In 2007 Pope Benedict XVI posed the question to Christian believers and scholars, “What has Jesus really brought…if he has not brought world peace, universal prosperity, and a better world?”. In response to the Pope’s challenge, a group of theologians from around the world gathered in Galilee to reflect about the significance of Jesus among the peoples of Africa, Asia, Latin America, Caribbean, United States, and Europe. The book under review is an outcome of that conversation.
The focus of the conversation is Jesus of Galilee: a re-visitation of the “quest for the historical Jesus”, but with an important specification. In the wake of what Ignacio Ellacuria called the “historical reality” of Jesus, the interest of the participants in the dialogue converged on the basic stance that Jesus’ words and deeds embody and on the faith commitments that they mediate in Jesus’ followers.
The social location from which the reflection is developed varies according to the specific socio-cultural context of each author, and yet all write from the specific “locus” of the poor and oppressed, might they be the Mestizos and US Latinos (Virgilio Elizondo, Roberto S. Goizueta), the victims of the African slave trade and their descendants (M. Shawn Copeland), the immigrants and refugees from North Africa or Central and Southern America (Robert Lassalle-Klein, Pablo Alonso), the Igbo tribeswomen of West Africa (Caroline N. Mbonu), the aboriginal Adivasi of India (Francis Minj), the Dalit of India or the Sozusa of Korea (Sophia Park), or the wasted lives of the globalization process throughout the world (Mary Doak).
The collection itself of the essays is organized in four blocks. First, some interpretive frameworks that are thought to be important for approaching and understanding Jesus are outlined. They include: the historical research on the Galilee of Jesus (Sean Freyne), Jesus’ option for the poor and the priority of the Other (Gustavo Gutierrez), attention to cultural and intercultural dynamic (Virgilio Elizondo), Jesus’ mission between Reign of God and the cross, as respectively its “weight and its hard edge” (Jon Sobrino) and the historical reality of Jesus as the object of the gospels and Christian faith (Robert Lassalle-Klein). From these guiding points, the collection moves to present three areas of reflection (Bible, theology, and spirituality), a division that sounds a bit artificial in that the three themes continue to overlap each other. As well, ethical issues run throughout the entire collection and represent a main thrust. The general approach of the various essays to Jesus is “from below”: intercultural, in the light of the preferential option for the poor, and “practical”.
My initial assessment is mixed. I find the reflection developed by the various essays stimulating and enriching for a contextual appropriation of Christian faith and mission. Some essays are in this regard more valuable than others. Altogether, the collection looks as a re-assessment of liberation theology in relation to today’s world, with a new understanding of the “poor” to comprehend women, culturally oppressed people, immigrants and refugees and victims of globalization even in the first world.
Does the collection outline a contextual Christology for the 21st century? The conversation concentrates more on exploring what it means to be followers of Jesus at the beginning of this century. In this sense, the essays in Jesus of Galilee do provide a partial but challenging answer to the question of Pope Benedict. But can we really consider them also as Christological, in that they put forward a shift of focus of Christology from doctrinal explication of whom and what Jesus was/is to understanding it as enacted discipleship?
Benito De Marchi
Robert Lassalle-Klein (ed.), Jesus of Galilee. Contextual Christology for the 21st Century, Maryknool/New York, Orbis Books, 2011.
Insecurity, in South Africa, knows no barrier. All are at risk. Lucky Dube, the most successful African reggae artiste of his generation, was killed by thugs in a Johannesburg suburb in 2007. The killers wanted a few hundred bucks, and had no qualm in pulling the trigger and break a life, just for that. Today, the legacy of the late Dube, who pioneered a distinctively African variant of reggae, rests on the shoulders of his 24-year-old daughter, Nkulee. She has just published her debut album where she blends ethno-soul, jazz with reggae and dancehall tunes. She has also started an international tour playing with the same band that supported her father on stage: The One People Band. 'I only toured with my father's band after his death because during his career, he wanted to keep his family and his career apart,' she says.
Lucky Dube is remembered for his reggae sound with socially conscious and timeless songs like Slave, Prisoner and House of Exile. Nkulee prefers a smoother brand of reggae, sometimes veering towards R&B and soul. Her texts are also geared to a younger generation. And she does well to distinguish herself from her father. Carrying a last name like Dube is difficult enough, it would be worse if she tried to simply continue her father's work. Besides, she has a right to establish herself on her own terms.
