Emmanuel Katongole is an associate professor of theology and peace studies and a priest. His research focuses on politics and violence in Africa, reconciliation, and Catholicism. He also participates in the Kroc Institute’s Contending Modernities research initiative that examines Catholic, Muslim and secular forces in the world. He leads a part of the project focused on authority, community and identity in Africa
What do you see as the role of the Church and religion in violent contexts?
Christians, we are not always on the side of peace, and we can actually be on the side of hatred and violence and war, and we can even quote or make reference to Scripture … thinking that God is the one who actually is telling them to kill the other who don’t agree with them or who are not Christian. That, in my opinion, is a wrong interpretation of the Christian faith and Christian Gospel, especially if you are to understand Christianity from the point of view of the Messiah Jesus Christ, who died on the cross, who preferred to be killed rather than take up the sword and kill the other. So from my understanding, a proper understanding of Christianity has written within it this vision of God’s excessive love that sends him even on the cross and therefore is connected to impetus and movement for the kind of excessive love that responds to evil with an excess of love … Granted that there are many other people who say, “No, no, no, that is not the only way we can understand Christianity. We also can understand Christianity as sort of calling us to arms and so forth.” I think they are wrong.
What are you most proud of?
I’m really proud of what God has accomplished in my life. Not that I have accomplished, what God has accomplished. I was born and raised in Uganda — a very poor family. My father died when I was in grade five. My father never went to formal school. For someone who didn’t grow up with or around books, to be a professor at Notre Dame — that is one proof that God exists. I always sit and want to say, “How did that happen? How could that happen?” Nobody could have planned that. It’s a miracle. It’s humbling. And there are a number of other things, the fact, for example, that I’m a priest. That continues to humble me, and I realize how unworthy and inadequate that I am, but that is what it is. So for me, the thing I’m proud of comes with a deep sense of humility and gratitude for all these gifts that are completely undeserved and also a sense of surprise and delight if you know what I mean. There are a number of things, but I think the one most proud thing is the miracles that I experience every day. I am very proud and humbled by those.