Oaths of Peace
Theology of Peacebuilding in Southern Sudan
While the primary focus of the present study is the articulation of theological reflections on inculturation and liberation in relation to peacebuilding, Oaths of Peace also contributes perspectives on religious and grassroots peacebuilding. A large portion of the book is devoted to material drawn from interviews with actors in the process, allowing the reader to read the stories and hear the voices and reflections of religious actors—both women and men—engaged in peace work. This study is relevant for anyone interested in contextual theology, African theology, liberation theology, inculturation theology, theology of peacebuilding, and religious peacebuilding. Oaths of Peace is particularly suitable for students at the bachelor’s and master’s level.
Table Of Contents
- About the author
- About the book
- This eBook can be cited
- PART ONE Introduction
- 1 Introduction, Research Design and Methodology
- Research Design
- Choice of Research Area, Personal Motivation and Definition of the Research Question
- Social Location of the Researcher and Personal Normative Stands
- Data Sources: Documents and Interviews
- Epistemological Considerations
- PART TWO Theory
- 2 Contextual Theology
- Introduction to Contextual Theology
- Methods of Contextual Theology
- On the Authority of Scripture and Tradition and the Normativity of Contextual Theology
- Goals of Contextual Theology
- On Terminology: Indigenisation, Inculturation, and Contextualisation
- Models of Contextual Theology
- Stephen B. Bevans: Six Models of Contextual Theology
- Contextual Theology in the Frame of the People to People: What Model?
- 3 African Theology Between Inculturation and Liberation
- The Debate Between John Mbiti and James Cone
- Definitions: Inculturation and Liberation
- An Issue of Hermeneutics
- Biblical Hermeneutics
- Hermeneutics of Context
- Hermeneutics of African Traditional Religion
- The Role of Ecumenical Associations
- Martey’s Proposal for a Synthetic Approach
- Contribution of the Present Study to African Theology
- PART THREE The Contexts of the Case Study
- A The Historical Context
- 4 The History of the People to People Peacemaking Process
- The Foundation of the Sudan and New Sudan Councils of Churches
- The Split Within the SPLM/A and the Deteriorating Situation in the South
- NSCC’s Commitment to Peace Work
- The Churches Take a Critical Standpoint Towards the SPLM/A
- The Akobo Conference
- The IGADD Track I Peace Process
- The SPLM Civil Society Conference
- “Here We Stand United in Action for Peace”
- The Kejiko Dialogue Between the SPLM/A and the Churches
- The Lokichoggio Chiefs Meeting
- Preparing for Wunlit
- Dinka-Nuer West Bank Peace and Reconciliation Conference in Wunlit
- The Lokichoggio Women’s Meeting
- The Chukudum NSCC-SPLM/A Meeting
- The Second Akobo Conference
- The Immediate Results of Wunlit
- Attempts at Expanding the People to People Peacemaking Process to the East Bank
- Strategic Linkages
- “Let My People Choose”
- The Entebbe Meetings
- A Comprehensive Peace Agreement
- B The Hermeneutical Context
- 5 African Religion
- African Religion
- African Religion or Religions?