For the 11-song debut album My Way, she draws from an eclectic musical background ranging from South African jazz to soul and dance music. 'Working with some of the greatest musicians from South Africa and Germany made me feel like a real artiste,' says Nkulee when asked about the highlights of working on the album. Her debut single - and first track in the album - Who Dem is a bouncy dancehall groove, written by Jah Seed of the Bongo Maffin. The song is a tribute to Rastafarianism and the group's values of peace, life, humanity, tranquillity and love.
In 2010, Nkulee joined the Lucky Dube Celebration Tour, a tribute to her late father. During the tour, she was well received by the crowds whenever she appeared on stage. 'I get to receive some of the love that the world had for my father during this tour. It can be very emotional for me when I see this reaction.' The shadow of Lucky Dube is something Nkulee cannot escape from. After all, the charismatic South African singer was a well-loved figure, with more than 20 albums released in a career spanning two decades. 'There have been a lot of expectations and the fact that I do reggae music, like my father, also increases this pressure,' says Nkulee. She is not shying away for the heavy inheritance, and her live shows are never complete without a tribute to Lucky's memory.
My way is a good debut album. It shows an artist capable to work with different styles and able to attract the cooperation of well known artists, once again the power of the name! However, these songs fail to impress, and rightly so since this is a debut production. Nkulee needs time to grow as an artist, to find the maturity needed to make her music as vibrant as that of many South African artists. So, let her grow and she might deliver a new sound that will nonetheless perpetuate the Dube name in music. If an advice can be given, well, change whoever was in charge of the album jacket!
Nkulee Dube, My Way, Native Rhythms Productions, CDBSP3255.
In the history of nations there are always events that function as watershed. They are the peaks of a journey where things can be define either before or after them. In the long journey to freedom in South Africa there are many such events: the Zulu empire, the Great Trek, the British concentration camps to break Boer's resistance, the advent of apartheid... Then there is Sharpeville, a massacre that was waiting to happen, one of those events that define the history of a people. On March 21, 1960, a line of white policemen outside the Sharpeville's Police Station fired 1344 rounds into the crowd gathered in the public square. They were several thousand and they had gone there to protest against the Apartheid regime's racist 'pass laws'. When the guns fell silent, sixty-seven people were dead and one hundred and eighty six wounded. They were all shot in the back, hit while running away.
The Sharpeville Massacre was the end of a possible dialogue between the white minority and the black majority. It marked the start of armed resistance in South Africa, and prompted worldwide condemnation of South Africa. For years, people looked back at the Massacre, at the planned extermination of innocent people, to find the strength to continue the struggle. Others claimed it was an accident, something the Boer government did not plan. Shining away from an emotional reading of events, and basing his evaluation on documents and interviews with survivors, Tom Lodge explains how and why the Massacre occurred. In his book Sharpeville, an apartheid massacre and its consequences, Lodge guides the reader into the meander of the social and political background of the events, as well as the long-term consequences of the shootings.
The author offers a detailed account of the event, and provides the historical background to understand it in the backdrop of the simultaneous protest in Cape Town which fomented the political crisis that developed in the wake of the shootings. Lodge also offers good insights on the long term consequences of the 'pass laws' and the strife they caused. Sharpeville affected the perceptions of black and white political leadership in South Africa as well as South Africa's relationship with the rest of the world, and the development of an international Anti-Apartheid movement in the wake of the shootings.
In South Africa today, March 21 marks Human Rights Day. It is a public holiday and to many it is a day of mourning and memorial. Sharpeville is a good text to reconstruct what happened, but also to understand what can still go wrong in any society where human rights are not upheld. The book is no easy read. It commands full attention and the will to introspect in oneís own life. It is a professional account, historically correct and well researched. At the same time, it will be of great help to those who wish to read history with the purpose of educating future generations on the dangers of bigotry and false claims of superiority.
Tom Lodge, Sharpeville, an apartheid massacre and its consequences, Oxford University Press, Oxford 2011, pp. XII + 423.
