IT HAS BEEN A PLEASURE to join with some 60 others in the opening stages of this weekend’s liberation theology conference at Sunderland Minster, hosted by the Rev Chris Howson, Lisa Murphy SCM and the Victor Jara Liberation Theologies and Sunderland Interfaith Library.

The event runs annually now, and this year is a blended event – in person and online – enabling the widest possible participation.

This morning we heard a really powerful presentation from the ever-busy Professor Anthony Reddie (Director of the Oxford Centre for Religion and Culture) on Black Lives Matter, the realities and legacies of racism and white supremacy, and the theological and political response.

Then LGBTQIA+ sociologist Drew Dalton led us through a practical, inspiring and strategically/tactically astute guide to nonviolent direct action and protest, solidarity-building and campaigning.

The gathering runs through to Saturday 30 October. Other speakers include Sue Richardson, Claudio Carvalhaes from Brazil (on worship and protest), as well as contributions on Palestine and anti-arms fair activism from Alison Parker and Nick Cooper.

Liberation Theology events across Britain were pioneered by John Vincent, UTU (the Urban Theology Unit, as was) and many others in the 1980s. There was something of a dip in energy in the mid-1990s, but more recently there has been a re-energising of the movement.

This has included considerable reflection on what liberation theology means for these islands and beyond in the context of neoliberalism, the rise of racism and the far right, and the looming climate crisis.

Alongside Anabaptist, wider non-conformist, Quaker and other peace church initiatives, liberation theology has been a source of inspiration for Ekklesia’s work over the past (almost) 20 years, and we are grateful to Chris and many others for keeping the flame burning bright.

* More on Victor Jara Liberation Theologies and Sunderland Interfaith Library here.