Spring Academy of Religion Considers the Plight of the Oppressed

Four-part lecture series to be held weekly between March 29 and April 19

March 22, 2012 by John Finn

WOOSTER, Ohio — The insightful but often silent voices of the oppressed will finally be heard when The College of Wooster’s Spring Academy of Religion presents “Pedagogy from the Oppressed: Wisdom and Vision from the Underside.” The four-part series, which is free and open to the public, will be held each Thursday from March 29-April 19 beginning at 7:30 p.m. each evening. The first, second, and fourth lectures will be held in Lean Lecture Room of Wishart Hall (303 E. University St.). The third lecture will take place in Gault Recital Hall of Scheide Music Center (525 E. University St.).

“The current world order has been and is being built on the exploitation and oppression of the vast majority of the world’s peoples,” says Charles Kammer, The James F. Lincoln Professor of Religious Studies at Wooster and academic dean of the academy. “Fifty percent of the world’s people have an average income of less than $2.50 a day. This low standard of living allows for the production of low cost goods, which benefits the world’s affluent.”

The numbers are, indeed, staggering. For example, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the world’s 41 poorest countries is less than the combined wealth of the world’s seven richest persons, according to Kammer. In addition, 10 percent of the world’s people own 85 percent of the world’s assets, while the poorest 50 percent own just one percent. An estimated one of every two children in the world lives in poverty and one in four is chronically malnourished, with five children dying each minute of the day from the effects of malnourishment. Women bear the brunt of this exploitation. Despite making up 52 percent of the world’s population, they control just one percent of its wealth, and they account for 70 percent of the world’s poor.

“These realities make it clear that the issue truly is one of moral leadership,” says Kammer. “Blinded by their own power and privilege, the champions of globalization have failed to truly see the immorality of a system in which the suffering of crucified peoples is the hidden cost of others affluence.”

The lecture series will not only address these issues but also feature speakers whose own histories, cultures, and identities allow them to speak for those who have been excluded.

The first lecture will be held on March 29, when Ada Maria Isasi Diaz, professor of ethics and theology at Drew University Theological School, presents “Mujerista Theology: A Preferred Future of Justice and Peace.” The following week (April 5), Michael E. Livingston director for the National Council of Churches Poverty Initiative, will discuss “Dreaming in Color, Living in Black and White.”

The series continues on April 12, when Wooster’s Theologian-in-Residence, Kwok Pui Lan, the William F. Cole Professor of Theology and Spirituality at the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Mass., addresses “Occupy Religion: Theology of the Multitude” in Gault Recital Hall of Scheide Music Center, and concludes on April 19 when Kammer presents “The Crucified People: No Salvation Except through the Poor” in Lean Lecture Room of Wishart Hall.

“The voices of those who have been victimized and silenced must be heard,” says Kammer. “The privileged elite must hear and understand the deep suffering that is at the core of the globalization process. Only then can they be persuaded to adopt a different course, to put at the forefront the well being of all peoples and the earth itself, rather than corporate profit, national power, and the accumulation of wealth by the few.”

Additional information about the Spring Academy of Religion is available by phone (330-263-2473) or e-mail.