Monday, April 6, 2015

#BlackLivesMatter and Theology in St. Louis

Dr. Peter Slade will be a speaker at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis for its City Ministry Spring Conference. This year’s theme is “Welcome One Another: Racial Identity in Christ.”

An article on the conference in the online magazine of the Presbyterian Church in America explains:
Greg Perry, associate professor of New Testament, and Dean of Students Mike Higgins are organizing the conference, and this year’s theme stems from events less than 17 miles away in Ferguson, Missouri. In the aftermath of the shooting of Michael Brown and the protests the teen’s death sparked, Higgins and Perry worked to foster conversations between white and black Christians.
Dr. Slade said, "I am  humbled to be invited and excited to attend the conference." He will be giving two lectures, "Holistic Discipleship: John Perkins, African American Missionary to the White Evangelical Church" and "A Theology of Intercultural Congregational Singing."

To find out more about the conference click on this link

Participants in the Mourning March, St. Louis, April 4, 2015. photo: Steve Pavey

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Reflections on Terrorism from Kenya

Dr. Sue Dickson is spending this semester in Kenya. Yesterday she offered her observations and reflections on the terrorist attack on Garissa University on her personal travel blog -- I don't think she will mind me re-posting it here:
Thursday morning, on the way to Kibera, we heard about the terrorist attack in Garissa on the radio. Al Shabaab terrorists from Somalia (perhaps living in Dodo, a Somali refugee camp in Northeastern Kenya) had arrived for morning prayers at the University of Garissa and begun shooting randomly. There are ~800 students at the school (mostly boarders). About 500 ran for their lives when they heard the shots. They were quickly rounded up and accounted for by the authorities but won’t be released to their parents until tomorrow morning. The staff was accounted for and alive. 142 students were killed and 5 security personnel. 79 were wounded—some when they jumped out of second story windows to get away. About 70 students were hostages for about 17 hours until the terrorists were killed. Many have been flown to Nairobi for medical treatment. Two of Grace and Paul’s home-children attend Garissa University. We didn’t know until about 8:00 P.M. that they were safe. Nairobi, all of Kenya, is stunned; angry; devastated. The sadness is visible in people’s faces.
Kenya is no stranger to terrorist attacks. The ‘Westgate Mall Attack’ is Kenya’s 9/11 and there is a memorial in downtown Nairobi where the U.S. embassy used to stand until the attack of 2007. There have been many other attacks—bombs thrown on buses; suicide bombers in public places; random shootings; slit throats. We hear about Boko Haram and Al Qaeda and ISIL in the states but Al Shabaab is the group that Kenyans are facing. They are a Somali group that tried to affiliate with Al Qaeda but were rejected. That’s why the Kenyan Christians I’ve met are passionately angry toward Muslims—without exception. They are convinced that Islam is a violent, aggressive, intolerant religion that must be wiped out. There is no room for a shift in perspective. They live in a different world from mine. Apparently, the terrorists on Thursday asked students what their religion was and then shot them. Talking about inter-religious dialogue, and religious tolerance, and the difference between terrorists and true Muslims here is like shouting into outer space—it only makes you hoarse. Kenyan Christians are afraid. Actually, they have good reason to be afraid. In fact, I suspect lots of Kenyan Muslims are afraid, too. It wasn’t just Christian students who were murdered yesterday… I truly understand the fear and frustration and the reflexive desire for revenge and aggression and self-preservation. If my college students had been shot dead by Al Shabaab my views on tolerance might become something different.
Kenya has a long porous border with Somalia in the northeast. And, although they are building a wall in the most dangerous corner, and have armed guards patrolling the length, that doesn’t stop terrorists. Kenyan politicians are calling for the closing of the Dodo camp and the ousting of all Somalis from Kenya. But, the huge majority of refugees in the camp are the people fleeing Al Shabaab—kicking them out won’t help anything. The government doesn’t know what to do. The citizens don’t know what to do. Faithful pastors I worked with yesterday don’t know what to do. How do we ‘love these enemies’? What does that look like in this context? One pastor said, ‘Let’s let the army wipe them out and we’ll love them later.’ Another suggested that ‘loving one’s enemy doesn’t include loving evil and these people are evil and must be eliminated before they eliminate us’. I hear paranoid, generalized remarks about Muslims (lumping all Muslims with terrorists) with frequency here. Things such as: ‘Money is pouring in from Saudi Arabia to build mosques. You see one in every neighborhood and small town. We have to stop it.” And ‘They want us to respect them, but they don’t respect us. They just want to kill, kill, kill. We need to stop being so tolerant.’ That’s the gist. At first I was stunned. I tried to prod and offer alternative interpretations. But, after yesterday, I’m thinking I may have no right to respond at all. And then, I realized…
Today is Good Friday…
Lord, help us to embody the mercy and forgiveness you embodied on the cross. Help us to love one another as you have loved us. Lord, remember us when you come into your kingdom.