In June and July 2020 OMNIA engaged in a series of  
conversations about an Emerging New Reality.
We have since attempted to live into these principles.

The seven Zoom-based conversations were on the following themes:

1.  The Nature of the Emerging New Reality: Rev.Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou and Dr. Afri Atiba

2.  Insights from the “Let Us Breathe Collective”: Ms.Charisse Jackson and Mr. Damon Williams

3.  Insights from Nigeria: Rev. Abare Kallah, Dr. Aliyu Rabiu and Mr. Salisu Lumbo

4. Insights from Chicago’s South and West sides:Rev. Marshall Hatch and Rev. Duwayne Grant

5.  Insights from Sri Lanka: Bishop Kumara Illangasinghe, Ms. Dilanthi Manuel, Rev. Jude Sutharshan and Mr. Isuru Ranaweera.

6.  Insights from women: Ms. Soraya Deen, Dr. Afri Atiba, Dr. Karen Bloomquist and Ms. Shreen Saroor

7.  Insights from Bangladesh: Rev. David Das, Ms. Daisy Roy, Ms. Han Han and Mr. Charles Francis


Summary notes and the conclusions from all the Tuesday Talk conversations are reproduced below. For the Zoom recordings and notes of the conversations,

please click this link.


 Insights from the Conversations on the

"Signs of an Emerging New Reality"

“Another world is not only possible, she’s on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.” Arundhati Roy


Our Vision of a New Reality

The New Reality we envision is a world of non-violence.

We recognize the violence of Intersecting injustices:

a. that race is the predominant factor of injustice in the U.S.

b. women are oppressed throughout much of the world, and have been through the centuries

c. economic injustices such as wealth disparities are leading to extreme poverty and hunger that kills.

We recognize the need to abolish militarism by state and non-state actors – globally (as in US military interventions around the world and as in extremist violence by terrorist groups such as Boko Haram), and domestically (as in policing US cities). The investment we make into cages, guns, teargas, tanks, planes and other military equipment is an investment in violence. When people respond in violence at the community level, we need to understand that it is a response to such structural or state violence.

We recognize the need to abolish violence against the environment, making it possible for us produce healthy food, breathe clean air and drink clean water. An eco-centric world with strong legal frameworks to protect nature and safeguard animal rights, and the authority to ensure such rights are safeguarded is needed. An education system that trains students to respect nature and live in harmony with nature (against the existing mindset of a human-centric world) is also necessary.

This work is urgent. “People say – as in the Green New Deal – we need to get to these goals in the next 20 years, we say no. We need to do this right now.”


Signs of an Emerging New Reality

 * OMNIA is building an alternative global force –peacemakers. The IP Team leaders must be so designated and trained to take that role seriously, and the Teams understand their critical role as a peace-force.

* IP Teams provide us a venue for honest and critical conversations across religious, ethnic and other identity markers. Bridges of faith are being built through dialogue and cooperation. IP Teams are developing deeper and more critical understandings of concepts such as non-violence, Inclusion, Peace, Peacebuilding, Bridge-building etc.

* IP Teams go beyond talk - they act, and act effectively.

* In Nigeria, the work of IP Teams has caused a cultural shift. There used to be significant antagonism between communities where rarely, if ever, people would come together to do something. Today, there is an emerging understanding of a “common humanity.” Even the media is talking this way. Imams and pastors increasingly understand their responsibility to teach people about how we should live together. Children will also be getting pluralistic education instead of extremist versions of their religion.

* Starting with the margins is critical. Even extremely marginalized people have latent power. At the margins, people are more serious, sincere and proactive than the elites. We need to explore, motivate and collectively organize them.

* “Team” demonstrates an alternative to the common ideal of the individual charismatic leader. Team work enables them to build power and bring solutions to issues that the governments are unable to resolve.

* For women the emerging new reality is very positive. Look at the women who led the world against Covid-19. Leaders of NewZealand, Iceland, Finland, Germany, Taiwan, Norway. Look at the US women’s march after the inauguration of Trump, how the women came together, eventually leading to the #MeToo movement, and the electoral successes in 2018. OMNIA has been teaching women how to build power, recognizing the power inherent in them and to run for political office.

* IP Teams are connecting with other sectors of society. A recent example is the collaboration of Nigerian IP Teams with the School of Nursing in dealing with Covid-19. They lift up the value of interconnectedness wherever possible.

* Internet connectivity is available to people including those in rural areas in Bangladesh and they are all using it. Having a Zoom conference was unthinkable even 5 or 6 months ago, but now we are connecting across the world.

