Theology of Solidarity in Times of Disaster and Suffering

Title : THEOLOGY OF SOLIDARITY IN TIMES OF DISASTER AND SUFFERING (Theological Reflections Based on the Experiences of a Post-Disaster Christian Community in Kintelan, Bantul, Yogyakarta)
Author : Albertus Kristiadji Rahardjo (CRCS, 2007)
Keywords : religious experience, natural disaster, suffering, faith struggle, solidarity, contextual theology.
This thesis focuses on the religious experiences of the Christian community in Kintelan, Bantul during and after the 5, 9 Richter earthquake in Yogyakarta on May 27th  2006. The villagers are part of Yogyakarta’s people who are religious and who considered the disaster and suffering as an integrated part of their religious experiences. It brings them to the faith struggle in understanding God and the relation to the universe and human’s life. They gave meaning to the experience of disaster and suffering in the light of their living faith and in the dialogues with the cultural, scientific, and social-economic perspectives.

The questions this thesis poses are “What is the Kintelan Christian’s experience of the natural disaster and suffering in the light of their living faith and their actual context? Why do the Kintelan Christians have that religious experiences and how can it be analyzed in the perspective of Christian theodicy and contextual theology, and in dialog with cultural, scientific and social-economic perspectives? And, how can the contextual theology be constructed to help the Christian in Kintelan and Indonesia in facing the problem of natural disaster and suffering? In answering those problems, this research uses library and field research. Library research was used to find a theoretical framework for the research and for analyzing the collected data. The field research was used to trace the religious experience of Kintelan Christian in times of disaster and suffering and to collect data related to the research problems through in-depth interview and participant observation. Finally, this thesis uses bottom-up theological approach (or based on the experience) and perspectives of theodicy and contextual theology in analyzing and reflecting the data, that happens in spiral process.

From my research, I found that people’s faith struggle to answer the problem of disaster and suffering (theodicy) has been influenced in different levels by three frameworks of theodicy: harmony, goodness (privatio boni) and original sin. But some part of the view is regarded as not relevant anymore and some have discarded it, because it cannot give a satisfying answer to the problem. Kintelan Christians, as Javanese, struggle to construct an unique and contextual notion of God, universe, life and suffering based on dialog between the Bible, religious tradition and the actual contexts. Solidarity (as local wisdom and biblical value) becomes an important value in their experience of disaster and suffering. They experienced God’s solidarity that is expressed in Jesus’ suffering (as kenosis) and empowered them in facing the suffering by full of hope and to find the meaning of the suffering for the better life in the future. Most Christians in Kintelan believe that God never sleeps (“Gusti Ora Sare”), but hears their longing, and is involved in their life struggle. God’s solidarity is also experienced in the solidarities and assistances from many parties.

The final part of the thesis proposes a theology of solidarity as a model of contextual theology based on the experience of disaster and suffering (bottom-up theological approach) and dialog between Bible, Christian tradition and the cultural, scientific and social-economics context.

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