2017 marks the official 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation, the movement that paved the way for Enlightenment, shaped the history of the Western world, and announced the coming of a new age defined by the significance and power of the individual, under and beyond a religious understanding. Five centuries on, the European continent has not yet concluded the project inspired by Reformation – define and embrace a “European identity.” Conflict and religion, the politics of memory and everydayness, clashes of values, and a crisis in diversity still define the European experience. In the current context of a world more connected and mobile than ever, it is worth asking what of the spirit and structure of Reformation is present in societies and communities of today.
If the ethos of Reformation was rejection of institution, a critical take on the absolutes of power, and an awareness regarding the role and place of the individual in relation to their own fate, the contemporary Western experience can be similarly described. Current anxieties around labour, personal freedoms, the role of the state, values, and ever-shifting politics of exposure inform a constant attempt to (re)position the social subject in a complex web of experiences. Reformation announced the secularisation of human freedom, and opened new conceptual spaces for the understanding of community, social bonds, individual potential, and human agency. Today, however, we witness growing crises at the heart of these concepts, leaving important dents in the design and trajectory of our lives.
With this issue of PETRIe, we dedicate ourselves to consider the legacy of Reformation, as we explore actions and projects imbued with the spirit of the movement that defined the last five centuries: the belief in the value of individual human life, in the potential for growth, and in the capacity of knowledge to pierce darkness in search for truth.
Prejudice, racism, superstition, folkloric stand-ins for knowledge have been functioning in Western societies with long periods of undisturbed complacency which affected the very memory we have of ourselves. We would like to acknowledge the eruptive events that interrupt these periods, the tumult that drove some generations to rebel, to call for correct interpretation and remembering of the world, and never cease to question the rightfully questionable. The project of Reformation and the following centuries of progress and scientific illumination speak to the capacity of wonderment itself; the precious quality of learning to challenge the world as it is given, constructively doubt the institutions that lord over life, rethink the sacred and the secular, the personal and the collective, and work to make the world better, more just, more equal, and truly free.
We hope you enjoy this issue and that you find inspiration for your own projects of illuminating freedom.
Words: Elena Stanciu