- The Principle of Abundant Life
- The Interconnectedness of Life
- The Relationship Imperative
- Elements of Dinka and Nuer Traditional Religion
- Understandings of God
- God as One and Many
- The Ambivalence of God
- The Role of Cattle
- Sin or Human Fault
- Peace and Peacemaking
- Elements of Dinka and Nuer Traditional Religion in the Frame of the People to People
- 6 Christianity in the Context of Southern Sudan at War
- Indigenous Mission and Grassroots Christianity
- Conversion in Refugee Camps
- Christianity Among the Nuer
- Reasons for Nuer Conversion to Christianity
- The Dinka Bor and Christianity
- The Role of Bishop Nathaniel Garang
- Grassroots Church and Christian Prayer
- Grassroots Church and a Contextual Theology of Inculturation
- The Role of Dinka Women in the Church
- Dinka Christian Songs
- The Dinka Cross as an Example of Inculturation
- Southern Sudanese Contextual Theology as Inculturated Theology
- God Is One
- Christ Mitigating the Ambivalence of God
- Suffering as a Consequence of Human Fault
- Identifying the Causes of Suffering
- Traditional Sacrifices and the Sacrifice of Christ
- Confession and Forgiveness
- New Religion, Same Culture
- Inculturation as a Response to the Need for Orientation and Transformation
- 7 John Paul Lederach on Peacebuilding
- In Need of New Paradigms
- The Role of Middle-Range Leaders
- Principles Supporting Lederach’s Framework
- Contextual Approaches to Peacebuilding
- Internal and External Actors
- Lederach’s Peace Framework and the People to People
- Peacebuilding in Sudan and Southern Sudan and Lederach’s Framework
- PART FOUR Analysis of Interview Material
- 8 The Theoretical ‘Framework’ of the People to People and Its Contributing Elements
- The Theoretical ‘Framework’ of the People to People
- Traditional Elements in the ‘Framework’
- Christian Elements in the ‘Framework’
- Modern Elements in the ‘Framework’
- 9 Perspectives on Inculturation I: Different Attitudes Towards the Coexistence of Traditional Rituals and Christian Beliefs at People to People Events
- The Five Groups
- The Traditionalists
- The Conservative Christians
- The ‘In-Betweens’
- Respect for Other Traditions
- Those Open to Reviewing Theology in Light of Traditional Practices
- Considerations on Syncretism and Dual Religious Systems
- 10 Perspectives on Inculturation II: Connections Between Traditional Sacrifice, Old Testament Sacrifice, the Sacrifice of Christ and the Eucharist in the Frame of the People to People
- Five Responses to the Relation Between Traditional Sacrifice, Old Testament Sacrifice, the Sacrifice of Christ, and the Eucharist
- The Relation Is Not Acknowledged
- The Relation Between Traditional Sacrifice, the Sacrifice of Christ and the Eucharist Is Excluded Due to Theological Reasons
- A Relation Is Established Between Traditional Sacrifice and the Sacrifices of the Old Testament
- A Relation Between Traditional Sacrifice and the Eucharist Is Established
- A Much Needed Theological Debate
- 11 Perspectives on Liberation I: The SPLM/A Between Marxism and Christianity
- The “Historical Dialogue” Between the SPLM/A and the NSCC
- The Marxist Rhetoric of the SPLM/A and Their Standpoint Towards Religion
- John Garang, the Churches, and the Liberation Struggle
- John Garang, the Churches, and Traditional Religion and Culture
- John Garang, the Churches, and Liberation Theology
- The NSCC-SPLM/A Yei Declaration
- Analysis of Interview Material
- Garang, Traditional Religion, Christianity, and the Role of the Churches in the Liberation Struggle
- Garang and Marxism
- The Move of the SPLM/A Towards Christianity
- The Elaboration of Liberation Theology as an Alternative to Marxism
- 12 Perspectives on Liberation II: Liberation Theology in the Frame of the People to People
- Liberation Theology in Sudanese Ecumenical Documents and Publications
- A Sudanese Liberation Theology
- Option One: A Contextual Theology of Liberation Is Developed Independently from External Influences
- Option Two: Talking the Language of Partners
- Option Three: Aware of Other Liberation Theologies and Influenced by Them
- 13 The Influence of Partners on the Theological Elaboration of the NSCC
- International Ecumenical Organisations
- Financial Support, Advocacy, Credibility and Authority
- Theological Influences
- The Kenyans: NCCK, Samuel Kobia, Agnes Abuom and the Theology of John Mbiti
- The Influence of African Theology
- The South Africans
- International Staff in the NSCC
- The Role of the NSCC in the People to People
- PART FIVE Conclusions
- 14 Conclusions
- A Contextual Theology of Inculturation and Liberation
- A New Model of Contextual Theology
- What Theology of Liberation?
