Posted on April 16, 2010


Violence in the democratic South Africa: 

A challenge to theology and the churches

10-12 August 2010 at University of Pretoria 

The high incidence of violence in the present democratic South African society does not only pose a serious challenge to the government but also to theology and the churches. The churches are carriers of the peace message of Jesus Christ and have the responsibility to respond to conflict and violence in personal and social life. Theology has the responsibility to critically reflect on the implications of this peace message for situations of conflict and violence in all spheres of life.  At this point of time we strongly need clear theological thinking and guidance on the violence in our society.  We, however, also strongly need a comprehensive and effective response by the churches to the different manifestations of violence.

To address this challenge the Centre for Public Theology of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Pretoria is organising a national conference from Tuesday 10 to Thursday 12 August.  The conference will deal with the following three sub-themes: 

1          The nature and causes of violence in South Africa

2          Engaging violence theologically

3          The churches’ contribution in combating violence. 

Prof Wolfgang Huber, who just retired at the end of 2009 as chairperson of the council of the EKD, the Evangelical Church in Germany, has been invited as keynote speaker. He is a renowned theologian who wrote a groundbreaking book on violence.  He will give a public address on the topic “Religion and violence in a globalised world” and another on the topic “Overcoming violence – A basic task of Christian churches”.

Representatives of a number of centres and institutes in South Africa dealing with the study of conflict and violence have also been invited to inform those who attend the conference on the nature and causes of violence in South Africa.

The rest of the programme of the conference, however, is at this stage quite open.  We call on theologians and church leaders who would like to read a paper at the conference to submit to us before the end of April 2010 at the e-mail address [email protected] the topic and a brief abstract.  They can either contribute to the sub-theme “Engaging violence theologically” or the sub-theme “The churches’ contribution in combating violence”.

With regard to the sub-theme  “Engaging violence theologically”: we invite papers that will, in one way or another, contribute to theological reflection on the causes, meaning, impact of and appropriate response to especially public manifestations of violence (criminal, police, relating to civil unrest,  xenophobic) in South Africa, drawing on different sources (the Bible, confessional and theological traditions, philosophy, literature).  

With regard to the sub-theme “The churches’ contribution in combating violence”: we invite papers on any of the following contributions by churches:

  • Facilitating reconciliation between groups
  • Contributing to the healing of victims of violence
  • Modeling peaceful existence
  • Educating for peace (preparing members to play a constructive role in promoting peace in SA)
  • Witnessing prophetically against inadequate government measures in combating violence and against groups and individuals instigating violence
  • Advocacy for groups and individuals experiencing material need, discrimination, alienation, oppression or violence

Those who have responded to the call for papers will be informed before the end of May whether they were allotted a slot on the programme of the conference.  (Each of the speakers at the conference will be allotted 30 minutes to read his/her paper to allow enough time for discussion).

We at the Centre sincerely hope that theologians representing all the theological disciplines will respond enthusiastically and actively to our call for papers.  The challenge violence in our democratic South African society poses to theology and the churches should not go unheeded.

Etienne de Villiers

Director: Centre for Public Theology

University of Pretoria          


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