Bringing together more than 30 educators and activists in the field of education from all over the world and from various faiths, the Oikotree Workshop on Transformative Education took place at the Matanzas Theological Seminary in Matanzas, Cuba from 04 to 09 February 2015. Oikotree is a movement of movements that has justice at the heart of faith, focusing on justice in the economy and the Earth. It is sponsored by the World Council of Churches, World Communion of Reformed Churches and the Council for World Mission.

The gathering discussed and exchanged ideas on new epistemologies that affirm life and that will help us to envision and construct alternatives to prevailing inequitable and destructive socio-economic systems and structures.  How can we unlearn what is life-destroying and re-learn theologies, economics, politics, sciences and technologies that nourish the wellbeing of communities around the world and that sustain the entire ecological web? What different pedagogical methodologies could we employ and what educational resources are available?

Participants began their own journey of un-learning and re-learning in Cuba with a visit to the Matanzas Slavery Museum – which highlighted the complicity between religion, economics and politics in a colonial project that caused tremendous suffering spanning centuries and continents – and with the sharing of a meal called ‘ajiaco.’ “Ajiaco is a traditional Cuban soup or stew made with a variety of indigenous root crops and other ingredients – it symbolizes community, well-being and a deep connection with the land,” said Rev. Dora Arce-Valentin of the Presbyterian Church in Cuba and executive secretary for justice and partnership at the World Communion of Reformed Churches.

Innovative examples that foster critical learning and formation, such as the Oikos Theology Movement in Korea, were considered at the meeting. “The Oikos Theology Movement is of the view that traditional, Western-oriented theological education is vastly inappropriate especially in addressing the massive ecological challenges we face; therefore a new framework based on indigenous and holistic concepts such as Sangsaeng, Ubuntu and Sumak Kawsay is needed,” said Rev. Dr. Park Seong-Won from Korea and coordinator of Oikotree.

Based on the outcomes of the discussions, the Matanzas workshop developed an initial five-year plan to hold intensive ‘courses’ for de-learning life-destroying epistemologies and re-learning theologies, economics, politics, sciences and technologies for life. These are envisaged to take place in the major regions.

The workshop closed with an interfaith solidarity service organized by the Christian Council of Cuba in Havana to celebrate the recent release by the U.S. government of the remaining three members of the ‘Cuban 5’ who were accused of spying in Miami in 1998. Antonio Guerrero, one of the five, recounted that, in his many years of detention, he was only allowed to read the bible.  “The message of the bible may be reduced to two points – justice and peace,” he said. Justice and peace are also the driving themes of a seven-year ‘pilgrimage’ initiated by the 10th Assembly of the World Council of Churches in Busan in 2013 in response to the interlinked socio-economic and ecological crises threatening our world today.

Clinton Porter

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