* As in Arundhati Roy’s quote, there is a renaissance in the arts, music (such as blues, jazz and gospel music) and stories. This is where we start to dismantle the empire.


Values of the New Reality

Overwhelming priority of love. A New Reality can be built only through long time on-the-ground engagement with acommunity (unlike NGO’s who go away after their project is over) by building trusting relationships with people. This is only possible through an attitude of “deep abiding love.” Love requires of those who are white (privileged) a deep acknowledgement of the depth of violence and cruelty that has been done in the past and is being unleashed in the present.

The Common Good(s)/Reparation: However well intentioned, charity cannot address the deep fissures that are evident in our communities. The New Reality requires reallocation of public money for the common good. It requires a significant and just redistribution of wealth.

Live in communitarian ways through justice, not charity. The notion of individualism pervades our societies and has led to a culture of giving and receiving charity and away from justice.

Educate for liberation: Everyone needs to learn the people’s history of racism, violence, imperialism etc. and learn to think boldly and critically about issues like U.S. imperialism.

Encourage people to express themselves creatively through art, poetry, music, writing, video production etc. This enables them to think of “out of the box” solutions to what their liberation can look like.  

Use Active Non-violence: Recognize that calls for people to act non-violently arise when ordinary people protest (non-violently.) Acknowledge that a prior violence has already taken place. Learn disciplines of non-violence as an active discipline of resistance.

Inclusion: Our commitment to inclusion as a value requires us to address the problem of exclusion at our national border,which is a product of white nationalism.

Recognize Privilege: White people need to intentionally engage in the struggle. They don’t have to, because they have privilege. Black people have no choice. Black women have been talking for awhile about #MeToo concerns, but it was only when white women spoke that we got the #MeToo movement. This is privilege.

Solidarity: We should question the notion of “ally.” An ally can check in and out and does not have skin in the game. Unless white folks believe that their son is going to get shot 3 seconds after the police arrive, or left baking in the sun for 4 ½ hours like in Ferguson, or calling for his dead mother like in Minneapolis, unless you believe that your life is as  threatened, you have no skin in the game. When you get that, when you understand that your salvation is tied up with the salvation of others, then, you have skin in the game. Then you are not an ally, you are a freedom-fighter.


What Problems will the New Reality Solve?

1. Reduce Violence

a. Divest and Reinvest to Reduce Gun Violence: Take 75% of the $2 billion invested in the Chicago police and invest that $1.5 billion in those areas of concentrated violence. The structural violence of the military industrial complex creates a societal acceptance that violence is inevitable. Guns are not manufactured in Chicago. They are brought into Chicago. Most of the shootings are concentrated on young people 16-24 year old, and most shooters have mental health issues. Police are not trained in how to handle them. Those shooters have already had police interactions, which leads them to greater violence. The solution is to get the community to be more collectively responsive. Imagine what would happen if we were to take the money we invest in violence and use it for our communities. Provide guaranteed minimum income for people who have been left behind by capitalism.

b. Dismantle Capitalism’s Hold on the World so that violence, a tool of global capitalism, will be defanged.


2. Dismantle Racism

a. Employment for under privileged persons: Hold businesses accountable for their hiring practices of persons of color.

bPrepare Potential Leaders for Elected Office,and Help Them Get Elected: These must be leaders that promote love ofneighbor and justice for the world, rather than those that spew hatred and promoteexclusion, division, oppression and violence.

c. Fix the criminal justice system that is so broken.


3. Promote Local Cooperative Economies: We need to question the accepted support for increasing globalization and work for localization' - where people know and respect one another and rely on oneanother for survival.  


4. Lack of Connectivity: IP Teams can pressure governments to provide internet infrastructure free (or at minimal cost) as a public good. The need for this was strongly felt during Covid-19.Bangladesh is a great example of this.


5. Political Corruption: IP Teams canpressure governments to ensure the independence of Public service commissions (health,transportation, education, etc.) from political corruption. Pressure governments to create independent commissions for Human Rights.


How Can OMNIA Help Birth the New Reality?

1. Continue to Build and Strengthen IP Teams

a. IP Teams can engage in public actions that have implications beyond their immediate community.

b Give IP Teams a sharper analysis of their contextual realities. For example, that violence as a tool of global capitalism has a hold on them as well. Encourage them to find creative “out of the box” solutions.


2. Broaden the Table:

a. Educate more young people in the liberative options open to them. We are now at a time when there is a surge of energy among young people.

b. Ensure that there is wide diversity at the table: African-American, Latino/a, African, Asian, Native American, LGBTQ, seniors, and people with disabilities.