- Liberation Theology and Political Theology
- Syncretism and Dual Faith-Systems
- Orientation, Transformation and Legitimation
- From Peacebuilding to Inculturation
- Need for a Theological Debate
- Perspectives on Religious Grassroots Peacebuilding
- Annex I: List of Interviewees
Introduction, Research Design and Methodology
This work is a study of the theology that developed in the frame of the People to People Peacemaking Process conducted by churches and ecumenical structures in Southern Sudan1 from 1997 to 2002.
In 1991, in the course of the second Sudanese civil war (1983–2005) fought primarily between the Government of Sudan (GoS) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A), a split occurred among the leaders of the SPLM/A on issues of power management within the Movement/Army and disagreement about the goals of the liberation war. The split soon acquired ethnic connotations and led to deliberate attacks on civilians by various armed groups as well as extended conflict among neighboring Southern communities.
Since the year 1992, the New Sudan Council of Churches (NSCC), the ecumenical body connecting churches in the South of Sudan, had made several attempts at reconciling the factional leaders to contribute to the betterment of people’s living conditions. Such attempts had remained ineffective. A new strategy was therefore chosen: first, to reconcile people at the grassroots level, and move from there to peace and reconciliation efforts among military and political leaders. In 1997, the NSCC received from the SPLM/A official mandate to reconcile both ←3 | 4→people at the community level and the leadership of the military factions. By the year 1998, the People to People Peacemaking Process was officially launched as peace “of the people, by the people, for the people”.2 In a so-called bottom-up approach, grassroots peacebuilding initiatives were meant to prepare the ground for reconciliation among factional leaders and eventually contribute to achieving peace at the national level.
The case study of the People to People Peacemaking Process has been chosen as the subject of the present study for four main reasons: the process was faith-based; it had an acknowledged theoretical profile (‘framework’34); it was inclusive in terms of gender, age and social location; and it can be considered an example of sustainable peacebuilding as peace agreements achieved in the frame of that process, such as the Wunlit peace agreement (1999), held until the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), in 2005.5
In reference to the second reason mentioned, namely that the People to People had an acknowledged theoretical profile, literature on the People to People refers to the ‘framework’ of the process defined as a synthesis of three elements: African Traditional beliefs, values and methods of conflict resolution; Christian values and beliefs; and current approaches to peacebuilding and peacemaking.6 On the basis of references in literature to the theoretical ‘framework’ of the process, the research question leading the present study is: what kind of theology was developed in the frame of the People to People Peacemaking Process at the intersection of Christian values and beliefs, African Traditional Religion and peacebuilding theory and praxis? The thesis I aim at substantiating is that the theology developed in the frame of the People to People is a contextual theology of inculturation and liberation.
In the African theological landscape, inculturation theology and liberation theology have often been developed by different groups of theologians, in different geographical areas, with different hermeneutical assumptions and agendas. Literature refers to tension and even conflict among inculturationists and liberationists in the African continent.7 This study contributes to the field of African theology, offering the example of a contextual theological elaboration that has managed to hold in a positive, productive relation the two dimensions of inculturation and liberation.
The present work furthermore aims at contributing to the area of research on theology and peacebuilding by providing an account—until this point not available—of the theology that was developed in the frame of the People to People.
Furthermore, the present study contributes to the area of research on contextual theology.←4 | 5→
Contextual theology is the theoretical framework chosen for the present work, defined by North American scholar Stephen Bevans as theology developed in relation to four dimensions of context: experience, culture, social location and social change.8
The dimensions of inculturation and liberation that I identify in the theology developed in the frame of the People to People, can respectively be read through two models of contextual theology among the six offered by Bevans: the anthropological model and the praxis model.9
While the praxis model suggested by Bevans is closely related to liberation theologies, the author chooses to refer to it as praxis model to indicate that the specificity of the model concerns more the method than a particular theme, namely the method of relating theological reflection to praxis. For this reason, I apply Bevan’s praxis model to peacebuilding and in the course of this work refer to the praxis of peace/liberation.
