I. AFRICAN AMERICAN CHURCHES AND THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT
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Five Case Studies 65 by charismatic leaders. A typical example is Bishop Desmond Tutu, who spoke out boldly and courageously against the repressive government. 5. FIVE CASE STUDIES The fourth case study is taken from India. The Chipko environmental movement in the early 1970s fits the criteria of a Having completed a brief overview of the ideological elements of resistance movement that rode the wings of religious ideology. It could social justice in three major religions, it is now fitting to describe five not have gotten off the ground without the women, who considered the case studies of actual transformation of social structures: three of them forests sacred and were the real backbone of the movement. relating to Christianity, one to Islam and one to Hinduism. Nevertheless, religious-minded leaders like Sunderlal Bahuguna were These are the five case studies: 1) African American Churches instrumental in the movement gathering momentum and becoming a and the Civil Rights Movement in the US in the 1960s; 2) Small pioneer model for ecological consciousness in India. Ecclesial Communities and the Revolution in Nicaragua in the late Finally, turning to the Islamic religion, the case of the Shiite 1970s; 3) Christian organisations and the collapse of Apartheid in revolution in Iran can be cited, which took everyone by surprise. The South Africa in the 1990s; 4) Ethos and Ecology in India from the Shiite ideology (with its Karballa processions) played a dominant role; 1970s; and 5) Shiite Islam and the Iranian revolution of 1979. On the clergy network did all the grassroots work, while Khomeini was examining these case studies, a number of common factors emerge in the inspirational religious leader, even though in exile. The heavy- bringing about structural change: (1) the importance of religious handed despotic measures initiated by the Shah government and his ideology; (2) religious organisations as catalytic agents; (3) the secret service triggered the mass movement that eventually toppled it. presence of charismatic religious leaders; and (4) repression from the State. In all the mentioned case studies, these four factors are present I. AFRICAN AMERICAN CHURCHES AND to a greater or lesser extent. Thus, in the American civil rights THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT movement, the network of African American church organisations One example of how religion affects social concerns is the Civil became an important focus and rallying point, abetted by the Rights Movement in the United States in the 1960s. No doubt there predominance of charismatic religious orators like Martin Luther King, were many factors which led to the Civil Rights Movement of the and the use they made of rousing religious images and symbols based 1960s, but chief among them are the roles played by the African on the Bible. American Churches and the SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership In the Nicaraguan revolution, nearly all the authors admit that the Conference), the Baptist ministers and the electrifying nature of the revolution could not have taken place without the catalytic role played religion they preached. The ministers made use of their sermons, by the Small Christian Communities. Here too, cultural symbols of testimonies and songs to inspire and motivate their African American resistance like Nicaraguan art and music were used to “conscientise” congregations towards discontent over the three issues of bus the people. The movement really took off when the government began segregation, voting rights and school segregation. The Churches its measures of repression and torture. Lastly, the vast number of clergy became rallying points for the African American communities and the in the post-revolutionary Sandinista government is an indication of SCLC became an umbrella organisation that brought together the their crucial role. individual Churches so that they could develop into a mass-based In South Africa’s collapse of Apartheid, Christian organisations, movement. The African American Churches could thus be called both Catholic and Protestant, played significant roles. They were led the institutional center of the civil rights movement.1 66 The Sources of Social Commitment Five Case Studies 67 The Role of the Churches and the SCLC an activist of the Montgomery bus boycott, SCLC historian. Of the The African American Church was the organisational hub of life. remaining 7 board members, 4 more were preachers: Andrew Young, It was an outlet for social and artistic expression, a forum for the Wyatt Walker, C.T. Vivian and Hosea Williams. Thus, the discussion of important issues, and an environment that fostered and overwhelming majority of the SCLC’s original leadership were people trained potential leaders. Free from the control of whites, it provided of the cloth. support and direction for the diverse activities of an oppressed group. Many of these African American ministers were strong, magnetic In the urban areas too, African American Churches functioned as the personalities with tremendous charisma and oratorical skills. They main community center and thus became organisations of considerable were crowd pullers. They could easily use their charisma to galvanise social power. crowds. Martin Luther King was the most dynamic of them. “You The ministers of these African American Churches were linked by can’t do anything without people and Reverends King and Abernathy an interdenominational alliance, which became the foundation for the could get the people. Martin Luther King’s great leadership came from SCLC and the beginning of the mass-based movement. “Since the the fact that he was able to get more warm bodies in the street at one NAACP (National American Association of Coloured Persons) was time than anybody else we’ve ever seen in American history.”4 This like waving a red flag in front of some Southern whites, a new was a very important factor that led to the building up of the mass organisation was needed that would do the same thing and yet be called movement. a Christian organisation.”2 This new organisation was the SCLC. The Role of the ‘Cultural Content’ of Their Religion The first meeting of the SCLC, called by Bayard Rustin in Jan. Even more, African American ministers gradually revised the 1957 at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, included Martin Luther cultural content of their religion. Since the Churches reach large King and his supporters, many of whom were churchmen. The meeting numbers of people simultaneously, changing attitudes by refocusing comprised religious ministers and leaders of the various local boycott the cultural content of Church religion can be much more effective movements. In a way, the SCLC was the decentralised, radical arm of than changing the attitudes of individuals on a one-on-one basis. the African American Churches. For the first half of the 20th century, most African American The Role of the Religious Ministers/Leaders Churches taught that the meek would inherit the earth; that