3. CreateTheological Round Tables

a.  OMNIA should create theological round tables that help people discern the theologies that help us and theologies that fail us – which theologies are oppressive, and which are liberative. While most tables should be diverse, some should be privileged -- designated for specific constituencies, such as Muslim women.

b.  OMNIA’s distinctive theological method recognizes the primacy of the context -- for example, that “received”theologies include scriptures that were written by men, to men, and for men, interpreted through the centuries by privileged men and brought to us with their cultural trappings. They often affirm and legitimize unjust public policies that favor the privileged.

c. This “Received” theological tradition has at least three attributes: exclusivity, supremacy and binary identities. It is oriented from the top down. OMNIA advocates shifting our theological orientation to bottom up, where theology begins by listening to, learning from, and living in deep solidarity with people in the margins.

d. Tuesday Talks raised the following issues for theological discernment:

    i. During the Covid-19 pandemic, apocalyptic theologies are spreading fast, adding to people’s fears.

    II. Some women want to cling to patriarchal ideas and the notion of self-sacrifice. Even when one woman accepts her position to be secondary to a man, she jeopardizes the entire progress we have made.

   III.  Can we affirm non-binary identities including gender roles, particularly in the context of increasing awareness of intersexuality?

   IV.  In a theological environment of individual salvation, how can we make sense of the notion: “My salvation is tied up with yours.”

    V.  White supremacy, a global phenomenon, is intricately connected with Christian supremacy. How can we create a theological discourse that dismantles Christian supremacy?


4. Create experiments and Present Case Studies

a. Research and publish experiments and cases of examples that replace our current violence/punishment-based institutions. "Where is this already happening?"  Can we build on the experiments?

b. Recognizing the honored place the US and other countries give to military personnel, and what little recognition is given to peacemakers, create a high profile award/s to be given to a “Peacemaker of the Year” in each of the countries where we work.


5. OMNIA’s Training has 3 Primary Disciplines

a. Interreligious collaboration – all our religions have resources for working together with others.

b. Building power – people learn how to build relationships through one-on-one relationship building and by creating alliances.

c. Strategic thinking and action – IP Teams learn how to evaluate their level of power and undertake only issues that arise from the ground that are urgent, relevant, and winnable.

Resources suggested by participants

1.      Joel Garreau, Nine Nations of North America makes the case for rethinking borders.

2.      Gustavo Guttierez, A Theology of Liberation

3.      The Economics of Happiness – Film (2011)

4.      Mariame Kaba, “Yes,We Mean Literally Abolish the Police: Because reform won’t happen.” (NewYork Times Opinion June 12, 2020)

5.      Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Interviewon “Intercepted” making the case for abolition.

6.      The Commonwealth of Nations has some global resources to add to the new world order --- especially hand in hand with Royal Commonwealth Societies in the 54 nations of the world.......

7.      Fr Dermot A. Lane, “Theology and Ecology in Dialogue – The Wisdom of Laudato Si” (p. 79) “Sophia, in the Sapiential literature, expresses features of what we see as ‘feminine’ in the mystery of the one God, features that have been forgotten and neglected within the largely Patriarchal reception of the Jewish and Christian scriptures . . . . If thecarefully chosen language of Chalcedon, which talks about ‘homo’ and not ‘vir’,is respected, then the patriarchal bias of traditional Christology will have to be critiqued Christologically and Pneumatologically, especially in the light of the centrality of the Wisdom Christology of early Christianity.


126/127, he suggests that “within the community of creation the notion of neighbour extends beyond the human species to include other living creatures and the vibrant life of the natural world. . . . we need to broaden the boundaries of our pronouns. When we talk of ‘we’ or ‘us’ or ‘you’, we should include our new neighbours in the earth community within the range of meaning and reference. This adjustment to our new neighbours and the widening of the range of reference should apply to all thought, speech, teaching, preaching and prayer, except in instances where reference is exclusive to human beings. This will require a new way of being, a new way of thinking, a new way of acting in the world and a new way .”




Shanta Premawardhana


Shanta Premawardhana is president of OMNIA Institute for Contextual Leadership. Prior to OMNIA, he served as the Director for Interreligious Dialogue and Cooperation at the World Council of Churches in Geneva, Switzerland. He was also the Associate General Secretary for Interfaith Relations at the National Council of Churches, USA. While serving as pastor of Ellis Avenue Church in Chicago, he engaged in community organizing in the Southside of Chicago. He is an emeritus trustee of the Parliament of the World’s Religions, National Council of Churches, USA, and Common Cause Illinois. He earned his Ph.D. at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.


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