When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why they are poor, they call me a communist
4th November 2019
For me one of the most interesting parts of my Theology degree, was the study of a group of people known as the Liberation Theologians of Latin America and I’m pleased to say they are now included on the A Level Religious Studies syllabus. These were a group of Christians who wanted to emphasise Jesus as the liberator of the poor and oppressed. It wasn’t without critics both inside and outside of the church because it suggested that Christians needed to engage in changing the structures of society that cause poverty and not just seek to alleviate suffering through charitable works. The question is how far should religion involve itself in politics? Some may say ‘not at all’, while others would insist that politics is putting ethics into action and no person of faith should fail to engage politically in pursuit of a more just society. Such is the view of the current Archbishop of Canterbury who, on reflecting about the forthcoming general election, said that before Christians vote they should consider how particular policies within all parties will impact on the poorest in society. Whatever our political leaning, this surely is worthy of careful reflection.
The author of our quotation this week is Helder Camara, a Brazilian Roman Catholic Archbishop (1964-85) who was nicknamed the ‘Bishop of the slums’ because of his work amongst the poor and advocacy for human rights and democracy. He preached the Gospel of Liberation and often found himself in conflict with official Roman Catholic Church teaching, which criticised him for meddling in politics. For Camara and other ‘Liberation theologians’ engagement in politics is integral to a life of faith. The legacy of Helder Camera is still debated, but amongst the poorest he was most definitely considered a saint and not a sinner.
Mrs Christine Crossley