fail in the same way or different ways? What would success look like?’ — Aaron Ellis, philosopher.

A SELECTION of sound bites from the recent theology conference A Luta Continua hosted by the Ujamaa Centre for Community Development and Research in the School and Religion and Theology at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and the Theologians’ Forum.

‘jesus has been expropriated and used against his own tribe, the Jews.’ — Jewish liberation theologian, Prof Marc Ellis.

‘Assimilation of the systems of the oppressor is not liberation. The nature of the liberation of the oppressed cannot be defined by the oppressors.’ — Muslim theologian, Professor Farid Esack.

‘Struggle activists were not broken by prison or torture, but money has broken them.’

— Dr Wolfgang Kistner quoted by Professor Gunther Wittenberg.

‘We need to ask: “What is liberation in empowerment?” because empowerment can also enslave you.” — Jewish liberation theologian, Professor Marc Ellis.

‘Former comrades in the struggle are now the new oppressors.’ — Comment by a conference participant.

‘The Bible is a great prison (for Christians) from which there is no escape.’ — Jewish liberation theologian, Professor Marc Ellis.

‘Economic power parades as religion and the challenge is to challenge our own people to look at their own culpability.’ — Muslim theologian, Prof­essor Farid Esack.

‘The memory of suffering should be kept alive but not used against others.’ — Jewish liberation theologian, Professor Marc Ellis.

‘The exploitation of resources to provide for the surplus of the few cannot be the solution to the oppression of the many.’ — Muslim theologian, Professor Farid Esack.

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