Dakar – Senegal, 2011
The fourth edition of the World Forum on Theology and Liberation took place from February 5th to 11th, 2011 in Dakar. It is the first edition to take place in a country with a large Muslim majority, around 95% of the population. For a theology forum with a liberating perspective, such a social condition represents a special challenge, that is, the issue of religious pluralism together with cultural pluralism, and the interreligious dialogue that is imposed, without losing the relationship with economic, social and cultural realities. policies in which different religious experiences and expressions are manifested.
The theology forum, proposing a greater integration with the World Social Forum, offered and participated in workshops on the day dedicated entirely to Africa and on the following day, taking into account both continental Africa as well as Diaspora Africa around the world. We learned that Africa, with its immense diversity, is a heritage and a way of being, even beyond the continent.
The canon of “life” comes before all other canons
The theology forum developed a seminar on days when the World Social Forum devoted time to assemblies by focus of interest. The seminary, as expected, became the high point of the theology forum. Its objective was the discussion about which epistemology, which categories, which languages and which methods are most adequate to deal with the “world” complexity of our time and the coming years. The seminar was filled with a heated tension between the local daily life, that is, the wide variety of contexts, and the global, systemic issues that affect local realities.
Today, the daily life of a people in the interior of a “smaller” country is also affected by the great innovations of technology, the market and consumption that inevitably devastate their cultural and religious condition, even manipulating their minds and desires. In view of this, the plurality of elements that constitute the theological work requires an order of priority, priority theological places that become the first and most fundamental hermeneutical principles. In the classical order of loci theologici , the original source of the Word of God is found, in the first place, in Scripture.
Tradition and the Magisterium are based on the revelation of the Scriptures and develop it. According to Melchior Cano, the “facts of history” follow later as loci alieni , borrowed from outside, as they are not typical of the Christian “deposit”. For the Forum, heir to the theological reflection of the last fifty years, was emphatic in “inverting the order”, placing as the theological first place the life of flesh and blood, the daily life, the shared life, the life of the peoples from where it is made. theology.
The forum extended the necessary rooting and belonging of the theologian and the theologian to a community of faith – understood not, in the first place, as a confessionality, even less as an ecclesiastical institution, but as a community of life, the life of its people. . This visceral relationship with the life of the people, their struggles and hopes, their sufferings and feasts, is the first ground of divine revelation, of salvation in processes of liberation, from which Scripture gains new light, can be discerned with the criterion of “give life and life in abundance”. It was underlined, for example, that there are biblical texts that teach how life is not given, how it is no longer possible to follow in the same way to understand the God who wants the life of his people. And, on the other hand, there are texts or oral narratives outside the Jewish and Christian Scriptures,
It does not matter whether it comes from what we call large religious traditions or from small groups, since its quality does not depend on the number of people who carry these traditions. So, in other words, the first “canon” is not Scripture, it is life. The forum emphasized this priority canon in a very incisive way, including for epistemological creation. The canon of recognized, liberating and liberating “life” allows us to open up this priority theological place to the different religious traditions of peoples, to religious pluralism, to take into account the religion of “the other”.
It is in the relationship with the life of peoples, in their contradictions and hopes, that the different Scriptures, as well as the teachings and oral narratives, can be good news, always as news of life. Thus, the synergy of the hermeneutic circle “Life-Word” and “Word-Life” is created, keeping life as a hermeneutical referent and criterion. In this circle are placed the different levels of experiences, “textures”, contexts, texts, wisdom and, of course, also concepts and systems of thought, in that order.
Starting from concepts, that is, from doctrine, dogmatics, exegesis, is possible, but difficult and more dangerous. What should be a circle can get stuck halfway and evaporate in abstraction. The preferential option for the poor , born of a pastoral heart touched by the cry for life of the most fragile, has also become the clear and firm heart of a theology in the perspective of liberation.
In order to maintain the truth of this criterion with rigor and less risk, there was no lack of someone who illustrated, more than once and insistently, the tension that must be maintained between the preferential option for the poor and the universality of the Christian good news. Departing from universality can be an excuse and a betrayal: “Loving everyone” is often, in fact, an excuse for “loving no one”!
Only love that is concretized in priorities comes out of the abstraction of “everyone”, of abstract and ineffective universality. To love with priority is what a mother does, according to an old Arab proverb: she prefers the sick until he is healthy, she prefers what is far away until she arrives, she prefers the smallest until he grows up. Therefore, in a more globalized world, where it is necessary to take into account the great systems that intend to organize life, the priority, however, is local, regional, contextual, in its diversity, in the richness of human biodiversity, including biodiversity. religious, “hierodiversity”. After all, as we know, Jesus did not come to bring a new religion, but good news for those who need deliverance. From the good news one understands who God is.
The insurrection of the subjugated ones
On the other hand, in the days of the fore we watched with attention, on the same African continent, the mobilizations of the Egyptian people, which followed those of the Tunisian people, in a cascading effect still uncertain, but towards more and better democracy in the Arab region. It is known that there is, in these mobilizations, a young leadership, with communication technologies that make transparent both the truth of the institutions and the need for community, to open the future.
This movement also takes place, in a more discreet way, in several Latin American countries, with popular protagonism, especially indigenous people. In these regions, despite what has been said about shrinking the State and expanding the market supported by neoliberal ideology, politics is back. The forum took into account the place of politics in the good news of liberation, and therefore in theology with a liberation perspective. Global politics based on the poor, on the regions that lose out in globalization, forces us to think more seriously about the strength and weakness of the “Empire”.
The forum took time to clarify and debate what can be understood by “empire” in the current conditions of communication, of the market, of the use not always of brute force, but a lot of seduction, of colonization of subjectivities and cultures, and also colonization of religious expressions. It is within this great system that the fascinating mimicry of the churches that bring together the triad “temple, theater and market” is explained.
There is no preferential option for the poor or for life as the first canon of all good theology, if there is no attention to this other, systemic end of politics and economics. As life cannot only be protected, but also needs to be cultivated and produced, economics and politics interest a theology that intends to help implant and spread the good news of life.
Gender issues are even crucial, especially those of women’s liberation in a world that continues to be marked by kyriarchalism. The Dakar World Social Forum was a true showcase for the empowerment of women organized around the world in matters of food security, family income, health, and public policies. Women reveal themselves to be the protagonists of everyday life in its most concrete expressions, but this would not correspond to good news of liberation if they are not also considered in the more global scope of politics and economics, in the promotion and recognition of their dignity in the context of society, public life and the Churches.
Migration and human trafficking are massive and worldwide symptoms in which women are the most affected, and these realities also give theology something to think about. Evidently, the theology forum felt its responsibility in the flesh with regard to religious issues in this world context so that the religious experience is the soul of liberating and life-giving processes.