Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Message of the 36th Theology Congress of the Asociación Teólogica Juan XXIII

Asociación Teólogica Juan XXIII (English translation by Rebel Girl)

From September 8th to 11th, 2016, we held the 36th Theology Congress which brought together people and groups from different continents, peoples, cultures, and religions to reflect on the subject "Migrants, refugees, and borders: From exclusion to hospitality." Social activists involved in the refugee camps and border areas participated in it, bringing their experiences. Representatives of oppressed and neglected peoples joined us. We had specialists in international relations, migratory processes, human trafficking, gender theory, as well as men and women theologians who gave critical analyses of the situation and offered liberating interpretations of the religious texts.

1. In the world, there are 200 million migrants, 60 million displaced persons -- 2 million of them refugees and 40 million internally displaced, and 4 million victims of trafficking. The most vulnerable people are the boys, girls, women, gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transsexuals, intersex persons, submitted to all sorts of indignities: sexual harassment, physical assaults, human trafficking, organ trafficking, forced labor, prostitution, gender violence. They are nameless and faceless people without any recognized identity. They experience social, political, moral and legal solitude. They are denied dignity and the right to life, as is demonstrated by the thousands of people who have died in the legitimate attempt to cross borders.

 2. In Pope Francis' words, these people are considered "surplus population," product of the "throw-away culture" that makes us incapable of feeling compassion before the cries of others. They are victims of a system based on the Money God, of perverse capitalism, and Mafia-like capital accumulation. Those who benefit from this situation are a political, economic, patriarchal, colonial, racist and anti-environmental elite who set in motion three big businesses: security, the political economy of migration, and the management of people in movement.

 3. Despite the discrimination they suffer, immigrant, refugee and displaced women have shown a great capacity for resistance, resilience, and empowerment.

 4. The welcoming countries are mostly the countries of the south, while most of those in the north have closed and bolted their doors. They protect their borders with fences, concertina wire, police and military force, denying the right to asylum. They follow mistaken security policies, do not comply with international protocols and their own commitments, and don't demonstrate the will to be welcoming.

5. The lack of solidarity of the Northern governments contrasts with the solidarity shown by an important part of society that is adopting attitudes of hospitality, and with the work of the social movements, non-governmental organizations, and cooperating individuals, who are working together in the refugee camps and on the borders.

6. Pope Francis is adopting exemplary attitudes of accompaniment and welcome, at the same time as he is denouncing the hypocrisy of the European rulers and economic and financial powers. Addressing them during his visit to Lampedusa, he uttered the word "shame." He told the European parliamentarians that it was intolerable that the Mediterranean was becoming a vast cemetery and that those who arrive daily on our shores are being denied welcome, often dying in the attempt in the barges. To act this way is to deny their dignity and favor slave labor.

7. The pope's hospitable attitude contrasts with the insensitivity of an important sector of the Spanish Catholic hierarchy towards the tragedy of migrants and refugees, whose problems seem to be alien to them and not a priority on their pastoral agenda. In addition to insensitivity, there are bishops who, acting under a misuse of freedom of expression, adopt racist, xenophobic, exclusionary and inhospitable attitudes when they irresponsibly warn of the refugee "invasion", question whether all people who cross the border are "squeaky clean" and state that few are coming to Europe because they are being persecuted. One even said that the arrival of the refugees is the Trojan Horse of European societies and, specifically, the Spanish one, and that welcoming refugees could look very good, but "you have to know what's behind it."

These statements are made from legal impunity and the enjoyment of all kinds of privileges from the state -- educational, social, fiscal, economic, financial. Privileges that distance them from the Gospel as the liberating message of Jesus of Nazareth.

8. We want to energetically denounce such declarations that show a total absence of mercy and a lack of sense of hospitality. They are far from the hospitable message of the Bible which asks us to love migrants, not abuse or oppress them "because you were migrants in the land of Egypt" (Ex. 22:21) and they are contrary to the welcoming practice of Jesus of Nazareth, himself persecuted, migrant, and identified with migrants (Mt. 25:31-45).

9. In the name of the God of Life and Peace we condemn terrorism, in this case the terrorism that claims to be based on religious motives and kills in the name of God, causing the exodus of entire populations to flee the terror.

10. We demand that the Nations:
  • comply with international protocols in the matter of immigration, refuge, and displacement;
  • open safe routes that keep people from falling into the nets of the mafias;
  • not participate in the business of arms sales which are used to support terrorism and dictatorial governments;
  • fight institutional racism; deny legitimacy to corrupt and autocratic rulers;
  • support the humanitarian organizations that are working on the ground;
  • further development policies in the countries of origin;
  • fulfill their promises of refuge;
  • promote intercultural, interfaith and inter-ethnic dialogue.

