NorLARNet Seminar

Religion and social justice: the Latin American contributions

Thursday 19 April 2012
Litteraturhuset, Oslo, Norway

Main speakers :

Enrique Dussel
Professor, Department of Philosophy, Metropolitan Autonomous University (UAM), Mexico

Fortunato Mallimaci
Professor, Faculty of Social Science, University of Buenos Aires

Sturla Stålsett
General Secretary, the Church City Mission / Guest Researcher, University of Glasgow

The aim of this seminar is to give an insight into the main Latin American intellectual contributions to the current debate about the role of religion in development, and to discuss historical and contemporary experiences shedding light on different aspects of it.

In spite of deep transformations inside and outside the traditionally dominant Catholic Church, Christian congregations of different kinds in Latin America continue to exert moral authority, be a main locus for social belonging and participation, and provider of ethical principles. Religious leaders also have important positions in societies at the local, national and international levels. However, the church and religious leaders have played partly contradictory roles. Whereas the Catholic Church overall has been closely linked to governmental power apparatuses in Latin America, it is also from within the Catholic Church and circles strongly associated with it, that the most powerful intellectual justification for linking the Christian gospel closely to social justice has come. And there are numerous examples from across Latin America of catholic voices being at the forefront in work on peace, solidarity and social justice.

From colonial times, different indigenous belief systems have existed side by side with Catholicism and mixed with it in different forms of syncretism. For the last 30 years, Protestantism has become influential, and some charismatic movements are gaining ground both within catholic and protestant churches. While some have become instrumental politically, they have generally been more individualist and had less focus on political mobilization.

The Latin American reality, both historically and contemporarily, is crucial in order to understand the reaction from progressive religious-based actors and movements. Poverty with its roots in the glaring inequality of the region, and the immense suffering it brings about have resulted in a serious quest for explanations and analysis, as well as the presentations of concrete alternatives.


Opening and welcome

Benedicte Bull & Hans-Egil Offerdal

The challenge of liberation to thinking about politics and poverty and social justice

From theology and philosophy to the politics of liberation

By Enrique Dussel, Metropolitian Autonomous University (UAM), Mexico

Against all winds: past and present challenges to the liberation theology’s thinking about justice and poverty

By Sturla Stålsett, General Secretary, the Church City Mission/Guest Researcher, University of Glasgow


Anne Stensvold, Professor, History of Religion, University of Oslo

Bernt Gulbrandsen, CARITAS

Social justice and new religious movements

The competition for the souls of the poor: the challenge from new religious movements

By Fortunato Mallimaci, University of Buenos Aires

Comments. Non-catholic religious movements in Latin America and the commitment to social justice and the poor

Arnhild Helgesen, PhD Researcher, School of Mission and Theology

Maren Christensen Bjune, PhD Researcher, Department of Comparative Politics, University of Bergen

Lars Kirkhusmo Pharo, Research Associate, Harvard University and Claremont Graduate University.

General debate

Language: English

Video by SAIFF

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