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by Nicolas Panotto, 13 julio, 2016

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The Multidisciplinary Studies Group on Religion and Public Advocacy (GEMRIP) brings together men and women of diverse religious backgrounds who specialize in a wide range of disciplines within the social sciences, humanities, and theology. The group’s purpose is to create opportunities for students to gain awareness, reflect, and develop the theoretical and practical skills with which to respond to the challenges that modern societies present to social action that emerges from religious spaces and ecclesial communities.

GEMRIP emerged in response to the need within education and research institutions in Latin America to build bridges in research and practice between the religious phenomenon, faith, and the public sphere. In recent years studies in this field have increased, as have opportunities for social action organized by religious communities, as is demonstrated by their growing presence in diverse spaces within the public sphere. We believe, however, that the need remains to deepen and enrich the analyses and to coordinate the practices of these social agents and their efforts.

GEMRIP serves as a space for dialogue, education, and research whose objective is to assist individuals, groups, and institutions 1) in the study of the circumstances and issues presented by the public sphere and contemporary politics in relation to diverse modern religious phenomena, and 2) in their practice of social action as people and communities of faith immersed in complex and dynamic socio-political contexts.

GEMRIP proposes not only to assess the influence of these contextual factors on the religious world, but also to contribute to the particular input that religious communities offer in the public sphere by providing opportunities for consciousness raising, training in theory, and the development and analysis of specific social action projects.

How is GEMRIP unique?

An alternative perspective on social action, religion, and faith. We believe that religion and faith have public roles that are not limited to their relationship to those spaces, discussions, or institutions that are understood traditionally as explicitly political, including political parties, the State, or political rhetoric. Instead, we believe that religious communities—including their theological discussions and social and pastoral practices—possess a public role that is central in and of the particularities of their identity, that is, in their religious, pastoral, and theological character. In other words, this entails identifying religious communities as spaces that create political imaginaries in their theological discussions, ritual actions, liturgical practices, and institutional organization.

On the other hand, the religious phenomenon has become considerably more diverse in recent decades, gradually claiming greater relevance in the public sphere. For this reason, all of these phenomena require new socio-analytical mediations and the development of practices of social action that aid in perceiving with greater clarity the political place of religion, studying the new dynamics emerging in the social field and their interrelations, and promoting new modes of interaction among these fields. We believe that traditional approaches in both the academic disciplines and the design of institutional actions—whether they are educational institutions, NGOs, or the State itself—have limitations and resist these new phenomena, especially in relation to the religious. For these reasons, GEMRIP commits to investigate, analyze, create, and promote new analytical frameworks and concrete actions starting from pertinent approaches that facilitate action within current contexts.

Development of a public theology. Since its origins, theological production in Latin America has been closely linked in dialogue with the social sciences in a profound examination of the socio-political challenges of the continent. GEMRIP wishes to advance this tradition starting from an alternative theological position that 1) evaluates current theoretical, methodological, and epistemological frameworks, as well as existing practices of social action, and 2) re-conceptualizes politics, social action, and activism with the objective of demonstrating and deepening the intrinsically public function that theology and religion possess.

Build bridges among the disciplines of religion, theological education, research, and social action. In addition to a team of professionals specializing in the study of the religious phenomenon from diverse academic fields, GEMRIP is unique in having direct contact with religious spaces since many of its members participate in different faith expressions. In addition, theology—a discipline that generally has little to do with the scientific field and the promotion of institutional efforts of activism—is an integral part of the frameworks the group develops. For these reasons, GEMRIP is distinctive, offering an alternative option for analysis, research, and mobilization of the religious discipline, with the participation of professionals in the social sciences, in theology, and in the public sphere.

Vision

To be a leading educational institution in Latin America in the fields of religion, faith, and theology, and their relationship to the public sphere by means of multidisciplinary training presenting current pedagogical techniques, networking with diverse institutions and experiences, and theoretical and practical approaches sensitive to current socio-political circumstances.

Mission

We create opportunities to increase awareness, raise consciousness, and engage in multidisciplinary training through educational programs and spaces of dialogue and reflection in the study of 1) socio-political dynamics in the contemporary context, 2) the relationships of these dynamics to the phenomena of religion and faith, and 3) strategies of effective social action starting from the perspectives of religion and faith.

Institutional Objectives

• Promote the analysis of the socio-political location of religion and its discourse from diverse fields in social theory, the humanities, and theology.

• Open spaces of multidisciplinary dialogue, awareness, study, and research for the study of the religious phenomenon in contemporary socio-political contexts.

• Develop a space for theological education and pastoral formation using tools that encourage a sensitive reading of communal realities.

• Collaborate with NGOs, educational institutions, and ecclesial communities in processes of evaluation and training in social action projects.

• Contribute to the field of theology and its relationship to the analysis of the public sphere.

Values

Sensitivity in perceiving and identifying the processes of change, the complexity of social realities and the particularity of each person or group that interacts with the institution in order to create a space of inclusion and acceptance to diverse points of view, cosmovisions, practices, and modes of thought.

Continuous Innovation in theoretical approaches, pedagogical methods, contextual analysis and institutional practices within the organization that enables processes of change and redefinition in response to the context of new social, academic, and pedagogical challenges.

Ongoing Dialogue as a constitutive practice in educational spaces (professors-professors, professors-students, students-students) and as a characteristic of the internal structure of the institution.

Academic Rigor demonstrated by the use of current pedagogical methods, pertinent theoretical approaches, and the treatment of topics sensitive to the present socio-political and religious context.

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