24. Oktober 2013
24. Oktober 2013 - auf dem Weg nach Pusan
Vom Flughafen direkt zur Hanshin-Universität im Norden Seouls. Ein Auto der Uni holt uns ab. Höchstgeschwindigkeit sind 130 km/h. Zwei Stunden später sind wir am Ziel. Alle Professoren sind beim Unterrichten, aber der Dean nimmt uns in seinem Dienstzimmer auf bis dann um 11:30 Fernando mit seinem Vortrag dran ist - in der Kirche, heute eine Art Audimax. Ziemlich gut besetzt und entgegen den Voraussagen des Deans schlafen die Studenten keineswegs ein.
Dean der Graduate School of Theology der Hanshin Universität ist: Prof. Dr. YEON Kyu Hong.
Der Alttestamentler und Academic Dean, Prof. Dr. KIM Chanf Joo, stellt Fernando vor. 40 Minuten sind ihm gegeben, nach genau 40 Minuten ist sein Vortrag zu Ende.
Wir gehen dann miteinander zum koreanischen Mittagessen (natürlich u.a. mit Kimchi) in der Mensa für Lehrpersonal: YEON, Academic Dean ???, Chul CHUN, Fernando und ich. Umzug ins Café, wo es "den besten Kaffee in Seoul gibt", wie mir ein Student sagte. Hier stößt Chai Sooil's Sohn zu uns (Taekwon), der ein Jahr im BMW mitgearbeitet hat und dessen Deutsch sehr gut ist. Er schließt im nächsten Frühjahr sein Studium in Hanshin ab und wird danach voraussichtlich ans Union Theol. Seminary in New York gehen. Ihn bitte ich, Frau Pfrin Najin CHUNG zu rufen, die ich von der Jumin Gemeinde im vergangenen Mai her kenne. Beide helfen uns, die Weiterreise bzw. -flüge nach der Vollversammlung zu organisieren. Ohbne die beiden hätten wir das nicht geschafft. Um 16 Uhr sind alle Papiere/Tickets ausgedruckt bei uns und wir konnten gleich bezahlen (wie unkompliziert das heutzutage geht, wenn man die richtigen Helfer hat!).
Najin ist Sekretärin in dem Institut, das dem Gedenken an KIM Chae Chun gewidmet ist, dem großen Gründer des Theol. Seminars 1940. Dort gibt sie auch eine Zeitschrift heraus (nr. 17, 15.10.2013).
Ich zitiere aus Fernandos Vortrag:
(Der ganze Vortrag mit Anmerkungen als pdf)
The Freedom to Just Peace
Revisiting Minjung Theology for a Current Ecumenical Discourse
For those of us, who studied theology in Germany during the 1980ies and early 1990ies – the
very place where Ahn Byung-Mu spent 9 important years (1956-65) of theological training
and reflecting – it was almost impossible not to come across this inspiring person and theological approach.1 Contextual and liberation theologies were erupting around the globe.
By listening to the confessing voices from churches in the midst of political struggles we realized that the story of Jesus was not just a subject of scientific research but also an empowering event that continued to draw persons into its reality in order to provoke remarkable changes in societies. I share the personal, summarizing account of Jürgen Moltmann for Ahn Byung-Mu and Korean minjung theology: “I was fascinated by the fact that one exegetic discovery – the active role of ochlos in the story of Jesus after Mark – provoked a current Christian liberation movement. Since Luther’s discovery of the justifying
gospel this had not happened very often”.2 We felt encouraged to ask about the relevance of
theology for political orientation.
Without doubt, Ahn himself had been inspired by the stories of the German “Kirchenkampf “,
the active resistance against Nazi-terror, and the church’s role in social-political rebuilding of
society after World War II. And yet, it takes a strong intellectual power, a believing heart, a love for the church and your own people as well as a deep spirituality of longing for the wisdom of God’s will to translate theological convictions into an active approach to change social and political realities. For Ahn it became a clear goal to overcome political injustices by non-violent means, to give a chance to healing and reconciliation as well as to promote democratization and re-unification. Only ‘prophets’ like Ahn seem to have the strength to develop a theological approach that is driven by the simple yet most difficult to answer question; how can Christian theology, that carries the message of healing and reconciliation as it’s center, unfold that liberating power amongst the suffering people, minjung?
It is true, Ahn has been trained, influenced and inspired by Western (German) universitytheology but many in the West (Germany) – like myself – have been re-inspired by the way theology can become a life-changing experience, as with minjung theology. Such a contextual theology becomes a messenger of truth for all other contexts, I believe, in order to be shared in the wide ecumenical family of faith. This paper aims at “harvesting” some insights from minjung theology for the current ecumenical debate on “just peace”. I will start by reflecting on some experiences within the German context.