God loved The idea of the SCLC was to harness the untapped power of the the dispossessed and would give them just rewards. African Americans Church against racial discrimination, and this is evident from the lived in the hope (of the beatitudes) that God would judge the ‘white’ number of clergymen in the leadership.3 Eight out of the 9 leaders oppressor according to his wicked deeds. A good Christian was more were religious ministers: Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., leader of the concerned with perfecting his or her spiritual life than with material Montgomery bus boycott, President; Rev. C. K. Steele, leader of the well-being. It was a religion of soothing and containment, as Marx Tallahassee bus boycott, first Vice-President; Rev. A. L. Davis, leader called it, an opiate of the masses. in the bus protest of New Orleans, second Vice-President; Rev. Samuel The SCLC and its leaders (especially King) began using religion Williams, leader in the desegregation of Atlanta buses, third Vice- as a dynamic force for social change. Using the vocabulary of the President; Rev. T. J. Jamison, a leader of the first mass bus boycott in “social gospel” movement and symbols and songs from the Exodus Baton Rouge in 1953, Secretary; Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, leader of and its liberation themes (e.g., sermons on Moses leading the people the mass direction action movement in Birmingham, Corresponding out of the desert, songs like ‘we shall overcome’, etc.), they inspired Secretary; Rev. Ralph Abernathy, a leader in the Montgomery bus perceptions and a vision which moved the masses in the direction of boycott, Treasurer; and Rev. Kelly Miller Smith, Nashville President revolution. They convinced the African American people that a good of the NAACP, Chaplain. The 9th leader was Mr. Lawrence Reddick, Christian was one who sought to change sinful social conditions.5 68 The Sources of Social Commitment Five Case Studies 69 Martin Luther King stated it strongly: “A religion true to its nature from malnutrition; 36% were unemployed; 73% lived in substandard must also be concerned about man’s social conditions… Any religion housing; over 50% were illiterate, reaching 90% in the rural areas; that professes to be concerned with the souls of men and is not concerned health care existed only for the wealthy and Nicaragua had one of the with the slums that damn them, the economic conditions that strangle, highest infant mortality rates in Latin America.9 and the social conditions that cripple, is a dry-as-dust religion.”6 2. The Birth of the Popular Church Summarising, it might be said that the key factors that played a role in the civil rights movement were the organisational network Prior to the 1960s, the masses were completely excluded from of the African American Churches, the inspirational role played Church life, since the clergy devoted most of their efforts to serving by the ministers and the motivational and ‘liberative’ content of the upper classes. Then, realising that they had lost the working class their sermons and services that were able to rouse their and the peasantry, many clerical and pastoral workers went to live congregations to be involved in social change. among the poor.10 Originally, the aim of these pastoral workers was to bring the poor back to the Church, but their efforts resulted in a new understanding of ‘Church’. Pastoral workers, along with the II. CEBS AND THE NICARAGUAN REVOLUTION peasants and workers, began interpreting the Bible in the light of One of the biggest contributions made by religion in social and people’s distressing social and political experiences. This led them political issues has been the involvement of the Communidades to question and analyse these experiences. The entire process, called Ecclesiales de Base (CEBs) in the Nicaraguan revolution. Unlike conscientisation, spurred them on to new interpretations that stimulated the revolutions of Mexico and Cuba, the Nicaraguan revolution was them to organise themselves politically. This was the beginning of carried out with the active support and participation of the popular the popular Church and the growth of the CEBs. Christian Churches.7 The CEBs were a catalyst or intermediate organisation in the struggle against the Somoza dictatorship. They 3. The Origin and Growth of the CEBs transformed the Nicaraguan Catholics from a politically conservative, The CEBs in Nicaragua were initiated in two experimental religiously superstitious and fatalist group to a combative opposition communities. 1) Ernesto Cardenal, a Nicaraguan priest, founded a force.8 lay community on the Islas Solentiname in Lake Nicaragua. 2) About The CEBs trained many lay leaders, who were motivated by their the same time a Spanish missionary, Jose de la Jara, set up the “cursillos faith to take part in political action. These leaders joined the secular, of conscientisation” among the families in the Managua barrio, which political and militant organisations that eventually topple the Somoza became the basis of the CEBs in the parish of San Pablo Apostol. The dictatorship. Thus, the CEBs did more than simply contribute to the CEBs in San Pablo underwent a process of growing socio-political infra-structural improvement of the country: they implanted in the commitment. They began with organising popular protests against the poor a sense of empowerment. It was this sense of empowerment increase in bus fares and milk prices but later took on more radical that led CEB members to participate in the Revolution. Several factors issues ending with the overthrow of the Somoza dictatorship. The San contributed to this process. Pablo lay leaders were partly responsible for spreading the formation of CEBs in other poor barrios of Managua. 1. The Oppressive Situation Soon, religious sisters joined the CEB movement. In 1972, the The situation in Nicaragua in the 1960s was one of great disparity Sisters of the Assumption, who were witness to the corruption of the in wealth: on the one hand, there was the scandalous wealth and luxury government in the earthquake relief efforts, led their communities in of the few; on the other hand, there was the extreme poverty and the barrio of San Judas towards a prophetic interpretation of the misery of the majority. For instance, 60% of the Nicaraguans suffered gospel.11 Likewise, the Maryknoll sisters in the barrio of OPEN 3 70 The Sources of Social Commitment Five Case Studies 71 (Operacion Permanente de la Emergencia Nacional), now called Ciudad 5. Outreach to Rural People Sandino, equally angered by the gross corruption of the regime, The training of rural lay leaders was spearheaded by two religious developed CEBs with strong leaders. They organised protests for fair groups: the Capuchins and the Jesuits. The Capuchins initiated the water prices, electricity, a cemetery and regular bus services. Delegates of the Word Programme in Zelaya and Nueva Segovia and As a result of the progressive repression unleashed by the Somoza the Jesuits started the CEPA (Centro de Educacion y Promocion regime and the National Guard, the CEBs became more and more Agraria) in the Pacific region. political. Very soon, members of the CEBs started joining the ranks The Delegates of the Word. Because of limited resources, priests of the secular political organisations and became their most ardent could not go into the rural areas. In some parishes the ratio of priests and militant organisers. The main political organisation, the FSLN to lay persons was 1: 20,000.12 Hence, lay persons, called Delegates (Frente Sandinista Liberacion Nacional), welcomed this membership of the Word, were authorised to conduct bible studies, teach catechetics, from the CEBs. The FSNL considered the CEB members desirable and help organise the CEBs. The programme fostered local leadership candidates for political positions because of their leadership capabilities and developed political organisation in the rural communities. By and prestige within their communities. 