Still, among the models offered by Bevans, there is not one that addresses simultaneously the two dimensions of inculturation and liberation. On the basis of empirically-gathered data (interviews), I have developed a matrix to describe such a model of contextual theology.10 The matrix I elaborated exemplifies how, in the People to People, the articulation of Christian theology and African Traditional Religion and culture is in the frame of inculturation, while the articulation of theology and peacebuilding is in the frame of liberation. The matrix or model I have elaborated assumes the context of theological elaboration as both religio-cultural and socio-political. Such a model further holds the three elements of Christian values and beliefs, African Traditional Religion and culture and peacebuilding in a circular, constructive relation: theology approaches peacebuilding via Traditional Religion and culture, and in the other direction, theology addresses Traditional Religion and culture via peacebuilding.
The paradigm of the present work is abductive, as theory developed in the discipline of contextual theology and the related areas of African theology, inculturation theology and liberation theology, supports an understanding of data empirically gathered, while data contribute with new insights and perspectives to the just-named research areas.
The present work is organised in five parts. The first part includes the present introduction and deals with issues of research design and methodology.
The second part is devoted to theory in relation to the theoretical framework chosen for the present work, namely contextual theology (Chapter 2) and African theology (Chapter 3) in its two strands of inculturation and liberation.←5 | 6→
The third part of this work aims at setting the case study of the People to People Peacemaking Process in its contexts, both historical and hermeneutical. In Chapter 4 I delineate the historical context of the case study, looking at the history of the People to People Peacemaking Process with references to the history of conflict in Sudan and Southern Sudan.
Chapters 5, 6 and 7 delineate the hermeneutical context of the case study, providing background information on the three elements that contributed to the theoretical ‘framework’ of the People to People, namely African Traditional Religion, Christian theology and peacebuilding theories (John Paul Lederach).
The fourth part of this book (Chapters 8–13) is devoted to the analysis of data gathered through interviews. More specifically, the aim of Chapter 8 is to analyse interview material on the perception actors in the People to People had of the theoretical ‘framework’ of the peace process and of the elements—Traditional, Christian and so-called modern—that contributed to it. Chapters 9 and 10 deal with the inculturation aspect of the theology elaborated in the frame of the People to People while Chapters 11 and 12 deal with the liberation aspect. Chapter 13 finally deals with the contribution of international ecumenical partners to the theological elaboration by Sudanese actors.
Discussion and conclusions (Chapter 14) are the content of the fifth and last part of the present work. My main conclusion is that the theology that developed in the frame of the People to People Peacemaking Process at the intersection of Christian values and beliefs, Traditional Religion and peacebuilding, is a theology of inculturation and liberation (where liberation includes peacebuilding), a theology that addresses peace engagement and liberation through inculturation, and that, inversely, in view of the urgent need to achieve peace, is led to reconsider issues of inculturation.
This study offers in this way an account so far not available, of the theology that was developed in the frame of the People to People Peacemaking Process. It also offers lessons on theologies that have the potential to support inclusive, sustainable peacebuilding.
I define this work theological-empirical. I consider my study theological because its main aim is to answer a theological question, namely what type of theology was developed in the frame of the People to People Peacemaking Process. It is empirical because given the limited amount of literature available on the subject, ←6 | 7→an answer to the research question can be given only on the basis of information empirically gathered through interviews.
The chosen research approach is that of a single exploratory case study, namely the People to People Peacemaking Process. Data sources are documents and 30 individual, in-depth and semi-structured interviews.11 Issues of method will more specifically be dealt with in the next paragraph. Here, I aim at elaborating on the reasons behind the choice of the research area and the process leading to the definition of the research question; on my social location and personal normative stands; and on the choice of contextual theology as the theoretical framework for the present work.
Choice of Research Area, Personal Motivation and Definition of the Research Question
The larger question and source of personal interest motivating the present research is: what theologies have the potential to support inclusive, sustainable peacebuilding? The question was formulated in relation to previous research on the theme of women’s participation in peacebuilding and faith-based peacebuilding.
One of the issues raised and addressed by research on women, peace and security12 is the lack of visibility of women’s engagement in peace work, its causes and possible solutions as well as the limited inclusion of women in high-level peace processes.
