News & Media

Unisa awards honorary doctorate to General Secretary of the Council for World Mission

A distinguished leader in the fight for global well-being, Reverend Prof Dr Jooseop Keum, received the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Theology (Honoris Causa)  at Unisa in recognition of his immense contributions to global peace, economic and ecological justice during a graduation ceremony held at the Muckleneuk Campus, Pretoria, on Friday 31 May 2024.

A true champion of the people

Keum is a visionary who has dedicated his life to promoting peace, economic and ecological justice. His unwavering commitment extends to empowering marginalised communities through mission theology, mainly focusing on the potential of youth, young adults and women within the ecumenical movements.


Reverend Prof Dr Jooseop Keum

The distinguished General Secretary of the Council for World Mission and a staunch proponent of social justice and liberation movements, such as the anti-colonial and anti-apartheid movements globally, his theological work has not only created dialogical and/or plural engagements between countries of the global South and global North, but has also immensely centred black theology of liberation and mission from the margins to the centre as core to the liberation imperatives today and into the future.

He continues to display his commitment to empowering marginalised communities and promoting social justice through his mission work. He is not only vocal about empowering youth, young adults and women's contributions to church and society, but is also actively involved in mentoring many of them to take on leadership roles in the global arena. As a young student, Keum was active in the Ecumenical Youth Council and relentlessly participated in the democratisation movement in Korea, opposed to military dictatorship. He was even imprisoned for his active participation in the movement.

In addition, Keum's influence extends beyond his home country and continent. His advocacy for social justice and commitment to social, economic, political and peace influenced many global ecumenical and social justice movements. As an outstanding authority in the field of missions and ecumenical study and research, Keum has authored, edited and co-edited several books, reviewed and published numerous articles, reviews and reports leading to periodicals, and delivered keynotes on multiple global platforms.

Unisa is a beacon of hope

In his acceptance speech, Keum said that through the 150 years of the university's existence, it has been prophetic and transformative in promoting justice, liberation, human dignity and democracy in the country. He added: "Unisa has been a beacon of hope for the African continent in promoting unity, towards the collective wisdom and struggle against the challenges the continent has been facing. However, the global landscape is radically changing, especially in Africa – we live in a time of deep crises, from environmental damage, economic injustice, military conflicts and social and political polarisations which threaten our existence."


Reverend Prof Dr Jooseop Keu receives the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (Honoris Causa) from Prof Puleng LenkaBula, Unisa Principal and Vice-Chancellor

Keum stated that the rich are getting richer, and the dominant, including the elite, create an atmosphere of fear and insecurity. "On the other hand," he posited, "there are numerous opportunities for change. "Firstly," he stated, "Africa has the youngest population in the world under the age of 30 – an opportunity for the continent to grow, only if the new generation is fully empowered to realise their potential – a key to achieving the university's vision towards Africa, shaping futures in the service of humanity."

In addition, Keum stated that Africa has led liberation movements and theology grounded in the struggle for justice, equality and liberation of the oppressed. Amidst bearing the hallmarks of colonisation, oppression and the fight for independence, the continent, he said, has created a unique brand of theology and humanity that resonated with the collective yearning for freedom and dignity.

He further stated that he has been promoting black theology of liberation and marrying it with various theologies in Africa and Latin America. "We strongly believe that any journey towards justice, peace and life cannot be walked alone. It requires the strength of unity, the wisdom of collaboration and the grace of God's guiding hand."


Unisa Principal and Vice-Chancellor Prof Puleng LenkaBula

Affirming Keum's honorary doctorate, Unisa's Principal and Vice-Chancellor (VC), Prof Puleng LenkaBula, underscored Keum's significant sacrifices and lifelong contributions toward the liberation struggle. She said: "Keum reminds us of our history of Asia and South Africa – our leaders who collaborated to fight for justice for the people of Asia and Africa." Addressing the graduates, the VC emphasised their responsibility to step into leadership roles by using their acquired knowledge to ensure the continent emerges as a global leader, promoting peace and stability.

The university acknowledges Keum's exceptional contributions by awarding him the prestigious Doctor of Philosophy in Theology (Honoris Causa). This recognition is a testament to his lifelong dedication to fostering peace, justice and empowerment on a global scale. His story inspires all to pursue a world that reflects his unwavering commitment to a global positive change.

* By Godfrey Madibane, Acting Journalist, Department of Institutional Advancement, with additional reporting by the Unisa Media Affairs
**Photography by Shooheima Champion, Multimedia Centre

Publish date: 2024/06/03

Unisa Shop