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Rebellion of the Spirit against Disorder

by Leonardo Boff Friday, May. 12, 2006 at 4:23 AM

Liberation theology as a protest against suffering is not limited to one region.. Solidarity is really a basic quality of a person but is gradually lost in a culture of material values. We must hear the cry of our earth and the cry of the poor.


Leonardo Boff on the Future of Liberation Theology

[This interview published in: Kontrovers, 2005 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web,]

Mueller: In its theological reflections, the World Forum for Theology and Liberation aims at the whole world, not at a certain region. In contrast, liberation theology began in the concrete situation of Latin America. Can the cry for liberation be heard worldwide?

Boff: Liberation theology as a protest against suffering is not limited to one region. Every cry of the poor, oppressed and excluded anywhere in the world is an appeal to theology. That the cries are heard is a basic assumption. But can one really live quietly and happily when one known two-thirds of humanity suffer, starve to death and are impoverished? Whoever is human must have pity and sympathize. This solidarity is really a basic quality of a person but is gradually lost in a culture of material values. We must hear the cry of our earth as well as the cry of the poor. Both the earth and humankind are threatened. We must do something to change the situation. No Noah’s ark will save some of us.


Mueller: Is change possible?

Boff: Change is a basic human desire. The world as it is helps the majority of humanity to damnation, not to life. I believe change is possible because I cannot accept a God who is indifferent to this world, only one who turns with love and affection to the poor and suffering. God’s grace gives strength for resistance and opens new paths. Grace appears very concretely in our world. The living God is at work in his grace where life is preserved and defended.

Mueller: Even though the longing for liberation is not regionally limited, classical liberation theology has taken a back sea at least in countries like Germany while the situation in the world has not improved. How do you explain this?

Boff: Theology of liberation only has a meaning when the question about justice and the fate of the poor and oppressed represents a real challenge for faith. It presupposes sensitivity for the relevance of questions of today’s world. When a theology has no sense for reality, it may be useful for the church or academic courses or provide a certain illustration of the spirit. But it has little to do with the living God and his works in history and will hardly contribute to changing our world.

Mueller: Can this sensitivity be reawakened?

Boff: The course of the world must be recognized. Whoever is confronted with the poverty of the world, with wars, catastrophes and economic crises through television for example will sense that our world is deeply disordered and that we must protest. Liberation theology and every engaged theology assume this rebellion of the spirit.


Mueller: Can an engaged theology like liberation theology put down lasting roots in Europe?

Boff: Liberation theology starts from very concrete oppression. This concrete oppression can be discovered in the respective context. For example, how are the new immigrants treated in Germany? What securities do they have? What befalls persons who are poor and socially discriminated? How do the population and social institutions treat them? This is an immediate challenge for every engaged theology.

Mueller: You emphasize the preservation of creation as one of the crucial tasks for an engaged theology. Isn’t the option for those originally in the center of liberation theology cut short?

Boff: Both are inseparably connected. The triad “Justice, Peace and Preservation of Creation,” the metaphor of the World Council of Churches, takes up the great utopias of the world. These three dimensions cannot be separated. Shared life is impossible without justice. Peace means just relations to other persons, other cultures, nature and God. Preservation of creation is the basis. When we destroy creation, all other projects are impossible. For me, this triad is a little summary of the Good News of the gospel. Even if the nature of utopia can never be completely fulfilled, it shows us the way like a compass and motivates us not to give up.


Mueller: In 2006, the World Council of Churches will meet here in Porto Alegre for its 9th plenary session. The WCC will sand under the theme “In your grace, O God, change the world.” What does the largest worldwide ecumenical community send along for its work?

Boff: Religion should awaken and support human spirituality. The spiritual dimension is an expression of a deep experience of the spirit, the experience of being, the experience of God in the world. This spirituality is a quality of every person, not a monopoly of the religions. For me, the task of religion is to open spaces for human spirituality. If this is accomplished, humanity will be more sensitive, humane and full of solidarity.

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