Die belydenis van ’n ekofeminis

Die CLF-Elise Tempelhoff-toekenning vir Omgewingsbewaring en -geregtigheid
Wenner: Susan Rakoczy
Wenpublikasie (Akademiese artikel): “God as Father: Patriarchy and climate change” in Handbook on Christian Theology and Climate Change, 2019.

Saam met die CLF-Elise Tempelhoff-Toekenning vir Omgewingsbewaring en -geregtigheid, is prof Sue Rakoczy ook die enigste vrou wat vanjaar erken word uit die Andrew Murray-prysfonds, skryf Rethie van Niekerk.

Ek was bekend met Rakoczy se werk en het haar af en toe by konferensies raakgeloop. Tydens 2020 se grendeltyd het ’n afdeling van die Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians begin om weekliks saam te gesels, reflekteer en bid. Daar het ek vir Rakoczy persoonlik leer ken as ’n mentor en geestelike begeleier. Ek was telkens getref deur haar wysheid en die manier waarop teologie, praktyk en spiritualiteit ’n geïntegreerde eenheid in haar lewe en menswees is.

Ons begin gesels oor haar skuif vanjaar terug na die VSA, wat sy beskryf as ’n “very long transition. Everything in my life has changed.” Rakoczy is ’n lid van ’n Katolieke gemeenskap genaamd The Sisters Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. As deel van hierdie orde het sy haar teologiese opleiding gekry en in die laat 1980’s in Afrika begin werk. In 1989 trek sy na Suid-Afrika, waar sy by die St Joseph’s College onderrig gee. Mettertyd was sy ook die koördineerder van die nagraadse programme vir Katolieke Teologie en Christelike Spiritualiteit by die Universiteit van KwaZulu-Natal.

KB: What would you hope your legacy to be?

SR: Several things. One, as a feminist theologian, to alert people in the churches to the importance of women’s theological reflection. To foreground the work of women in the theological community.

A particular theological interest of mine has been the intersection of social justice and spirituality. I wrote this book a number of years ago, Great mystics and social justice: Walking on the two feet of love, but I’ve written extensively on that theme in other publications.

To be a voice for women. As a catholic woman to challenge the church in a lot of ways. People will say to me: “If you criticize the church, why don’t you leave?” Why should I leave? Why should all the thinking women leave?

KB: What is ecofeminism?

SR: Feminism as a whole is a philosophical, sociological, theological movement, which emphasises the experience of women. Ecofeminism looks at ecological issues through the lens of women’s experience, because the literature clearly shows that it is women, especially poor women, who are most impacted by ecological crises and problems.

I’m currently working on an article on the ecofeminist writings in the Circle [of Concerned African Feminist Theologians]. Their writings range over all kinds of topics, like land and water. I have 70 references already!

KB: Let’s talk about the article that you received the recognition for. What did you want to say with this article?

SR: What I demonstrated was this: that because the language about God throughout the Christian tradition is overwhelmingly masculine, it links up strongly with the patriarchy, which is driving what is happening to the earth.

If we go back to Genesis 1, basically translations use the word “domination”. Sociologically, that’s how human society has functioned, in terms of men running things. It’s a very small step from men over women to men over the earth. It’s a critique of the whole system.

KB: We talk about the floods in KZN, the drought, the locusts and I ask Rakoczy for an ecofeminist perspective on our current situation. She refers to research done after a specific cyclone hit Mozambique, linking it up with other research.

SR: Who is most affected? [The research shows it] is the women who are primarily affected. This is because often – not always – the men swim to save themselves. They abandon their families. The women are left to somehow get the children to safety, and if there are little ones, towing little ones and towing elderly family members. Then, when they get to safety – if they get to safety –there is an horrendous amount of sexual violence in the camps, in the shelters.

So the effects of climate change are always worse for women. Always worse for women.

KB: Is there anything you would like to say to Kerkbode’s readers?

SR: All over the world, especially in SA, we have really realised we are brothers and sisters in Christ. Yes, there are significant differences, still. But the differences are less than they were a hundred years ago. The theological writings of all the churches are available to everyone. My writings as a catholic ecofeminist and teacher of spirituality are available to everybody. That means I need to make considered effort to read the writings of people of other Christian communities. The body of Christ really is one. Paul says in Romans 12, when he describes the body, he says: and so it is with Christ. We are one. We don’t recognise the unity. Some Christians don’t want the unity. And just like with the flood relief, hopefully (though I can’t imagine that this is happening), nobody asks for a church affiliation. Here are gifts. Here are donations. Just form a queue and you’ll get what you need.

  • Ds Rethie van Niekerk is predikant by Blouwaterbaai Familiekerk in Gqeberha.
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