If inclusive participation in peacebuilding and faith-based peacebuilding is considered a goal to be achieved both in view of durable peace and from a right-based perspective, to achieve that goal it is necessary to understand what the obstacles to inclusive participation are, and in what ways such obstacles can be removed.
In relation to religious peacebuilding, the systemic factors that limit inclusive participation are, among others, religious structures, interpretation of authoritative texts and theologies. The issue of women as full participants in faith-based peacebuilding calls for a reflection on the participation of women in the life of religious communities, as decision-makers, leaders and clergy. It also creates a challenge to re-think peace, peacebuilding and its effectiveness starting from where women are already active, namely at the grassroots and community levels. Finally, the issue of women’s participation in peacebuilding and faith-based peacebuilding calls for a reflection on theologies and peace theologies that are at their core inclusive. If the exclusion of women from leadership is considered a theological and ecclesiological issue, then the full inclusion of women in the life of religious ←7 | 8→communities—including their peacebuilding engagement—is equally a theological issue. It is here that my interest in theological elaborations that have the potential to support inclusive, not only in gender terms, sustainable peacebuilding originates.
In the period 2009 to 2011, I lived and worked in South Sudan where I had the chance to learn more about the People to People Peacemaking Process conducted by churches and ecumenical structures during the years 1997 to 2002.
The case of the People to People soon became interesting in relation to the issue I was pursuing, namely the issue of the relation between theological elaboration and inclusive, effective peacebuilding praxis, for the four reasons I have already mentioned: because it was faith-based, inclusive (literature about the process refers to the important role played by women, youth and elders), it had an acknowledged theoretical profile, and it had proved effective at achieving and maintaining peace at the grassroots level.
Such elements made the People to People a suitable case study to search for an answer to the question: what theology has the potential to support effective, inclusive peacebuilding?
Studying the subject, and particularly the theoretical profile of the People to People, I realised that theological reflection in the frame of the process had been ‘work in progress’: it had developed as the process was conducted also as reflection on practice. I needed to shift the focus from the theology that inspired the People to People to the theological elaboration that was conducted in the frame of the process. As the theoretical ‘framework’ of the People to People is defined, as mentioned, a synthesis of three elements: African Traditional beliefs, values and methods of conflict resolution; Christian values and beliefs; and current approaches to peacebuilding and peacemaking; the question was then reformulated: what kind of theology was developed in the frame of the People to People Peacemaking Process at the intersection of Christian values and beliefs, African Traditional Religion and peacebuilding theory and praxis?
My thesis, as mentioned, is that such a theology is a contextual theology of inculturation and liberation, where liberation includes the dimension of peacebuilding.
Social Location of the Researcher and Personal Normative Stands
From the perspective of contextual theology, there is neither neutral theological enterprise nor value-free, interest-free research. Studies on normativity13 ←8 | 9→and contextual theology underline that it is necessary to make explicit personal interests and experience not to invalidate the results of the research conducted.
I am a Sicilian, an Italian Protestant and a feminist. This means that I carry with me the multiple experience of having been raised as a woman in a culturally conservative context, in an economically depressed, peripheral area of Europe marked by criminality, as a member of a religious minority, and engaging in social and at times counter-cultural activities both as an individual and as part of a religious community.
In Sicilian culture, gender roles are rather stereotyped and expectations about the role of women generally conservative. Engaging in feminist reflection over a period of more than twenty years has meant being aware of social and cultural oppression, reflecting on liberating theories and theologies and engaging in a liberative and transformative praxis.
Sicily is a region notoriously affected by the mafia. For most people, this means being affected by insecurity, bearing the consequences of lack of infrastructures and services and generally living in a constant condition of social emergency created by the mafia to pursue its interests. I grew up aware of the impact the mafia had on our quality of life and, as an individual and as part of my religious community, I engaged in anti-mafia activities.
As the 1980s were years of heavy armament that saw the expansion of North American military bases in Sicily, from a young age and together with my religious community I engaged in anti-military, pacifist demonstrations and activities both locally and nationally. Later, I have been professionally engaged in peace work.
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- Publication date
- 2020 (March)
- New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2020. XVIII, 354 pp.