"The Christian must discover in contemplation, and in the giving of his life, those symbolic actions which will ignite the people's faith to resist injustice with their whole lives, lives coming together as a united force of truth and thus releasing the liberating power of the God within them." - James Douglass, Contemplation and Resistance.

Sunday, August 24, 2008


The Latin American bishops at Medellin in 1968 laid great emphasis on conscientizicion, the growth in awareness of their social relations by rich and poor alike. Growth in social conscience was identified as an element in salvific work of the Church. The bishops stated, “The Christian quest for justice is a demand arising from biblical teaching. All men are merely humble stewards of material goods. In the search for salvation we must avoid the dualism which separates temporal tasks from the work of sanctification. Although we are encompassed with imperfections, we are men of hope. We have faith that our love for Christ and our brethren will not only be the great force liberating us from injustice and oppression, but also the inspiration for social justice, understood as a whole of life and as an impulse toward the integral growth of our countries.”

The idea of "conscientizicion" provokes much reflection in one who was taught from an early age that Christian life consists in an ever-deepening sensitivity of conscience. It suggests a constant struggle for greater depth of awareness, an inward growth that continually reflects on the spiritual implications of one’s inner and outer situation.

One description of what this conscientizicion consists of is provided by Paolo Friere, who wrote with characteristic directness, “Liberation, a human phenomenon, cannot be achieved by semihumans…The conviction of the oppressed that they must fight for their liberation is not a gift bestowed by the revolutionary leadership, but the result of their own conscientizacao…It is essential for the oppressed to realize that when they accept the struggle for humanization they also accept, from that moment their total responsibility for the struggle. They must realize that they are fighting not merely for freedom from hunger, but for…freedom to create and to construct, to wonder and to venture. Such freedom requires that the individual be active and responsible, not a slave or a well-fed cog in the machine…It is not enough that men are not slaves; if social conditions further the existence of automatons, the result will not be love of life, but love of death.” – The Pedagogy of the Oppressed.

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