07 February 2010

CONF: Sam Sharpe and the Quest for Liberation

Conference "Sam Sharpe and the Quest for Liberation: Context, Theology and Legacy for Today" of the Oxford Centre for Christianity and Culture, the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Jamaica Baptist Union, and BMS World Mission, at the University of Oxford, Regent's Park College, England, 13-16 April 2010

The conference takes as its centrepiece the story of Sam Sharpe, the Baptist deacon and enslaved person who played an important role in the "Great Jamaican Slave Revolt" of 1831. One of the leaders of a group of enslaved persons who took part in a "sit-down strike" against slavery, he was executed together with more than 500 others. Nevertheless, their revolt is recognized by historians and theologians as having a powerful influence on the process leading to the abolition of slavery, and Sam Sharpe is honoured as a national hero in Jamaica. The story is of a Baptist Christian whose actions were clearly motivated by his faith and by his reading of scripture; he is reported to have said, "In reading my Bible, I found that the white man had no more right to make a slave of me than I have to make a slave of the white man". He remains a witness to the principle of "liberation from below": that is, true liberation comes when those who are oppressed or marginalized participate in making their own freedom and justice, rather than simply having it granted to them by those who have power and authority. This is what the conference identifies as the "legacy" of Sam Sharpe today.

The conference aims to explore this story with regards to its context (making a scholarly examination of the characters, events, and social institutions of the time), theology (offering a theological reflection on the enslaved revolt, as a contribution to liberation theology), and legacy (asking what light the story might shed on present-day concerns of oppressed or minority groups, and exploring its global impact).

In particular, the conference will explore the relevance of the Sam Sharpe story for the West African experience of slavery. It will also offer a theological framework for the process among UK Baptist churches ("the Journey") which has followed the apology for slavery by the Baptist Union of Great Britain, and will draw upon the experience of churches of both the Caribbean and the African diasporas in the UK and the USA.

The conference marks the publication of a book centred on Sam Sharpe, called "Burning for Freedom: A Theology of the Black Atlantic Struggle for Liberation" (Kingston: Ian Randle, 2010), authored by Delroy A. Reid-Salmon (Oxford).

Invited speakers include: Cawley Bolt (Jamaica Baptist Union); Neville Callum (Baptist World Alliance); Rosemarie Davidson-Gotobed (London Baptist Association); Paul Fiddes (Oxford); Dwight Hopkins (University of Chicago); Wale Hudson-Roberts (Baptist Union of Great Britain); David Muir (Evangelical Alliance); Lynette Mullings (Queen's Foundation for Ecumenical Theological Education); Delroy A. Reid-Salmon (Oxford); Horace Russell (Palmer Theological Seminary); David Shosanya (London Baptist Association); Burchell Taylor (Kingston, Jamaica); Mary Turner (School of Advanced Study, University of London)

To give a paper, contact Nicholas Wood (Oxford): nicholas.wood@regents.ox.ac.uk

To attend, contact Louise Nelstrop (Oxford): louise.nelstrop@regents.ox.ac.uk

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