Liberation Perspectives on Development Using religion for development
• Western models of development took into account allocation of material resources• Seldom was the impact of religion, spirituality, non-material factors considered• However, development efforts initiated by and within third world countries showed greater success with spiritual motivations• Question is, did religion really have an impact? Were the western scholars incorrect to assume a separation of material and spiritual concerns?
Religion for development• Difficult to ignore that every religion had specific references to development as a process of liberation from injustice, discrimination, and prejudice (3rd world vices)• These religious arguments proved powerful enough to act as catalyst for active participation in individual and community empowerment ( development goals)
What is liberation theology?The type of theology that actively supports development for personal and collective empowerment , and liberation from poverty, racial, ethnic and sexual discrimination.
Religions of the world?• Christianity Taoism• Buddhism Sikhism• Hinduism Jainism• Islam North American tribal• Judaism African tribal• Baha’i Other indigenous• Shintoism Marxism
Christian Liberation Theology• Emerged from the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth• Belief in Trinity (three forms): God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit• Jesus’ main teachings: to love God; to love one’s neighbor (from the New Testament)• Christianity is largest global religion; divided into: Roman Catholicism (largest), Protestantism (many divisions), Orthodox
Liberation assumptions…• Emphasis on life of prayer and service to one’s neighbor• Application of liberation theology: identify specific situation, then respond with prayer and appropriate service• Traces of Christian liberation mostly seen in activism against poverty and oppression, championed by clerics and social activists
Latin America• A continent with majority Christian population• In 1968, meeting of Latin American bishops (Second General Conference) radically sparked Christian liberation movements• Idea of Christian base community, to fight poverty and injustice• Reinforced in Peruvian theologian and priest, Gustavo Gutierrez’s book, A Theology of Liberation
• Religious leaders prompted by oppression to rethink Biblical teachings and priorities based on those teachings• Direct work with poor and oppressed deemed necessary• Selected Bible passages and prayer can provide enlightenment and support• In short, liberation can be achieved by a combination of work, Bible study and prayer, on behalf of the poor and oppressed
Biblical arguments for Liberation• God is very close to humanity• We encounter God via commitment to justice for all• A spirituality of liberation is inseparable form and catalyzes the work of liberation (Conversion to God and to the oppressed)• These arguments, and others from the Bible, have been seen among African-American, North American, Anti-Apartheid, and Feminist liberation movements
Jewish Liberation Theology• Drawn mainly from the “oppressed” traditions of the Jews: first with the Exodus, and then with the Holocaust• Judaism important as a liberation theology• Shares likeness with Christian liberation• Also known to inspire Latin American, African, anti-apartheid and feminist movements• Ellis & Lerner envision an inclusivity in Jewish liberation, that would aim to ease the tension between particularity and universality (to become self-critical), to fight injustice
Islam and Liberation• Muslim’s believe Quran was written by God and revealed to Prophet Muhammed in AD 570• A widespread religion that covers over a billion people worldwide• Five major principles in Islam: God (Allah) is foremost, every Muslim must pray 5 times a day, give alms to the poor, affluent Muslims should fast during Ramadan and every Muslim should visit Mecca at least once in his/her lifetime
Historical interpretation• Muslim’s believe that Quran was not divinely inspired, but direct speech of God. However textually traces of time and temperament is prevalent• Esack observes that every generation of Muslims have likewise interpreted the Quran to suit the time and tastes of the period• Some groups have used the text to justify oppression and injustice, like the Taliban (extremist interpretations)
• However many scholars and activists also identify liberation perspectives in Islam• For e.g., Malcolm X who fought for African American civil rights preached and practiced from the Quran• Esack’s observations similar to Christian views• Hence the neo Islamic liberation theology speaks of commitment and collaboration between Muslims and Non Muslims to achieve similar, universal goals- democratic, non-racist, non-sexist society (without affecting traditional rituals)
Quranic Tenets• Allah is constantly involved in the affairs of humankind• Allah is concerned with justice for the oppressed, both believers and non believers• A full understanding of the Quran’s support for the oppressed requires full commitment to and engagement in the struggle for liberation
Gandhian Liberation Theology• Hindu Liberation theology credited to Mahatma Gandhi• Hinduism one of the oldest religions; emerged in the Indus valley in about 3500 BC• Origin unclear; sacred texts- Vedas and Upanishads• Karma is central belief in Hindu doctrine• Three ends in Hinduism: dharma, or virtue; artha, acquisition of material things by dharma; and kama, gratification of senses, by a cultivated mind
• Gandhi, born in 1869, grew up in deep religious merchant class family; his father known to parley with Muslim religious leaders• At age 18, he goes to England to study law; he is impressed by Bible and themes of non-retaliation and non-resistance• Posted to South Africa, for 23 years he develops liberation theology by a comparative study of religions, his experiences and observations of oppression• He successfully gained legal recognition for Hindu marriages, overturned civil and economic limits of Indians, etc.
