Having grown up in an impoverished neighborhood in the Brazilian city of Salvador, Raimundo C. Barreto, PhD ’06, witnessed firsthand the extreme economic disparities and human rights abuses that accompanied the nation’s military dictatorship in the 1970s and early 1980s. But he also saw how faith got people through these tough times. “I wanted to serve,” he says. “For me, attending seminary and becoming a pastor seemed to be a path that would allow me to combine serving God and serving people.”
He studied theology, first in Brazil, then in Europe, and finally in the United States, where he earned a PhD in Religion and Society at Princeton Theological Seminary. After a stint ministering and teaching in Brazil, he was called to serve the church in a more global way in 2010, as the first director of freedom and justice of the Baptist World Alliance. In this position, he traveled across six continents, working mainly in areas of conflict impacting ethnic and religious minorities. He visited religious communities in situations of distress; advocated before state and interstate officials; and offered seminars, lectures, and workshops on human rights advocacy, conflict transformation, interfaith relations, and more. And though it was a time of incredible growth and learning, he later found himself ready for a change.
“I aspired to return to teaching, since I realized it wasn’t possible to advance long-term change or a meaningful human rights agenda without increasing our efforts on education,” Barreto recalls. Returning to Princeton Seminary gave him the unique opportunity to participate in the education of young leaders, while bringing some of his global experiences to bear on their formation. In addition to teaching in the classroom, Barreto prioritizes bringing his students to visit communities around the world to meet people, see how they live, and experience how they practice their faith. “A theological education is not just about reading the word of God or about the ways in which people practice their faith,” he says. “It’s particularly powerful to go into communities where these words are incanted and believed, share meals with families, listen to music, and experience the culture.”
In his research, Barreto focuses on how one’s location and movements across different kinds of borders impact how they learn and see the world. That concern appears in several of his publications, like the co-edited volume Decolonial Christianities: Latinx and Latin American Perspectives (2019). He’s currently working on a monograph about Latin American contributions to the ecumenical movement, and editing a six-volume series called World Christianity and Public Religion. Barreto is also one of the three conveners of Princeton Seminary’s World Christianity Conference, which will have its third edition virtually in March. “This annual conference — and the scholarship it generates — is helping to turn Princeton into an important hub for world Christianity,” Barreto says.
Barreto’s efforts to broaden the breadth and depth of scholarship at Princeton Seminary are deeply appreciated. In October, Barreto was promoted to associate professor of world Christianity with tenure. Regarding his promotion, Jacqueline Lapsley, dean and vice president of Academic Affairs and professor of Old Testament, says “I am delighted that Professor Barreto has received tenure and been promoted to associate professor at Princeton Theological Seminary. He possesses a wide-ranging expertise in liberative theologies in the context of global Christianity, which reflect his deep commitment to justice both globally and locally. We are blessed to have him as part of our community and look forward to learning from his research and teaching for many years to come.”