1975 the Capuchins alone had trained over 900 delegates on the Atlantic 4. Support from the Hierarchy coast.13 The thousands of Delegates of the Word not only conducted CEB meetings, but were also the leaders of the peasant organisations. The growth of the CEBs and the popular Church received a They soon became more involved in political organisation and big boost from three sources: collaborating with the FSLN. a) Vatican II. The documents of Vatican II introduced new trends CEPA. Another significant contribution of the Church in political in the Church. They spoke of the need for the Church to be involved in action was initiated by the CEPA, the Center for Agrarian Education the world, they encouraged theology to make use of the social sciences, and Promotion. It was created by the Jesuits to train peasant leaders, and introduced the concepts of equality, collegiality and democratic initially in Carazo and Masaya, but later in the north as well from structures within the Church. Leon to Esteli. The farmers were led by biblical reflection to join the b) The Medellin Declaration. Three years after Vatican II, in struggle for their land rights. The regime reacted by measures of 1968, the Latin American bishops met at Medellin and analysed the repression. This only strengthened the ‘campesino’ organisation which oppressive socio-economic situation in Latin America. They termed it identified itself more strongly with the cause of rebellion. When the “social sin” or “institutionalised violence”; they stressed the need FSLN created the ATC (Asociacion de Tabajadores Campesinos) in for a new paradigm, and appealed to the Churches to make a 1977, key CEPA workers joined the ATC and became directors in the “preferential option for the poor”. organisation. In fact, the CEPA provided the ATC with pedagogic c) Liberation Theology. One very influential stimulus in the materials and audio-visual equipment and joined the protests against development and growth of the CEBs and their radical, political the strong-arm tactics used by the National Guard to remove the involvement in social change was the role played by Liberation peasants from their lands.14 By 1978 the CEPA was closely allied Theology. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that liberation with the Sandinista Front. theology and the CEBs mutually stimulated each other. This spontaneous movement of several educated theologians, who started 6. The Protestant Evangelicals “doing theology” from the concrete “oppressive” experiences of Latin The evangelical Churches too came together and formed CEPAD America, believed that the central Christian mission was not to (Comite Evangelico por Ayuda a los Damnificados). CEPAD held 60 proselytise vast numbers of people, but rather to struggle against meetings between 1974 and 1980 and brought together 300 pastors every form of social injustice. from three dozen denominations. The 23 CEPAD communities 72 The Sources of Social Commitment Five Case Studies 73 established throughout Nicaragua also joined the political organisation more active role in denouncing human rights abuses and demonstrating in favour of the rebellion. their solidarity with political prisoners and the victims of repression. The CEBs became increasingly radicalised and many of their 7. The Student Movements members participated in the insurrections of 1978 and 1979.16 In 1970 the students at the Jesuit Central American University 9. Cultural Expressions of Resistance challenged the ‘developmentalist’ orientation of the curriculum and its tacit support of the Somoza dictatorship. Students began to live in Music was one means of expressing resistance. Carlos Mejia the barrios in Managua’s Zona Oriental and to form neighbourhood Godoy, a FSLN supporter, wrote a Mass, known as ‘Misa Campesina associations for study and reflection, encouraging them to voice the Nicaraguense’, that was sung throughout the popular Church. It community’s social grievances. This student group became the nucleus articulated the resistance of the popular Church and the alternative of the MCR (Revolutionary Christian Movement), which served as a worldview of the poor.17 Art was another form by which the popular major pool for FSLN recruitment.15 Several of these students became Church generated its opposition to the Somoza regime. Pictures of the top leaders in the Sandinista Front and integrated a large number of resurrected Christ in black and red (the Sandinista colours) were often Christians in the revolutionary process. publicly displayed. After 1973, Christian youth groups formed other CEBs such as In sacramental liturgies too, the priests often referred to the in San Antonio Parish and a number of Catholic high schools. Students policies of Somoza as structural sin. In one description of a baptismal began the occupation of local parish churches, staging what amounted exorcism, the priest declared: “Let all selfishness, capitalism, to a Nicaraguan variant of the sit-in. In October and November 1970 Somocismo go out of this little girl.”18 The Church adopted more and in May 1971, Catholic students occupied the Cathedral in Managua and more egalitarian structures. The CEBs were not concerned with to protest human rights violations and the presence of the National “institutional pomp and rank” and treated everyone equally. Lay leaders Guard on Campus. Occupying the churches signalled to many people took on increasing responsibility for tasks previously performed only that priests and sisters were now developing solidarity in their by ordained priests; group dialogue often replaced the priests’ homilies opposition to Somoza. and women took on more and more leadership roles in the Church. 