Swaraj and Satyagraha• Concept of swaraj or liberation first mentioned in Gandhi’s book Hind Swaraj,1908• Swaraj refers to a democratic, self- determined society, with belief in God, tolerance of other faiths, and rejection of all forms of oppression and exploitation• Satyagraha means force (or firmness) of truth• Therefore Gandhi spoke of achieving swaraj through satyagraha, and additional virtues like ahimsa (non-violence) and tapaya (self- suffering)
• Satyagraha became the base for the passive resistance and civil disobedience movements which influenced Christian liberation as well• Ahimsa originates from Buddhist and Jain attitude of love and non violence; truth comes out of love- Tapaya is an extension of ahimsa- self-suffering necessary to achieve love and non violence• Gandhi, in this spirit of ahimsa, denounced modern professions as materialistic and exploitative
• On returning to India, Gandhi applied many strategies for empowerment• He believed economic self-sufficiency and rejection of oppression and discrimination was key to Indian liberation• Encouraged hand-spinning (khadi) to reinforce this; simultaneously worked towards removing untouchability• He also tried to cement Hindu-Muslim relations to avoid an internal divide in the nation; forgiveness and unity required
Buddhism and Liberation• A religion that originated in 5th or 6th BC• Name Buddha means “enlightened one”• Started by Gautama Siddhartha, member of a Hindu royal family, who denounces worldly pleasures to seek enlightenment• Gautama spends many years meditating which led him to the ‘discovery of the truth’• This enlightenment was understood to be a liberation from suffering
• Buddha is not a god but a human being who was enlightened• Therefore followers believe all human beings seeking enlightenment can become Buddhas• Buddhist liberation thought adheres to Four Noble Truths: Life is a process of suffering, caused by human desire for material gain, and this suffering can be ended, by following the Noble Eightfold path-right views, thoughts, speech, action, livelihood, effort, mindfulness, and concentration
• Buddhist liberation is considered as nirvana• Key is to find sufficient hope within the suffering of oppressed groups to spark systematic involvement• This is referred to as engaged Buddhism• Sulak Sivaraska of Thailand, started this form of engaged Buddhism with an NGO that worked with the grassroots; rejected modernism for traditional culture and spiritual practice
• Buddhist monks have actively participated in activism against oppression; self-immolation and protests for liberation• Chinese occupation of Tibet greatly opposed by Buddhist nuns; fight against oppression and for human rights• Over 300 million Buddhists worldwide
Liberation theology and Marxism• Highly controversial and unique stream of liberation theology• Opposes doctrinal prejudices of religion-based liberation theology (For e.g. existence of God, superiority of classes, etc.)• Call for a secular, non-capitalist approach towards upliftment of the poor• Proponents of liberation theology found favor with Marxist philosophy than mainstream, capitalist models
Marxism versus Religions-Marxism attributes individual -Capitalist models originating frombehavior to societal influences. religious initiatives seek to improveHence an individual alone cannot be conditions, but follow blame-the-blamed for underdevelopment victim conclusions if poverty exists-Marxism and liberation share same -Here the efforts originate out oforigins: a movement against religious texts that promoteoppression liberation-Marxism and liberation recognizes -Specific actions and charitablethe need for collective action for activity are offered in order todevelopment achieve development-Marxism does not support -Religions were opposed to scientificcapitalism, but does not shun methodsscience either -Religions often supported the elite-Marxists propagated the rule of the classesoppressed over the elite, or equalitybetween the two
Additional conflicts…• Marxism never found place for God• Neomarxists argued that orthodox Marxism, which called for base-superstructures (the state managed by the lower classes), did not see the impact of popular culture, religion and media representations, which can effect change• Marx’s call for ‘violent’ revolution was criticized and replaced with non-violent resistance
• Marxism was also criticized for overly emphasizing the individual as a product of societal influences. Religions like Catholicism pointed out that individual attributes cannot be assumed to be completely supplemented by society.Conclusion: Marxist liberation in practice is almost impossible. The fall of socialist states is testament to this. However some groups with similar standing follow Marxist theology as a basis for social action.