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Doing theology in times of conflict: IBTS 75 years, 1949–2024


Facilitators: Prof. Dr. Katja Tolstoj

Crises and conflict are pervasive in today’s world, causing profound challenges for entire regions and people groups, affecting the livelihoods of millions.

These geopolitical issues, amplified by relentless media attention, shape our perspectives and imaginations, and have far-reaching effects on our lives, especially for those living in conflict hotspots. 

Many of these conflicts and crises relate, at least partly, to religious identities and ideologies, and have theological dimensions. This necessitates a deeper examination of theology's role in confronting these challenges, in discerning good and evil, in seeking human flourishing and in relating the questions to the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

Examining theology's role in confronting challenges

'Doing theology in times of conflict: IBTS 75 years, 1949–2024'

25 January 2024 at the VU

The themes of conflict and peaceableness along with the related theological and practical implications are interwoven into the history of IBTS. Founded in the aftermath of the Second World War as a peace-building initiative in a broader European context, IBTS has evolved through its journeys from Ruslikon to Prague and eventually to Amsterdam. Throughout this transformative journey, IBTS has remained steadfast in its commitment to nurturing contextual forms of theology within the vast Euro-Asian region, with a special focus on Baptist identity, mission and practice. As IBTS celebrates its 75th anniversary and 10 years in partnership with the VU Amsterdam, its mission for peacebuilding remains as essential as ever.

During the day, we were honoured to have VU professor Katja Tolstoj as our keynote speaker. Katja holds the Chair of ‘Theology and Religion in Post-Trauma Societies’ at the VU Amsterdam and was named National Theologian of the Netherlands in 2023. Respondents to Katja’s presentation came themselves from contexts of conflict. Dr Eli Haddad, dean of the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary responded from the context of conflict in Lebanon; Dr Olexandr Geychenko, dean of Odessa Theological Seminary, brought perspectives from the war in Ukraine and Dr Valerie Duval-Poujol, professor of exegesis at the Catholic Institute of Paris, responded to the presentation through the lens violence against women. The session was chaired by Professor David Gushee of IBTS and VU. 

With around 160 people in attendance from an incredible range of international contexts, the day provided a wonderful opportunity for lively engagement in some of the key contemporary questions of theology. It was a fitting way to launch a year of celebration marking IBTS’s 75th anniversary. 

This day was organised by IBTS, as part of its annual colloquium and by the Dutch Baptist Seminary as its annual McClendon Lecture. In the opening session of the colloquium IBTS Director, Mike Pears, shared a reflection about the dynamic nature of the theological space that enables open and rigorous engagement in today’s contested world.