10. The Repression 8. Radicalisation of the CEBS Another significant factor that strengthened and radicalised the Initially, the CEBs studied the main problems of each barrio: water, members of the popular Church was the repression by the government. electricity, transportation, health, etc.; they started mobilising people The Capuchins collected data on the repression suffered by the people around these problems. Through a more political reading of the Bible, in the region. One documented case was the village of Sofano, which the people’s religious ideas were re-framed and connected to discussions was attacked by the National Guard in February 1976. The Guard about community problems. Gradually, the CEBs became community came with a list of names, and moved from one home to another, organisations dealing with the barrios’ problems and providing taking out the men, beating and torturing them in front of their families, leadership for them. and demanding that they give the names of guerilla supporters in the Between 1975 and 1977, a shift in emphasis occurred. The topics area. The men were then taken into the fields and executed. Many of the meetings changed. The CEBs analysed the national realities women and children were also killed, including one 8-year-old boy and discussed the alternatives to the situation of injustice and who was hanged and decapitated. Within two years, the Capuchins oppression. This led them to focus on the biblical theme of liberation documented the cases of 350 people who had been killed or simply and to debate the participation of Christians in the armed struggle disappeared.19 Many of these were Delegates of the Word and CEB and the type of liberation they were seeking. The CEBs also took a participants. 74 The Sources of Social Commitment Five Case Studies 75 Partly as a consequence of the repression, many CEB members and Africans. This racial characterisation determined all aspects of joined popular organisations and militant groups. The FSLN did not a person’s life (and life chances) from the time of birth until death – have a party structure through which they could work and the CEBs including residency, education, occupation, health benefits, even where often served as an organisational base and a place to meet and talk one could be buried. This led to gross discrimination. Black South with young people. “In a sense the parish became a cell of political Africans, who comprised 87% of the population, were forced to live action.”20 Members of the CEBs sheltered FSLN combatants in their on only 13% of the land. In the 1970s, the South African government homes and the alliance between the CEB members and the FSLN spent 14 times more on the education of a white child than on that of solidified during the insurrection. The participation of the members of the an African child. Through the creation of ethnically separate popular Church in the revolution was so significant that the Sandinistas “homelands”, black South Africans were stripped of their citizenship, published a communiqué on religion shortly after their triumph, in and forced to travel long distances to “white” South Africa where they which they acknowledged the role of Christians in the revolution. often worked. There they were deprived of all civil and human rights and were subject to massive harassment. Those who dared protest 11. The Role of Priests as Leaders these abuses were subject to repression, torture and often death.22 The role of priests and sisters in providing revolutionary leadership The collapse of apartheid was the result of a whole web of is also evident from a cursory glance at the list of the government circumstances, in which Church leaders and organisations played a positions they held after the Sandinistas came to power: Rev. Ernesto significant part. Even though they cannot be called “direct causal Cardinal, Minister of Culture, a Trappist monk who wrote “Gospel in elements”, it is difficult to conceive of apartheid falling apart without Solentiname”; Rev. Fernando Cardenal, Minister of Education, their contribution. Their impact can be compared to the role that Max animator of another CEB; Rev. Angel Barrajon, Director of the Weber attributes to the Protestant ethic in the rise of capitalism in Department of Human Resources of the Ministry of Agriculture; Rev. North America. Certain structures, both national and international, Miguel D’Escoto, Foreign Minister; Sr. Maria Hartman, Nicaragua needed to be present for apartheid to collapse, but given their presence, Commission for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights; Rev. religious leaders and organisations played a key part in triggering the Edgar Parrales, Minister of Social Health; and Jesuit Alvaro Arguello, fall of apartheid. Religion may not have been the only factor, but it ACLEN delegate (Association of Nicaraguan clergy) to the Council was the most prominent.23 of State.21 The Nicaraguan case study thus demonstrates that the following Religious Leaders and Organisations factors were among those responsible for successfully overthrowing The religious leaders were bold, courageous persons, who “spoke the Somozan regime: the religious organisation of the CEBs, the out” time and again against apartheid, calling it ‘a form of role of priests and sisters, the idiom of cultural expression, and institutionalised violence’. Their speeches attacked the excesses of ultimately the repressive measures of the Somoza regime which the government. Three of the many religious leaders, whose galvanised the Sandinista revolution. commitment to religion led them towards political involvement, should be singled out: Bishop Desmond Tutu of Cape Town, who won the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1984, and Archbishop Denis Hurley of Durban III. CHRISTIAN ORGANISATIONS AND APARTHEID (President of the SACBC, South African Catholic Bishops IN SOUTH AFRICA Conference), and his successor, Archbishop Wilfred Napier. Several The apartheid system, established in 1948, was a system of priests or ministers were also involved, many of whom were harassed institutionalised segregation. At the time of birth, each individual and persecuted, arrested and charged with high treason. Among the was classified in one of 4 racial groups – whites, coloureds, Indians more prominent were: Allan Boesak, Beyers Naude (General Secretary 76 The Sources of Social Commitment Five Case Studies 77 of the SACC, South African Council of Churches), Smangaliso Bishop Tutu replied: “The Bible and the Church predate Marxism… Mkhatshwa (General Secretary of the SACBC), Francis Chikane by several centuries; when laws are unjust, then Christian tradition (General Secretary of the Institute for Contextual Theology) and Jeffrey teaches that they do not oblige obedience.” He ended his letter to Chapman (the former Archbishop of Cape Town). President Botha with the words, “I work for God’s kingdom! With The two big religious organisations who were involved in the your apartheid policy, for whose kingdom do you work?”27 Through anti-apartheid movement were the SACC and the SACBC. Not content his preaching, Bishop Tutu was a beacon of hope for the African with publishing declarations, they were involved in action as well. people. He once said: “Nothing, not even the most sophisticated They organised campaigns, boycotts, protests and marches against weapon, not even the most brutally efficient police, will stop people the government and its policies. The government, on the other hand, once they are determined to achieve their freedom and their unleashed a series of repressive measures. According to Borer, its humanness.”28 acts of repression “spiralled” the Churches and their organisations Declarations, Reports and Conferences to get more and more involved. In fact, as the secular leaders were detained, jailed, exiled or killed, the Churches and their organisations Soon the South African government started oppressing the religious took an increasingly active role in protest and resistance. organisations because of their political involvement.29 Both the SACC and the SACBC periodically published a series of reports and Speaking Out declarations against apartheid policies, through which they In the early 1980s, Archbishop Denis Hurley in a public speech conscientised their members and the general public. In 1984, the attacked the new South African Constitution because it enshrined the SACBC and the SACC jointly published a report entitled Relocations, principle of apartheid. Again in 1983, he openly supported which detailed the number of people forcibly removed and relocated conscientious objection when the government started conscription. by the regime, the repressive measures used and the disastrous effects Testifying in the 1986 case of Philip Wilkinson, the conscientious on the lives of “forced” refugees. This report was translated into objector, Archbishop Hurley stated: “We are in a situation of unjust several languages and gained a lot of international attention. Then war, promoted by the SADF (South African Defence Force) against in 1985, the SACC officially called for “disinvestments and economic the oppressed people of South Africa.” He accused the South African sanctions” against the South African government, even though such government of perpetrating atrocities in Namibia and for this was open disavowal of patriotism was subject to a 10-year prison sentence. called to trial, the first time in 30 years that a Catholic Archbishop In September 1985, the South African theologians met and published had been tried anywhere in the world.24 the Kairos document, which challenged all Church organisations to adopt an overtly political level of action. Similarly, Bishop Desmond Tutu issued strong, provocative statements. He once told President Botha that his apartheid policies In December 1985, Church leaders from South Africa, under the were not only unjust and oppressive, but “unbiblical, unchristian, aegis of the WCC (World Council of Churches), held a consultation immoral, and evil”. 25 When the government established the Eloff in Harare, Zimbabwe, and published the Harare Declaration. This Commission to investigate the SACC finances and curtail its political declaration called on all Churches to support the movements working activities, Tutu, as the General Secretary, brazenly declared: “We will for the liberation of the country. Is also demanded an end to the state continue to do our work come hell or high water.”26 Bishop Tutu of Emergency and the release of all political prisoners, including Nelson moreover denounced the Population Registration Act and Group Areas Mandela. It even called on the international community to refuse to Act as ‘draconian’, and questioned the people’s obligation to obey finance South Africa’s foreign debt. Of the two organisations, the such unjust laws. When President Botha accused the SACC of being SACBC was more cautious. Nevertheless, it published a “Pastoral “communist” and “deforming religion through its liberation theology”, Letter on Economic Pressure for Justice”, stating that the time had 78 The Sources of Social Commitment Five Case Studies 79 come to be overtly political. In 1987, a Conference held in Lusaka, march since 1960. Similar protests were held in all the major cities Zambia, again under the auspices of the WCC, declared that the South and several rural areas. More than 350,000 people participated in African government and its colonial domination in Namibia was these marches. Organisations simply defied the ban. It was then that illegitimate. In 1988 when 17 anti-apartheid organisations were banned, Nelson Mandela and other ANC leaders were released. In the same the SACBC and the SACC produced a strong statement attacking the month, the SACC and SACBC declared the illegitimacy of the South ban. Finally in September 1989, the SACC and the SACBC sponsored African State and the apartheid regime gradually began to fall apart. a Conference at Harare in which they declared the moral, theological Thus, it can be said that the Church leaders and the Church and legal illegitimacy of the South African State. organisations, by unleashing a progressive barrage of speeches, joint declarations and protest actions, kept up continuous pressure Actions, Protests and Campaigns and were instrumental in bringing about the downfall of the The SACC and the SACBC were not satisfied with declarations Apartheid Regime. and publications. They joined the action and, as the government repression escalated against them, their actions grew more political and open. One of their overall stances was to boycott all institutions IV. HINDU/INDIAN ETHOS AND THE CHIPKO that were complice in accepting apartheid. Both organisations MOVEMENT (through their individual branches) even joined the UDF (United Democratic Front) and supported the ANC (African National The Ecological Movement in India Congress), both of which believed in open political protest. In 1984, India has one of the most vibrant environmental movements.30 they not only supported conscientious objection but also openly joined Some of the well-known protest groups that have moved the minds the End Conscription Campaign. In 1988, they organised the “Clerics and hearts of people in India are: the Chipko and Appiko movements, March to Parliament” where they petitioned the State President to (against deforestation); the movements against the construction of Big end the Emergency and lift the ban on several organisations. The march Dams: the Tehri Dam protest and the Save Narmada movement; the met with police opposition, bombardment by water cannons, and arrests movements to save coastal waters (against deep sea trawling and of clergy, which gained worldwide attention. There followed an against the prawn farms); the various urban movements that advocate exchange of letters between Tutu, Chikane and President Botha. Botha purer air in the cities (like the Clean Mumbai movement) and the Harit accused them of following the dictates of the ANC and SACP (South Vasai movement against chaotic building construction in Vasai. African Communist Party), to which Tutu and Chikane replied that Numerous Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in India the Communists never repressed the Church. are actively engaged in ecological issues. In the city of Mumbai alone, In May 1988, the SACC and the SACBC launched together the there are approximately 70 different organisations involved in SFT (Standing for the Truth Campaign), which encouraged the ecological and pollution issues. Numerous environmental activists have Churches to become the voice of the voiceless, and to take on a more received international awards like Baba Amte (the Templeton Prize), political, though non-violent role. The SFT campaign in turn led the Tom Kocherry of the National Fishworkers’ Forum (Pew Foundation Churches to join the Mass Democratic Movement’s Defiance Award), Medha Patkar (an Amnesty International Award) and Campaign in August 1989. The campaign was active in pickets, Sunderlal Bahuguna (the Right Livelihood Award). Words like marches, meetings and other acts of defiance during which Christians “sustainability” and “deforestation” have become common in the and others were beaten and detained. The State then banned all rallies. editorial pages of India’s newspapers. Hindu temples are actively The Churches responded by holding worship services. In September sponsoring tree planting. The Sri Venkateswara Devasthanam at 1989, the Church leaders led a Peace March, which was the largest Tirupati for example put out a flyer stating: “He who plants a tree is a 80 The Sources of Social Commitment Five Case Studies 81 servant of God!”31 Ecological sensitivity has undoubtedly become a To understand the strength of this consciousness against the “hot” topic in India. destruction of forests, we have to understand that deep down in the One sociological explanation for this rising ecological Hindu/Indian ethos, hilltops are dedicated to gods and are surrounded consciousness is the Indian or Hindu ethos,32 which embraces three by sacred groves.38 According to Vandana Shiva, forests are protected major themes. 1) The cosmos is understood as God’s body. Any kind because sacred trees are enshrined in them.39 This worship of trees of damage to a part of the cosmos is therefore like injuring the body of and plants dates back to the Indus valley civilisation.40 God. 33 2) There is an interconnectedness and a continuity of The Chipko movement gradually expanded to embrace issues of consciousness in all living beings – humans, animals and plants. 3) wider ecological concern, viz., the protection of the Himalayan Flowing from these two principles, the Hindu/Indian ethos imbues environment in all its aspects, including the protest against the with a sacred reverence and sacrality all beings: trees, forests, construction of the Tehri Dam at the confluence of the Bhagirathi and mountains, rivers, water, holy places, animals and human beings. This Bhilangana rivers in the Garhwal region. belief in the spiritual essence of all nature is especially noticeable to foreigners who come either as tourists or to study Indian spirituality. The Spiritual Connection Several religious beliefs and practices supported the Chipko The Chipko Movement movement. Although the movement arose largely in response to One typical instance of this Hindu/Indian ethos of reverence for economic and social injustice, the overall strategy chosen by Sunderlal nature playing a part in an ecological movement, is the famous Chipko Bahuguna, a Chipko leader, was satyagraha or standing for the truth. struggle of northern India.34 The Chipko movement is understood to Bahuguna, also the chief protagonist in the movement against the have begun in the town of Gopeshwar in the Chamoli district of Uttar construction of the Tehri dam, is a staunch Gandhian. He shuns any Pradesh. In 1973, a local cooperative organisation made a request to type of violence and strongly believes in peaceful protest, and in the the Mandal forest department for an allotment of ash trees to make spiritual and maternal dimension of all Nature. That is why, when the agricultural implements. It was refused. Yet, the same forest department forest officer told the women activists, “You, foolish women, do you granted a request to the Symonds Company for manufacturing sporting know what the forests bear? Resin, timber and foreign exchange!”, goods for the export market. This blatant injustice led the local they replied: “What do the forests bear? Soil, water and pure air! Soil, organisation (Society for Village Self-Rule) to organise several protest water and pure air sustain the earth and all she bears.”41 meetings. The leading social activist Chandi Prasad Bhatt suggested One of the methods that Chipko activists used to disseminate their ‘embracing the trees’ to prevent them from being chopped down. “Let message was the ‘padayatra’. The word actually means ‘making a them know,” he said, “that they will not fell a single tree without felling pilgrimage on foot’. It is very significant that the activists use their one of us first”.35 With this resolution, the Chipko (hugging a tree)36 feet and walk from village to village to raise consciousness among the movement was born.37 people about the protection of the forest and the rivers. They indeed The Chipko resistance later became a protracted struggle of the perceived their work as a ‘form of pilgrimage’ or holy struggle, a people of Uttarakhand against some forest practices in the Alakananda veritable ‘satyagraha’. valley. Demonstrations similar to the one held in Gopeshwar were Still another method used by Chipko activists is the fast. In also held in Phata and in the Reni forest. Women were a very important discussing the repeated fasts which he and other Chipko activists had part of the movement. In the Tehri Garhwal region, Chipko activists undertaken, Sunderlal Bahuguna points out that the motivation for a protested the over-tapping of chir pines by removing the iron blades fast should not be anger or manipulation. A fast is not the same thing inserted into the trees to bleed off the resin. as a hunger strike. It must be an act of devotion to God – an act of 82 The Sources of Social Commitment Five Case Studies 83 appeal to God when all worldly efforts have failed, very much like the within a spiritual framework. Another Gandhian who revolutionised cry of the anawim (oppressed) in Hebrew thought. the village of Rallegan Siddhi with his water management schemes Next, the dhandak method of protest that distinguished the Tehri was Anna Hazare. Hazare was also inspired by Swami Vivekananda, Garhwal region was also non-violent in form. Terrorised by corrupt but his unique approach was to use the temple as the focus of eco- officials, the peasants would gather at a pre-arranged meeting place, development. All his activities revolved around the temple.45 Tom usually a temple, and would collectively decide not to comply with Kocherry, the President of the National Fishworkers’ Forum, is a certain rules. They would then march to the governor or official-in- Catholic priest and so is Francis D’Britto, the leader of the Harit Vasai charge, who could be relied upon to redress their injustice. (Green Vasai) Movement in the suburbs of Mumbai. Still another example of the spiritual connection within the Chipko It was John Dominic Crossan who demonstrated that the ascetic movement is the rhetoric which points out that the violation of the world negation is often as much a negation of a social and political resources of nature is “sinful behaviour”. This rhetoric was used world as it is of material reality.46 The monastic movement of the 4th very often by Bahuguna in his references to the developmental policy century was not just a life of penance and mortification, but it was as “butchering nature”42 and in a reference to the colonial state and chiefly a protest and critique against the extravagant luxurious lifestyle the forest department as Ravana of the Ramayana.43 of the hierarchy in the Church at that time. Similarly, the leaders of the ecological movement in India choose to live simple lifestyles In one very symbolic form of protest, the women activists tied the primarily as a protest and critique of the whole development concept ‘rakhi’ or sacred ‘thread of protection’ around the trees. In the custom of the government. Thus, what all these leaders have in common is of Raksha Bandan, sisters usually tie the rakhi around the wrists of not only their spirituality but also their rejection of the present their brothers, expressing a request for a bond of protection. The capitalistic model of development. brothers are expected to guard and protect their sisters. Here, the women, with a slight modification of the custom, are expressing their determination to protect the trees at the cost of their lives. And guard V. SHIITE ISLAM AND THE IRANIAN REVOLUTION the trees, they certainly did. One of the reasons why the Iranian revolution of 1979 took Finally, the recitation of the sacred texts from the Bhagavata everyone by surprise, including the world press, the incumbent Shah Purana was a very prominent part of the processions and the seven- and the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency of the US), was because in day vigil in the forest. These texts were stories about the lord Krishna understanding Shiite Islam, due importance was not given to the role and his adventures in Vrindavan, and his defeat of Dhenuka and his of religion in social and political change, and religion’s potential to opening of the forest so that the people could enjoy its fruits and trees. resist imperial domination.47 The Leaders’ Ascetic and Religious Character The Events It is very striking that the leadership of the ecological movements In 1953, Muhammad Mossadeq was democratically elected Chief has very often been assumed by men or women who have very strong Minister of Iran. When he attempted to nationalise the oil industry, ascetic-spiritual ideals. Indeed, many of them were either the followers the CIA engineered a coup, which overthrew him, and in his place, of Gandhi or else were Catholic priests. Bahuguna for instance lives reinstated an autocratic government with Muhammad Shah Reza in a small hut on the banks of the Bhagirathi River. With his long Pahlavi as its client ruler. The US government claimed its objective white beard, frail body and simple khadi apparel, with a large scarf was to make Iran a model of modernisation for the Middle East. tied around his head, he looks like a prophet warning of disaster.44 Needless to say, Iran was oil-rich, with 50% of its oil profits being Like Gandhi, Sunderlal Bahuguna addresses secular issues from siphoned off to Western companies. Eliminating all political 84 The Sources of Social Commitment Five Case Studies 85 participation, the Shah’s rule was autocratic and repressive. In this he status to behaviours. 2) Then come the other ayatollahs, who are was helped by the CIA and the Israeli Mossad, which had organised clergymen, but not as influential as the grand ayatollahs. 3) The third SAVAK, the secret police agency, which proceeded to use torture and level is composed of ordinary clergymen who run the day-to-day affairs intimidation to control the people.48 of the people, preaching, attending ceremonies and reading sermons In 1963, the Shah’s troops attacked Fayziyeh seminary in the town at weddings and funerals. The students of theology are part of this of Qum, killing a number of students. Ayatollah Khomeini, one of large group.52 This clergy network was already in existence and much the key religious leaders, responded with powerful speeches criticising of the leadership of the Shiite resistance to the Shah’s repressive the Shah for his injustice to the poor and for yielding to the US designs. measures was supplied by the second and third levels – the teachers Calling him a stooge of US vested interests, he charged the regime and students in the theological schools. with destroying Islam for the sake of oil and selling out to its enemies. Mosques provided the meeting places in which the opposition forces Khomeini was arrested. When thousands protested in cities all over could meet. They were a ready platform for the communication of the Iran, many were killed by the Shah’s security forces. Khomeini was Shiite ideology. With the civic space eliminated by the Shah with his then sent into exile. Nonetheless, he continued to speak out against the repressive rulings, civil society moved into the mosques and rallied Shah and his programme of westernisation, regularly sending tapes of around the clerics. Gradually, the mosques became centers of his speeches and writings into Iran from his exile in Iraq.49 Thus began opposition. 53 Some of the clergy preached emotionally and fearlessly, a confrontation and struggle that eventually overthrew the Shah and raising political issues as well. Congregational meetings/prayers often installed a theocratic government in his place with Khomeini as the turned into demonstrations. head. There were many factors that led to this revolution. Religious Symbolism and Religious Processions A New Ideological Model: Religion as Political A third crucial factor in the revolution was the religious A key factor in the revolution was Shiite Islam’s refusal to symbolism and the religious processions. Khomeini presented the accept the western reduction of religion to individual faith. Both concepts of class contradiction, freedom and justice, using Islamic Khomeini and Dr. Shariati (a philosopher sociologist who was also an criteria and the rich background of Islamic culture.54 This use of influential figure in the revival of Islam)50 insisted, against the Shah, ideology was specially significant during the Karballa ceremonies. that it was impossible to separate religion from politics. For Khomeini A significant use of religious ideology to arouse the consciousness and Shariati, the spiritual did not reside in a realm apart from social- of the Iranian people was the symbolism of Karballa. For Shiite political life. Humans are two-dimensional with a spiritual and a Islam, the death of Imam Hussein in the 7th century is a unique and corporeal existence. Every human polity must have a spiritual immensely symbolic event. The followers of Shiite Islam view the dimension.51 To separate religion from politics was a betrayal of tawhid struggle of Imam Hussein at Karballa as a struggle against a corrupt (oneness). A return to tawhid would heal the alienation of “West- government – a confrontation between two forces: right versus wrong, intoxicated” educated Iranians. legitimacy versus illegitimacy. Hussein knew that his forces were outnumbered and that he would lose the battle and be killed. The Clergy Network Nevertheless, he engaged in the uprising to teach people that there A second significant factor in the Revolution was the clergy should be no compromise between right and wrong, between justice network (Ruhaniyat) comprising over 10,000 clergymen. The Shiite and injustice. He was the supreme martyr. Thus, in Shiite ideology, hierarchy is composed of three main levels. 1) Grand ayatollahs, who revolution does not mean the restructuring of a new form of society, are known as “references”, because people refer to their religious but an uprising of believers to correct the wrong, to put things back rulings; they have the power to proclaim ‘fatwas’, which assign taboo on the right track, to establish the rule of God. 86 The Sources of Social Commitment Five Case Studies 87 Every year, the Shiites hold processions, ceremonies, and mourning SAVAK. His father may also have been killed by an agent of Reza meetings to remind themselves and others of what happened at Karballa. Shah I, and Khomeini himself was exiled. By openly criticising the The tenth day of Muharram is a special occasion to express hatred Shah, he exhibited tremendous courage and soon became the focal against those who killed the innocent Imam Hussein. The ceremony point of the opposition. In fact, Khomeini was the only political or involves inflicting wounds upon oneself. The believers beat themselves religious leader who actually called for the overthrow of the Shah’s violently and draw blood, sing songs, become emotional and tremble regime.57 with excitement. They symbolically become one with the martyr According to Shiite thinking, the twelfth innocent Imam will step Hussein and proclaim their readiness to die for his cause. The marches out of the realm of the invisible and establish a government of justice go on for hours, with different marching groups arriving at a mosque and peace. The idea of the invisible Imam is not just a hope to keep one after another.55 the people looking towards the future, but is also an effective political It was very easy to make the symbolic connection between the instrument.58 The birthday of the invisible Imam is a national holiday, Shah and the US as the Great Yazid and to compare the people of a day of great rejoicing and celebration. The slogans on the streets Iran, suffering under the Shah, with the martyred Hussein. Once this carry political messages. The celebration provides an opportunity to connection was established in the minds of the believers, they were imagine an alternative society. Many deeply committed Shiites believed ready to engage in struggle. The marching believers walked before the that the Ayatollah Khomeini was leading them in place of the invisible machine guns and blocked the streets in front of the tanks. Often the Imam. That is why many Shia groups gave him their allegiance and processions led to the tossing of rocks and Molotov cocktails at unified themselves with the objective of pushing the Shah out of office.59 establishments catering to Americans. When military forces clamped This brief analysis clearly shows that Shiite Islam and its down on the demonstrators, there was bloodshed. Burial ceremonies ideology, along with its clergy network, played major roles in of those who were killed in the demonstrations on the 1st, 3rd, 7th and bringing down the Shah and initiating a new Islamic government. 40th day became occasions for the further arousal of the crowds. During the Ramadan celebrations of 1978, several thousands were killed; this General Conclusion became known as the Massacre of Black Friday. Preachers convinced These five case studies have shown that religion can be a very people that they should follow Hussein’s example by drawing a parallel powerful resource for social commitment. However, by itself, between the contemporary political and social climate and that of religion is ambivalent. It can play an enslaving or a capacitating Hussein’s struggle. The clergy can readily direct the believers’ passion function. The function it plays will depend on at least two other and energy towards an “enemy”.56 variables, namely, ideology and scientific social analysis. When Another significant point in the Karballa celebrations is the religion and ideology combine, the resulting confluence can be truly financial factor. The people donate money to the clergy during these powerful; nevertheless it could still be very fundamentalist in ceremonies. These donations are in addition to the zakat, the (waqf) orientation. Another crucial variable, scientific social analysis, needs taxes and the dedication of property to religious institutions. This gave to be included in the model. This makes use of socio-political theory the clergy sufficient money to organise the people. to make an analysis of the social, cultural, economic and political realities. It enables us to foresee the practical consequences of certain Khomeini as Eschatological Religious Leader actions and movements and thus to assess them. Without this scientific Another crucial factor in the revolution was the personal social analysis, religion and ideology are without direction: religious charisma of Ayatollah Khomeini. Khomeini was a mystic who lived motivation can be diverted into mere charity, while ideology can be an ascetic life but believed that contemplation should lead to political fundamentalist in orientation. Only a trialogue between all three action. He had suffered personally, losing a son and a daughter to 88 The Sources of Social Commitment entities - religion, ideology and social analysis – can provide a basis for true liberation. Two examples can make this clear. In the case of Iran, religion and ideology were very important factors leading to the revolution. Unfortunately, in the absence of a scientific social analysis to guide Khomeini’s movement, the revolution turned fundamentalist. The religious scriptures by themselves, however deep and illuminating, do not have the necessary apparatus to deal with concrete, practical, social, economic and political realities. In the case of Iran, had the philosopher-sociologist Al Shariati not been assassinated, he might have given a more scientific definition to the movement. The second example concerns Catholic Social Teaching. This teaching is a very powerful resource, but it is necessarily articulated in the form of basic philosophical principles and broad formulations. In his encyclical Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, Pope John Paul II said that this teaching is not an ideology, but belongs to the field of moral theology (# 41). As part of moral theology, Catholic Social Teaching does have the capacity to critique ideologies; and this is a very crucial role it plays. Nevertheless, this social teaching still remains to be translated into culturally specific measures, into practical and concrete guidelines, and local and regional policies and programmes, to be truly effective. For this, Catholic Social Teaching needs to be “fleshed out” with both an ‘ideological’ and a ‘scientific social’ orientation. This is where Christian non-governmental organisations, universities, colleges, social agencies and local bodies created by the Bishops’ Conferences have a specific role to play. The above organisations must not only absorb the principles of the Church’s teaching, but must also supplement them with scientific social analysis in order to implement their ideological perspective in favour of the poorest and most vulnerable in society. This trialogue of religion, ideology and scientific social analysis is a challenging and engaging task, but nevertheless one that is sorely needed in the world of today. This can truly lead to a peaceful, just, sustainable, and more egalitarian society.