11. The Congress wants to express its solidarity with oppressed and neglected peoples like the Kurds, the Palestinians, and the Saharans, who are being denied their right to independence and subjected to all sorts of indignities. All of them have numerous migrants, refugees, and displaced persons.

12. We who have participated in this Theology Congress commit ourselves to:

  • fight against the ideology and the economic system that are causing the exclusion of millions of people;
  • denounce the systematic violation of the human rights of "people in movement" by the governments;
  • work for a different and more hospitable world to be possible;
  • follow the solidary practice of Jesus of Nazareth;
  • make a new theology of migration;
  • move from exclusion to hospitality.

In Madrid, September 11, 2016

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Teresa Forcades, the revolutionary Catalan feminist theologian, says: "We are all different!"

by Sabina Caligiani (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Female WOR{l}D (in Italiano)
September 23, 2016

That women of all times have left an unmistakable and indelible mark on history beyond recognition in their returns, is beyond any doubt, and today, increasingly, the feminine is emerging in the international cultural scene. It's the case for Teresa Forcades, a feminist theologian among the most original and trendy of the Catholic world in talking about burning issues such as the role of women, divorce, abortion, and homosexuality which she addresses from a theological point of view.

A Benedictine nun from Catalonia, she has been out of the cloister for a year, with Vatican dispensation, to also deal with politics, to support the independence of Catalonia with the movement she founded, "Procés Constituent." Actually, she feels she is a revolutionary against violence, in sustaining the concept that society should be changed radically and recognizing the work of feminist pioneers, strenuous fighters for their rights in society and in the Church.

Teresa Forcades talks about this in her interview-book, "SIAMO TUTTI DIVERSI! Per una teologia queer" ["WE ARE ALL DIFFERENT!: For a queer theology"], by Cristina Guarnieri and Roberta Trucco (Castelvecchi, 2016), which will be launched on October 3rd at Casa Internazionale delle Donne in Rome at 7:30 p.m. Present at the event will be theologian Marinella Perroni, former president of the Coordinamento delle Teologhe italiane [Association of Italian Women Theologians], whom I have asked for a personal reflection about this publication.

Photo: Theologians Teresa Forcades (L) and Marinella Perroni (R)

Can you explain the origin and meaning of "for a queer theology"?

In reality it's not easy, because it's a term that, wishing to embrace the maximum of diversity, has in itself the impossibility to be confined in one definition. I would say that the application of queer theory, that is, an anthropological and social perspective able to explain sexuality and gender differences critically, to theology leads to deepening and at the same time making more specific the human reality with ever greater respect for all differences. This implies attention to the human subject, a partner in the revelation of God and in the relationship with God, considered from their real sexual diversity, no longer forced, that is, into stereotypical male-female duality, but open to a diversity of inclinations (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender). It is, basically, an application of the criteria of liberation theology, a liberation understood as a promise from God and as a practice of freedom before God, for all individual human subjects understood and respected based on their most profound particular traits, those related to sexual development.

How and when did you meet Teresa Forcades? Can you briefly outline the spiritual and human profile of this singular Benedictine nun?

I don't really remember exactly. I got to visit her monastery of San Benet in Montserrat, near Barcelona, several times. But, above all, I've shared with her the engagement in ESWTR (European Society of Women in Theological Research), the association of European women involved in various capacities in theological research.

In her book "La teologia femminista nella storia" ["Feminist theology in history"], Teresa Forcades speaks of women's right to self-determination in general, the role of women in the Catholic world, and her thoughts on gender are expressed...

Teresa is capable of neat and clear judgments, but she can accompany them with careful nuancing. It would do injustice to her thought, which ranges competently in two major areas of knowledge -- medicine and theology -- and which always moves in a politically inflected horizon, if it were reduced to a few lines. With her, you have to engage and debate. You may not agree, but from the encounter with her, one always comes out with an increased desire to move forward in reflection. Even with respect to the feminism-(Catholic) Church relationship, Teresa has always tried to open roads, never close them. The fact that sometimes she has found herself a bit farther ahead a bit earlier than others, is only because she intuits the roads along which our future will pass.

In your opinion, how fair is Teresa Forcades' analysis of feminist theology in relation to still unresolved matters, whether within the Church or in the contemporary political debate?

What could be fairer today than openly confronting -- within the Church and theology too -- the problems that are crucial for a truly human quality of our lives? There's no need to lock Teresa Forcades in her answers, as debatable as those of any woman (or any man) who today tries to remain faithful to the gospel in a Church that is so hard to open up to the complexity of the human being. Rather, there is a need to be challenged by her questions and share with her the desire to always seek new answers.