Thea is a non-denominational Christian charity which was set up on 24th December 1998 with the following objects:
- to advance religion by facilitating communication and contact between Christians of different national, regional, political, denominational, racial or ethnic groups with a view to deepening communion in worship; and
- to mediate for the public benefit and for the greater glory of God between Christian members of national, regional, political, denominational, racial or ethnic groups which are in conflict and so empower them to reconcile their differences, both for themselves personally, and (where possible) for and on behalf of the groups of which they are representatives.
There is a story that a Master of a Cambridge college once asked a senior fellow who regularly read the Latin grace before meals why the prayer concluded, "May God in His mercy bestow...peace on every kingdom and on all Christians." Surely, he said, there was no need to mention the Christians separately, as if God bestowed His peace on every kingdom, he would also bestow it upon all Christians. The senior fellow had some sympathy with the Master's point, but another fellow at the table, not known for his piety, chipped in, "I think we should keep the separate prayer for all Christians, as if God bestows peace upon them, there will surely be more of it for the rest of us!"
Thea's objects developed out of an approach to conflict management in Rwanda in the 1990s. One of the many perplexing questions the carnage in that country threw up was how a population more than 90% of which called themselves Christians could kill their neighbours in such vast numbers. There was no simple answer to this question, but two elements of it appeared to be (i) that ordinary people understood their religion as requiring them to obey their leaders rather than their own consciences, and (ii) that the leaders' sense of identity as Christians was subordinate to their civil identity.
A Christian is someone in whom the Holy Spirit of God lives and who will never die but enjoy eternal life. This is not an identity which any civil identity can match. Countless Christians have faced the worst that the secular powers of their day could throw at them over two millennia with serenity and courage. Some of them were in Rwanda in the 1990s.
Conflict is a normal and healthy part of any society. When it is competition in a defined sphere with generally accepted rules, it produces benefits for society as a whole and for the successful participants, whilst limiting any damage to the unsuccessful ones, so that they have the chance to come back and be successful the next time. A shared sense that there is a wider context in which the competition takes place also helps the participants deal with the outcome, and their ongoing relationship, with greater equanimity. It is only when the contest becomes a zero-sum game, where the participants fear (or are led to fear) annihilation if the are defeated, that violence and destruction are unleashed on an uncontrolled scale.
Thea is for those who consider themselves to be Christians and who find - or fear finding - themselves caught up in destructive conflict.
Thea aims to help people bring their Christian faith and values to bear on conflict so that the conflict can be addressed in its immediate and wider contexts, and faith and values can be strengthened by people being conscious and conscientious in their application.