I. Minjung Experience in Germany ....
a. Just Peace – A Holistic Approach
In connecting the ecclesiological challenges of unity in reconciled diversity (koinonia), Just Peace has emerged as the key concept towards a common and coherent ecumenical theological ethics: “The Way of Just Peace is fundamentally different from the concept of “just war” and much more than criteria for protecting people from the unjust use of force; in addition to silencing weapons it embraces social justice, the rule of law, respect for human
rights and shared human security.“7 Just Peace may be comprehended „as a collective and dynamic yet grounded process of freeing human beings from fear and want, of overcoming enmity, discrimination and oppression, and of establishing conditions for just relationships that privilege the experience of the most vulnerable and respect the integrity of creation.“8 Just Peace is an overarching concept that overcomes the old dichotomy of non-violent peace
building and fighting for justice. During the DOV we have learned that “to conceive peace apart from justice is to compromise the hope that ‘justice and peace shall embrace’ (Ps 85:10).
When justice and peace are lacking, or set in opposition, we need to reform our ways.”9 The Ecumenical Call recalls the biblical wisdom, that justice is the inseparable companion of peace (Is 32:17; James 3:18). “Both point to right and sustainable relationships in human society, the vitality of our connections with the earth, the ‘well-being’ and integrity of creation.”10
By re-visiting the writings of Ahn Byung-Mu, I discover that holistic view as well. As a New
Testament scholar, who interpreted the Jesus narrations in light of the situation of Korean
minjung, Ahn discovered that a socio-historical reading of those biblical testimonies was
needed in order to grasp the liberating power of the gospel.11 It is the social, political,
economic, religious, and cultural reality of ochlos that is key to reading the gospel of Mark.
Justice and peace are announced to the people of Galilee who suffered under the very
conditions of real oppression, real poverty, and real discrimination. The proclamation of the Kingdom of God is addressing these very realities. Separating the spiritual from the economic or the political dimension of life would be misreading the Jesus narration.
b. Perspective is Key: Becoming the Subject of History
In the current ecumenical debate on Just Peace, the situation of the poor and oppressed is a
focus: “There are many stories to tell—stories soaked with violence, the violation of human
dignity and the destruction of creation. If all ears would hear the cries, no place would be
In a recent discussion on the results of the IEPC, it was De Chickera Geetha, a theologian
from Sri Lanka, who made the following point: we need to be aware of the fact that there is a
real difference which plays into all our ecumenical theology: the difference between those
who „sit in the boiling pot“ and those who look into that pot“. Minjung theology seems to be
convinced that it is the ochlos „sitting in the pot“ whom Jesus sought and shared meals with.
They became his family (cf. Mk 3:31-35). Jesus´ liberating and empowering presence amongst them led them to understand: we, the suffering, the imprisoned, the sick, the socalled sinners are in fact subject of history, not just objects of the ruling political, economic and religious powers.13 It is therefore primarily the ochlos who needs to interpret the gospel.
For the ecumenical debates on Just Peace this has far reaching implications. Unless the churches (usually it is the church leaders and delegated theologians) invite, welcome, and
listen to the voices of the ochlos, we will probably not be able to interpret the realities in light
of the „Christuswirklichkeit“. Even with the best intentions, our calls for more just and peaceful relations might end up revealing a perspective of those „in power“, who try to speak on behalf of the marginalized instead of providing spaces for them to express themselves. It is an unchangeable fact that the church contains of suffering members and those who cause suffering. What we need to see is the fact that Jesus did not speak on behalf of the marginalized, but first and foremost shared communion with ochlos. The church is where the
marginalized are, or it is not the church of Jesus Christ, it seems. Ochlos is not just a
sociological term, but also a theological category.14 How do we assure that the one’s „sitting in the boiling pot“ take a leading role when we discuss the issues of Just Peace in light of the Gospel?
c. Methodology: Orthopraxis preludes Orthodoxy
Inseparably connected to the question of perspective is the question of methodology. The
challenge remains, for (classical) theology as well as for the church (leadership) in general,
who discuss that ecumenical framework of Just Peace: are we aware of methodologies that are
used and offered by the ochlos to shape that emerging ecumenical concept? For Ahn it was
self-evident that a lively connection to hyunjang (the place where it happens) was a precondition of doing theology.15 “We did not have Minjung theology in our head first, and then
went out into the streets and acted,” David Suh recalls.16 Reflection comes after action and
leads to new action. Minjung theology is “inductive and not deductive, descriptive and
therefore not normative, story telling and not system building, biographical and not
theological construction, and it is open to dialogue and not closed and final as in dogmas and
fundamentalism. Minjung theology is not a theology of the Word, but a theology about the
world and for the world. It is to change the world, and not to explain the world“.17
Re-visiting this approach, I see the need to invite a much greater variety and creativity in
theological methods for the current ecumenical debates. This would help the discourse itself
to be less exclusive and more integrative, connected to real lives of real people, open to new
insights and corrections of traditional dogmas which have lead the churches to end up at the
side of the political powers more than once.