This groundbreaking volume is the result of a four-year research project (2005-2008) sponsored by the Catholic Peacebuilding Network (CPN), in collaboration with the Krok Institute of International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame and the Bernardin Centre for Theology and Ministry at the Catholic Union in Chicago. The book develops as an extended conversation about two main questions: Why should the Catholic Church be interested in peacebuilding, and, if so, what is a Catholic approach to peacebuilding.
The book shows that peacebuilding matters, and more specifically that Catholic peacebuilding matters. In todayís world, transformation of conflicts, healing of wounds and building of a sustainable peace is a universal ethical and political priority. There is no claim that insights and practices of peace are exclusive to the Catholic Church. They are rather shared by other Christians as well as by other religious traditions. Neither are they exclusive to religious faith. Building peace requires 'a participatory process and pedagogy in all spheres of society' (p.4). Particularly relevant is in this regard a theology and practice of interreligious dialogue, especially a dialogue of life and of religious experiences at the grassroots level.
At the same time, it is recognized that the Catholic Church has something to offer to the work of peace. Thus, it is stressed that from the institutional point of view, the ubiquity of the Catholic Church and its internal organization of local communities, College of the Bishops and Papacy, allow it to be present at all the levels involved in peacebuilding, from the grassroots to the national and international leadership, and to constitute in the world a political as well as ecclesiastical network to be put to the service of peace.
Peacebuilding is portrayed as a 'journey' in search of restoration of humanity, community, God's order and dialogue: a re-humanization of the victims first but also of the perpetrators, making of both a new creation, through a change both in people and institutions. 'Reconciliation' is taken as key metaphor for this journey to peace, for reconciliation involves the transformation of relationships. Three key aspects are identified: 1) truth telling, as a public acknowledgement of the victims' suffering and a recreation of the society's narrative; 2) restorative justice, which goes beyond its commutative and administrative forms of justice, is victim-specific and looks forward to a long-term social healing; 3) forgiveness, as the overcoming of hatred and enmity and the rebuilding of severed bonds of trust, transforming destructive memories into redemptive ones. The whole process aims at building a 'positive' peace that goes beyond protecting and restoring sovereignty toward creating an environment of peace.
Altogether, the authors see Catholic peacebuilding as grounded in the Catholic social teaching as it has been developed since the end of the nineteenth century. Central to the various proposals for peacebuilding are key values from the Catholic social teaching, such as the dignity of the human person, the common good, the option for the poor translated as option for the victims, participation, justice and development, solidarity and subsidiarity. The concept itself of ìpositiveî peace, as a restructuring of relationships beyond the absence of overt conflict, is somehow parte of the Catholic social tradition. It is, however, made clear that Catholic peacebuilding and Catholic social teaching are not coterminous. Peacebuilding is something new, capable of reshaping the social thinking and practice of the Church and to deepen the way she reads the gospel and appreciates the mystery of salvation.
First of all, the fact that ideas about and practices of peacebuilding have risen in response to specific context and are not always universalizable puts into question the assumed 'universal' character of the Catholic social teaching.. The Catholic social doctrine developed as a response to industrialization in Europe. Today it is inadequate to address the questions pressing upon the developing countries or arising from the postmodern world globalization.
Secondly, a reshaping of the Catholic social tradition is called upon by the emerging 'ethics of peacebuilding'. Much more attention is needed to structural sin and forms of neo-colonialism as sources of conflict and violence. But especially new issues, vital to peacebuilding, must be addressed: 1) the growing presumption against war and the consequent stance for non-violence; 2) the question of conflict resolution, for which no real theological and ethical provision is found in the Catholic tradition; 3) the theme of restorative justice, with its accent on reconciliation and forgiveness in public life.
Ultimately, the book witnesses a shift that is taking place in the Catholic social theory and practice. A new awareness is growing of the deeply conflictual nature of human reality that cannot be put right but only aggravated by war. Correspondingly, 'just peace is emerging as a new paradigm that parallels but pushes beyond the just-war tradition' (p. 75). The Christian narrative of God reconciling in Christ the world lies at the basis of Catholic peacebuilding. In peacebuilding the lure of the shalom of God's kingdom is at work and the 'Good News' is preached to the poor. Peacebuilding becomes a new name of the Church's mission in the world.
Benito De Marchi
Peacebuilding. Catholic Theology Ethics. and Praxis. Edited by Robert J. Schreiter, R. Scott Appleby, and Gerard F. Powers, Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 2010 ñ XIV+466pp.