UKZN Hosts Gunther H. Wittenberg Memorial Lecture
The Professor Gunther H Wittenberg Memorial Lecture held on UKZN’s Pietermaritzburg campus was hosted by the School of Religion, Philosophy and Classics (SRPC) and its Ujamaa Centre for Community Development and Research together with the Lutheran Institute for Theological Education and Training (LTI).
The lecture is held to celebrate the life of Wittenberg (1935-2014), a Lutheran pastor and an old-testament scholar who pioneered Environmental Biblical Theology in South Africa. In his writings, Wittenberg called on people of faith to adopt prophetic stances on the way the environment was treated.
Wittenberg played a vital role in the founding of the School of Theology, the Ujamaa Centre as well the LTI.
Guest speaker, the Reverend Canon Dr Kapya John Kaoma, a visiting researcher from the Boston University Center for Global Christianity and Mission in the United States as well as adjunct Professor at the Episcopal Divinity School, delivered a presentation on the theme: Earth-Theology and Humanitarianism: Lessons Yet Learnt.
A renowned academic who has published widely, Kaoma’s research interests include African religion, global Christianity, eco-social and cross-cultural ethics, and ecological theology and ethics.
Kaoma was recently presented with the International Human Rights Award by the Lesbian and Gay association in Mexico City.
In his lecture, Kaoma spoke about the mounting life-threatening ecological crisis, which compromises the quality of all life in Africa and the rest of the world and demands an interdisciplinary analysis, including wrestling with issues of imperialism, human development, sustainability, income inequality, gender, land, rights, neo-liberalism, poverty, racism and ecological integrity.
Kaoma said it was a God given obligation for Christians to care for the earth. Therefore, the crises invited new paradigm shifts in theological education, Christian formation and discipleship.
‘This obligation carries ethical humanitarian efforts, it invites us to care for this earth for the sake of the poor and the future generations’ he said.
Kaoma spoke about the need to develop authentic African eco-theologies based on the African traditional spirituality of eco-social and ecological interconnectedness.
He concluded by saying that Wittenberg had invited prophesy in a time of crisis and that ‘as communities of faith we have the power to rewrite the Earth’s story.
‘Unless we act, the Earth will kill us and there will be no tomorrow.’