Forschung Iberische und Lateinamerikanische Geschichte

From Mission to Cooperation

"For a holistic liberation of man" - the reception of liberation theology in mission and development cooperation of the missionary society Bethlehem in southwestern Colombia (1965-1984)

M.A. Thesis Marcel Burmeister

The project examines the connection between the changing self-image of the Swiss Missionary Society Bethlehem (SMB) through the reception of pastoral practices and discourses inspired by liberation theology from the 1960s to the 1980s. In addition, within the local context of the (arch) dioceses of Popayan and Pasto in southwest Colombia, where the SMB was active since the 1950s, the project asks how self-image and local practices conditioned and influenced each other.

Up until the mid-1960s, the SMB was a society for foreign missions par excellence and predominantly concerned with the so-called "heathen mission". With the acceptance of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), the goals and the self-image of the society changed: a fundamentally renewed understanding of mission paved the way for pastoral activity regarding churches "in construction and need".

The thesis of the project is that, within the missionary society, the region of Colombia played a key role in the formation of a genuinely liberation-theologically colored spirituality and ecclesiology. The concrete local experiences of the missionaries and teams of the SMB in southwestern Colombia played a decisive role here; at the same time, the successive adaptation and processing of liberation-theological discourses and practices - both on a local and global level - was by no means linear and free of conflict. This view will be demonstrated via critical analysis of the archive sources and (internal) publications of the SMB.