d. The Relevance of the Suffering Jesus
When churches feel empowered to confront situations of injustice and violence, they refer to
the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, of course, whom they confess as their Lord and Savior.
“Through the life and teachings, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we perceive peace
as both promise and present—a hope for the future and a gift here and now”, the churches
confirm in a rather general manner.18 Insight is growing, that this is not just kerygma, as Ahn
would probably call this language and way of thinking, but it is relevant for those who suffer
from injustice and violence. “Despite persecution, he (Jesus) remains steadfast in his active nonviolence, even to death. His life of commitment to justice ends on a cross, an instrument of torture and execution. With the resurrection of Jesus, God confirms that such steadfast love, such obedience, such trust, leads to life.”19
Ahn Byung-Mu has pointed out time and again: if we move too quickly from death to
resurrection, we will miss very important aspects of the gospel message. Referring to the
gospel of Mark – often in opposition to the Pauline Letters, because of the interpretation of
his German teachers,20 Ahn realized, that the passion of Christ is described in a very realistic
way. And he was sure: this was not done without purpose.21 It is much more the suffering
Jesus who provides hope for the suffering, not so much the risen and ruling Christ. It is most
obvious, that a theologian like Ahn, who has been put to prison like a criminal simply because
he seemed to be a threat to the powers, reads the passion narrative of Jesus from that
perspective of those experiences. He points out, that there is nothing heroic in Jesus’ pain,
fear, abandonment by all his friends.22 “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” (Mk
15:34) are the final words of the dying Messiah according to Mark. This is the experience of
the absence of God! „Jesus dies, powerless to do anything in the face of such injustice“.23
Ahn argues that it is this very experience that allows the ochlos to identify with Jesus, as Jesus
has identified himself with them, from the beginning to the end of his life span. This has
become formative for minjung Christology. “We have discovered Jesus as minjung, and the
Jesus event as minjung event.“24 By dying this death, Jesus is minjung. Han, the experience of
collective sorrow and anger, is portrayed in this death. It is the crucified minjung.
Ahn continues to explain, that „minjung-theologian Mark“ interprets Jesus’ death as „the end
of the vicious cycle of reality which is from strength for strength and violence to violence“.25
Jesus’ dying pro nobis („for us“) is to be interpreted first of all as a starting point of changing
realities here and now, not as a saving act of paying tribute for the sins of human kind in order
to satisfy God! „The sword of violence loses its grip because he did not respond to the sword with a sword but responded to it by dying by the enemy’s sword. Such resistance exposes the ugly face of the people who were trying to kill him“, Ahn reads in Mark.
For minjung, it seems to be the key to understand how much they are part and taken into the
God-Story: to the very end – and even beyond („And Jesus said to them: ...after I am risen, I
will go before you into Galilee”, Mk 14:28)! For the „principalities and powers“ the cross is
an act of unmasking the limits of their power. And for all of us it is the „once and for all“
affirmation, that those vicious cycles of violence and injustice are reversible. They are not
eternal. To comply with such realities as if they were stronger than the love of Jesus for
minjung, is to betray Jesus/minjung anew and crucify him/them again. To understand the truth
of Jesus’ passionate way of non-violent resistance is in fact the ultimate logic and promise of
the coming Kingdom. ...
Even if it seems to be a fact, that minjung theology has lost its influence and power in Korea,
I believe that there are aspects in this contextual minjung approach to theology that the
ecumenical family of churches cannot afford to overlook.
It is through the eyes of minjung that the church and its theologies need to be reformed time
and again, if the claim to be „Christian“ shall have any credibility. Ecumenism implies to
provoke each other to a courageous faith and to strengthen each other in following Jesus
towards justice and peace. „In the end, ecumenism is the joint participation of the
congregations of Christ in the suffering and liberation of ochlos“, Jürgen Moltmann
summarizes his introduction to minjung theology.26 My hope and my prayer is, that those of
us who have experienced liberation – from what kind of oppression ever – continue to allow
those, who still suffer, to teach us Christian theology, i.e. the way of Jesus of Galilee, the