Missions Towards Human Dignity: Challenges from within and beyond the Black Sea region

Intention: Invite participants through issues relevant to the region of the conference

We wish to explicitly link the conference theme to the Black Sea region and the missiological issues arising from there; those issues however must appeal to mission studies scholars/missiologists from all over Europe in such a way that they enthusiastically respond to the call.

Black Sea region

While acknowledging that the notion of Black Sea, as any regional notion, is a socio-political construction, we “count” the following countries as “surely” belonging to the region: Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia. Hellenic Republic, Moldova, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Turkey, Ukraine.

The Black Sea region has become subject to geopolitical and geo-economic interests as well as to cultural, religious, theological and missionary engagement and contestation. The region for long acts as a kind of bridge, connecting Europe and Asia, in many cases also the different traditions of Christianity and Islam. Situated between Russia, Southern Europe and the Middle East with access to the Mediterranean and Central Europe, it represents much more than a zone of local importance. It is a region packed with history, implying trade, political interest, cultural exchange, intellectual learning, religious encounters – all these in the dynamics of peace, mutual enrichment, war, conflicts, disasters tensions, competition, trauma for the sake of survival and/or living together; a region which mirrors the human condition in all its beauty, fragility, brokenness, creativity, and vulnerability.

The conference explores, how the Black Sea region is not only a geopolitical, but also a mission political axis, the strategic importance of which, though growing, has not yet been studied in more depth. Missionary enterprises, either Christian or of other faith traditions, emerging from the region or coming from elsewhere shaped the societies/the life together and were crucial for identity formation.

This conference echoes the theme of the last IAMS Europe Conference: Locating European Missions in a Wounded World in Deep Transformation (August 23-27 2019, St. Augustin, Germany) places human dignity at the center of our theological-missiological attention. It does so in its relevance for ecumenical, inter-faith, and international entanglements of the missionary praxis. Human dignity as a theological notion gains its primary meaning in the human´s relatedness to God through creation. Human dignity is then a normative notion through which 1) vulnerability and responsiveness of and in all human beings can be acknowledged, 2) accountability and responsibility in relationship with God, fellow-human beings and the rest of the created world can be addressed, and 3) identity formation looked at. The leading question of this call is to what extent can missional praxis (theory and practice) become a source of regional renewal and help better understand Christian missions’ potential in Europe to further human dignity, a search for the common good, within geopolitical processes, natural disasters defined by experiences of crises?

The conference calls for papers which explore the above sketched ideas through three main routes:

Missions towards human dignity in contexts of (new) multi-ethnic and multi-religious diversity.

The Black Sea region is a place where religious and ethnic Othering continue to shape everyday life for its better or worse. While scapegoating, victim-mentality, radical ideologies all have lived experiences (contested human dignity) at their roots, they continue to fuel confessional fundamentalism, nationalism, and xenophobia. These on their turn seem to petrify the  rich ethno-religious cultures into unchangeable identities. Secularization too affect the region.

  • History-mission-human dignity: (new) historiographies of missions (histories of oppression, persecution)
  • Collective-individual identity constructions
  • Where is mission in socio-political, and cultural relations/dynamics in processes?
  • Solidarity- ecumenicity- shared humanity: how to overcome inter-denominational rivalry?
  • The role of churches in (re)imagining communities, identities, solidarities
  • Ecumenical understandings of mission
  • The meaning of mission political axis

Missions towards human dignity looked at from the perspective of work.

The social instability, high unemployment rates, labour migration, poverty, refugee camps, deviance, (addiction problems) but also creative entrepreneurship, are but a few phenomena visible in the region. These phenomena are interrelated with political and social processes in other parts of Europe. The following areas might be explored:

  • Work –human dignity-creation: missiological explorations through case studies
  • Misison, labour migration, unemployment, and politics of labour- implications for communities, families and societies
  • Transformational leadership and its implication for understandings of work
  • Workplace and work ethics
  • Gender and work, equalities and inequalities
  • Entrepreneurship and Christian missions
  •  mission and economics, money and mission

Mission toward human dignity: learning by doing

The Black Sea region is dense in mission praxis. This route seeks to identify “best practices” which help conceive of Christian missions in their roles as leitourgia (the public service of the church) both in terms of verbal witness(evangelization) and non-verbal witness (materiality).

  • The role of language in missions (e.g. based on what kind of langue about God practice is created?
  • Missionary vocabulary revisited (e.g. evangelization, salvation, sin, forgivness)
  • Examples of building up human solidarity (beyond ethnic and religious boundaries) solidarity epically during crisis.
  • Development of Christian education at all levels (catechization, theological education, discipleship programs)
  • The challenges of new technology: virtual communities
  • Being as communion- best practices of multi-ethnic and multi-religious living together
  • Partaking in bare life (refugees, marginalized people, people/communities in crisis)