World Council of Churches -
Contact: + 41 22 791 6153 +41 79 507 6363
For immediate release:
30 November 2006
Theologians to discuss cruelty, the ugly face of violence
What does cruelty have to do with theology? Some 25 theologians from all over the world will gather on 5-8 December in Crêt-Bérard (near Lausanne, Switzerland), to discuss why and to what extent cruelty can be considered as a new theme for theological reflection.
It seems the issue could not be more urgent. The treatment of political detainees in Iraq and Guantanamo, Lebanon caught between Hezbollah and Israel, current and past genocides, atrocities against the Dalits, the use of rape as a war weapon, various forms of terrorism and counter-terrorism, torture, xenophobia and racism, domestic violence - all are instances where cruelty shows its ugly face.
What is cruelty? Is it a truly new theological
What does it do to the humanity of the victim as well as of the perpetrator? How does cruelty make reconciliation a hard and complex process as its "contagious" trauma results in endless cycles of violence? And most important, how can churches respond to the different manifestations of cruelty?
Organized by the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), the gathering of theologians will address the issue of cruelty beyond its common portrayal as a mere behavioural trait - a perspective which relegates it to the realm of psychology. They will focus on the often ignored fact that cultures, traditions as well as social, economical and political structures have themselves been cruel, as well as creating an ethos that "enables" people to become cruel.
Twelve case studies from different contexts and perspectives will provide the basis for theological debate. The studies are about terrorism and counter-terrorism, torture, genocide, apartheid, racism, rape used as weapon, sex trafficking, military occupation, casteism, and violence against women.
In all these cases, discussion will focus on lessons from communities struggling in and resisting situations of cruelty, in order to explore a new theology of the cross which, overcoming victimhood, encompasses kindness, mercy and forgiveness, and enables churches to respond to the phenomenon with a renewed understanding of reconciliation.
The consultation "A theological reflection on cruelty, the ugly face of violence" is part of WCC Faith and Order work to facilitate theological reflection on peace within the context of its Decade to Overcome Violence.
A list of the presenters and their papers is available at:
Michael Reid Trice
+1-800-638-3522 ext. 2613
+41-22-791-6422 +41-78-686-7771 (mobile)
Juan Michel,+41 22 791 6153 +41 79 507 6363
The World Council of Churches promotes Christian unity in faith, witness and service for a just and peaceful world. An ecumenical fellowship of churches founded in 1948, today the WCC brings together 349 Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican and other churches representing more than 560 million Christians in over 110 countries, and works cooperatively with the Roman Catholic Church. The WCC general secretary is Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, from the [Lutheran] Church of Norway. Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland.