Approximately a hundred and fifty scholars, activist, ministers and theologians joined together at the University of Nottingham for three days to discuss “Peace” at the annual meeting for the Society of the Study of Theology” (SST). (24-26 April 2017)
The SST is the leading British organization for theologians in academy, church and society. The focus of the SST is to identify and discuss important themes, questions and dialogues that call for theological engagement. This year the theme was “Peace.” I was invited to participate on the plenary panel entitled, “Creative Approaches to Peacebuilding.”
The panel was sponsored by the “Peacebuilding through the Arts Project” at the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Theology and Public Issues. It was organized by the incredible Jolyon Mitchell. For my presentation I used the example of the role Christianity played in South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission as an example of a creative peacebuilding process. I drew on two types of art that illustrate some of the challenges that accompany bringing religion and theology into peacebuilding, namely photography and political cartoons. As I journeyed along with South Africa as it transitioned from apartheid to democracy, these art forms helped me think about, and visualize, the issues that accompany bring religion and theology into a political conflict resolution process. Indeed I believe both of these art forms can contribute to peacebuilding.
On the panel I was teamed with Susanna Snyder and Sarah Snyder (and they are not related!) Two inspirational women working for peace. Susanna is Assistant Director, Catherine of Siena College, and Tutor in Theology at the University of Roehampton. She is also a Research Associate at the Oxford Centre for Christianity and Culture at Regent’s Park College, Oxford. Susanna’s research focuses on migration, refugees, Christian ethics, and faith-based organizations. And she is the author of Asylum Seeking, Migration and Church (Ashgate, 2012). Sarah Snyder is the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Advisor for Reconciliation. She is a theologian who specialises in Jewish-Christian-Muslim relations. She has worked for many years to promote faith-based reconciliation, most recently as Director of Partnerships with Religions for Peace International, an organisation affiliated to the United Nations.
For me, thinking about peacebuilding through the arts with these amazing women was a privilege. And spending three days with theologians, ministers, students and activists all trying to think about how to work towards peace and what role theology can play was a true gift. This is not typical parlance for theologians. And it was an incredible experience to see theologians engaging with peace. No doubt these theologians will be working to create a more peaceful world in the academy, church and society.