Healing, Liberation, and Reconciliation: Voices for Change
The first day of DTC’s Biennial Conference finished with a panel discussion entitled “Healing, Liberation, and Reconciliation with Global and Local Voices for Change”, which featured Allan Boesak, Executive Director of the Desmond Tutu Center, Eugen Drewermann, a German church critic, theologian, peace activist and former Roman Catholic priest and George “Tink” Tinker Clifford Baldrige Professor of American Indian Cultures and Religious Traditions at the Iliff School of Theology. The three panelists shared their thoughts on how humans can respond to the issues of today and be agents of change. The panel also included a special message from noted liberation theologian Leonardo Boff and was moderated by Matthias Beier, Associate Professor of Pastoral Theology and Mental Health Counseling at Christian Theological Seminary.
The event began with a visual message from Leonardo Boff, the Brazilian theologian and writer, known for his liberation theology and his active support of the rights of the poor and excluded. In his message Boff answered the same questions that our panelist would be answering for the remainder of the session before an audience question and answer session. Those questions asked our panelists to name the greatest challenge humanity faces today, about the nature of the relationship between truth, reconciliation, healing and liberation, their hopes for the future of the Earth and humanity, and what wisdom they would like to pass on for future generations. In response to those questions, all four of the speakers spoke about the negative impact humans are having on the environment. Boff, Drewermann, and Tinker agreed that when nature is destructed, humanity is destructed as well.
Our speakers also discussed how this environmental crisis is not coming, because it already has begun. They expressed that we need to restore a proper relationship between humanity and Earth, which includes understanding other animal and plant life, as well as other natural resources as things that we are in a reciprocal relationship with. They further expressed that within the context of that relationship we have to understand the damage we do to the whole of the Earth when we exploit other parts of creation for our own selfish purposes. In a similar way, Boesak expressed that the alienation of other people is a huge issue humanity is facing today especially in the United States. A theme throughout the panel was the idea of individualism and what it really means to us as humans. Instead of focusing on being individuals, we need to focus on recognizing that we are only part of something that is much bigger than any of us individually.
This topic was taken up by Tinker, who critiqued the Western philosophical and theological tradition’s anthropocentric view of the universe, suggesting that the native cultures he studies and is a member of are not as susceptible to the violence against the environment that comes as a result of such anthropocentrism. The panel ended with remarks from Tinker on the importance of discussing issues rather than resorting to war and violence.
During the question and answer session an audience member asked, “What pathways do we know that really can help lead people to a healthier future?” Drewermann responded, “If we are dealing with a person it is relatively easy to say how to help.” He explained how important it is to recognize that alienation is a major root of these problems. Alienation causes violence, questions freedom, and questions democracy. The most true form of alienation is war itself. Boesak followed up by talking about how western society worships violence because when people resort to violence as way to deal with their problems in the world, violence has become their God. The path that must be taken is to engage ourselves in an understanding of our current obsession with violence and stop the reliance on violence, not just physically but also mentally. This raised a good topic of discussion on how war is justified. Tinker then explained the problematic tendency of separating everything as good or evil. As long as we define people as solely good or solely evil we are going to have a reason to use violence.
As our panelists described throughout the session, there is a lot of work to be done when we look towards the future, especially in the way we treat the environment, and those who are different than ourselves. Their suggestions for addressing these issues were to break out of our individual, selfish mindsets, fight the sense of alienation and otherness that pervades our society, and realize that we are all dependent on each other in this world.
By: Julia Reyes
Partners: Center for Interfaith Cooperation & Center for Pastoral Excellence at Christian Theological Seminary