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Liberation theology is a Christian theological approach emphasizing the liberation of the oppressed. It engages in socio-economic analyses, with social concern for the poor and political liberation for oppressed peoples and addresses other forms of inequality, such as race or caste.
Liberation theology was influential in Latin America, especially within Catholicism in the 1960s after the Second Vatican Council, where it became the political praxis of theologians such as Frei Betto, Gustavo Gutiérrez, Leonardo Boff, and Jesuits Juan Luis Segundo and Jon Sobrino, who popularized the phrase "preferential option for the poor". This expression was used first by Jesuit Fr. General Pedro Arrupe in 1968 and soon after the World Synod of Catholic Bishops in 1971 chose as its theme "Justice in the World".
Latin America also produced Protestant advocates of liberation theology, such as Rubem Alves, José Míguez Bonino, and C. René Padilla, who in the 1970s called for integral mission, emphasizing evangelism and social responsibility.
Theologies of liberation have also developed in other parts of the world such as black theology in the United States and South Africa, Palestinian liberation theology, Dalit theology in India, and Minjung theology in South Korea.
Main article: Latin American liberation theology
Liberation theology developed within the Catholic Church in Latin America in the 1960s, as a reaction to the poverty and social injustice in the region, which CEPAL deemed the most unequal in the world. The term was coined in 1971 by the Peruvian priest Gustavo Gutiérrez, who wrote one of the movement's defining books, A Theology of Liberation. Other exponents include Leonardo Boff of Brazil, and Jesuits Jon Sobrino of El Salvador and Juan Luis Segundo of Uruguay.
Latin American liberation theology influenced parts of the evangelical movement and Catholic bishops in the United States. Its purported use of "Marxist concepts" led in the mid-1980s to an admonition by the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF). While stating that "in itself, the expression 'theology of liberation' is a thoroughly valid term", the prefect Cardinal Ratzinger rejected certain forms of Latin American liberation theology for focusing on institutionalized or systemic sin and for identifying Catholic Church hierarchy in South America as members of the same privileged class that had long been oppressing Indigenous populations from the arrival of Pizarro onward.
Main article: Black theology
More or less at the same time as the initial publications of Latin American liberation theology are also found voices of Black liberation theology and feminist liberation theology. Black theology refers to a theological perspective which originated in some black churches in the United States and later in other parts of the world, which contextualizes Christianity in an attempt to help those of African descent overcome oppression. It especially focuses on the injustices committed against African Americans and black South Africans during American segregation and apartheid, respectively.
Black theology seeks to liberate people of colour from multiple forms of political, social, economic, and religious subjugation and views Christian theology as a theology of liberation – "a rational study of the being of God in the world in light of the existential situation of an oppressed community, relating the forces of liberation to the essence of the Gospel, which is Jesus Christ," writes James Hal Cone, one of the original advocates of the perspective. Black theology mixes Christianity with questions of civil rights, particularly as raised by the Black Power movement and the Black Consciousness Movement.
Main article: Dalit theology
Dalit theology is a branch of Christian theology that emerged among the Dalit castes in the Indian subcontinent in the 1980s. It shares a number of themes with Latin American liberation theology, which arose two decades earlier, including a self-identity as a people undergoing Exodus. Dalit theology sees hope in the "Nazareth Manifesto" of Luke 4, where Jesus speaks of preaching "good news to the poor ... freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind" and of releasing "the oppressed".
Palestinian liberation theology is an expression of political theology and a contextual theology that represents an attempt by a number of independently working Palestinian theologians from various denominations—mostly Protestant mainline churches—to articulate the gospel message in such a way as to make that liberating gospel relevant to the perceived needs of their Indigenous flocks. As a rule, this articulation involves a condemnation of the State of Israel, a theological underpinning of Palestinian resistance to Israel as well as Palestinian national aspirations, and an intense valorization of Palestinian ethnic and cultural identity as guarantors of a truer grasp of the gospel by virtue of the fact that they are inhabitants of the land of Jesus and the Bible. The principal figure in Palestinian liberation theology is the Anglican cleric Naim Ateek, founder of the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem.
During the Northern Ireland Troubles, liberation theology was associated with the ideas and praxis the Belfast Roman Catholic priest Des Wilson. In his critique of the failure of not only of the state but also of the churches to address the needs of working-class communities, both Protestant and Catholic, Wilson compared the fates of Mother Theresa of Kolkata (whom he had personally hosted in Belfast). who "content to pick up the sad pieces left by vicious political and economic system" got she Nobel Prize, and Archbishop Óscar Romero of El Salvador, who having attacked "the causes of misery as well as picking up the pieces, was shot in the head.
Citing the example of Brazilian archbishop Hélder Câmara, Wilson "refusing to condemn those Christians who took arms in their struggle for justice", he followed  During the military dictatorship in Brazil, Câmara, who called on clergy to engage in the struggle for justice without fear of identification with the revolutionary left ("When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why they are poor, they call me a communist"), refused to condemn armed resistance. In a famous interview with Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci, he explained that while it was not his choice ("not my road, not my way to apply the Gospels"), he would never say "to use weapons against an oppressor is immoral or anti-Christian".
Wilson maintained that communities, failed and oppressed by the state, had the right to create not only alternative education, welfare, theatre, broadcasting, "theological and political discussion, public inquiries and much else”, but also “alternative police and alternative armies”.
The Christian peace movement has been associated with liberation theology in many ways. Participating theologians have been in all continents and countries, including countries with Christian minorities. A central theme has been peace as a way of redemption and liberation.
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