Introducing Liberation Theology – Contexts, challenges, and the human experience

Context – A globalized world of inequality and Latin America
The decline, fall, and fragmentation of the Soviet Union by the end of the Cold War is highlighted by political scientists as one of the most significant turning points in the advent of a unipolar and globalized world. Without the Soviet Union, the once bipolar or multipolar international system disappeared in favor of a more unpredictable unilateral system – with the United States the sole superpower. In the two decades following the end of the Cold War, globalization and its increase in communication and new technology has made state borders all but irrelevant. With all of its advantages, globalization has also had shockingly negative consequences.

Challenges – The poverty of the Global South
The widening gap between the world’s rich and the world’s poor is astonishing in its severity. The world’s prevalent economic system thrives on free markets and exploitation, with the majority of the world’s manufacturing exported to pockets of cheap labor in the already impoverished Global South. Latin America sits squarely in this “Global South,” the collective of states formerly known as the Third World and trapped in the snare of underdevelopment in an era of globalization. And yet, from Latin America has emerged one of the strongest modern voices of Christian theology.

Human experience – The reclaiming of dignity
Liberation theology in Latin America emerges out of the very inequality that threatens the human dignity of communities in the region. It is a theology that seeks to respond to such inequality with a call for justice. Planted in the church is a seed of change which prompts the most vulnerable “to live their faith in an integral way, and hence to reclaim their rights” (Comblin, 72). In a world of severe inequality, the Christian message speaks truth to power with its preference for the poor and its recognition of dignity in the most vulnerable. In Christian communities in Latin America, theology is liberated from the hands of the privileged and wealthy few. In its liberation, theology is a language for and speaks of the deep trauma and suffering of a people in a particular historical context.

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