Theology and activism have been intertwined for Rev. Dr. Allan Aubrey Boesak as long as he can remember, growing up in racially segregated South Africa where apartheid was the official policy.
Shortly after being ordained, he recalls that many of his very first congregants (all black) were forced to uproot from their homes—some for the second or third time—and they pressed the young preacher to explain what God thought about such injustice. Dr. Boesak has never stopped trying to answer that question and has never stopped working to reverse the injustices he’s seen first-hand. During the 1980s, he introduced a non-racial coalition in South Africa called the United Democratic Front and worked alongside Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela to lead efforts against apartheid and promote reconciliation.
“If the end goal is an open, more just society, then excluding white people from the struggle would have been wrong,” said Boesak. “We invited people in on the basis of their commitment, not the color of their skin.”
Since that time, with decades of experience as a theologian, humanitarian, prolific author and advocate for social justice, Rev. Dr. Allan Aubrey Boesak has emerged as one of the world’s preeminent authorities on liberation theology. And whether he’s lecturing to university students, advising theologians, or sitting with a group of youth leaders as he did recently in Ferguson Missouri, site of recent race riots, Dr. Boesak still believes that the answer lies in solving problems together. “Peace begins when I refuse to see you as just an enemy, but as someone who is capable of doing things differently to turn things around.”
But how do you create space for reconciliation in the midst of the struggle, when you feel consumed with a desire for retribution? For Boesak, hope lies in courage. He’s seen it in the young people who took over the fight against apartheid in the mid 70s, even as they were being shot at, tear gassed, thrown in prison and tortured. He sees it today in the multiracial support for marginalized individuals and groups. And he sees it in Hawai‘i, where “the spirituality of the people and place has kept the struggle alive.”
“Imagine what we can do when we pool our energy and invest in our aspirations.”
In June 2015, Dr. Boesak was a speaker at the University of Hawaii as part of the Manoa Chancellor's Distiguished Lecture Series. Previously, Christian Theological Seminary and Butler University named Dr. Boesak the Desmond Tutu Chair of Peace, Global Justice, and Reconciliation Studies.