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Neither Despair Nor Complacency
IN JUNE 1966, Sen. Robert Kennedy joined the National Union of South African Students for a conference held in Cape Town. Tension was running high. NUSAS president Ian Robertson had been banned under the Suppression of Communism Act, and the pressure was on Kennedy, from both the apartheid government and sectors of the anti-apartheid movement, not to attend.
Kennedy went anyway and delivered one of the best speeches of his career. “Few have the greatness to bend history itself,” Kennedy reminded the students. “But each time a [person] stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, [s/he] sends forth a tiny ripple of hope ... daring those ripples to build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”
Twenty-eight years later Nelson Mandela became the first democratically elected president of South Africa. The West embraced him, celebrating his magnanimity, “disremembering” the support it gave to the very apartheid regime Mandela worked to dismantle.
The Road to Reconciliation
A Cycle of Healing
To Be a Servant to the People
The Church and change in South Africa
Apartheid is a Sin But ...
The NGK and apartheid
The Conditions for Freedom
Mandela's release marks decisive moment in South Africa
A Struggle for the Church's Soul
What is happening in South Africa is not just a conflict between church on the one hand and state on the other. There is a conflict within the church between those reactionary forces that continue to seek to domesticate the church and those forces within the church, represented by people such as Desmond and Allan and Frank, who are affirming the radical gospel of Jesus Christ. It is a struggle for the soul of the church.
It is very important to ask, if Desmond and Allan and Frank do not represent the entire church, as P.W. Botha charges, why is it that they are perceived as such a significant danger to the status quo and to the state? I believe P.W. Botha is absolutely right when he says they are a danger to the state--for three reasons.
First, they are articulating a message that is instinctively understood and responded to by the majority of the oppressed people, who make up the majority of the church. They recognize that message to be, in fact, the message of the residual gospel of liberation which has been suppressed for so long within the life of the church. It's the gospel they read about in the New Testament, even if it's not proclaimed within their pulpits.
Second, what we are experiencing within the life of the church today is an organization, a mobilization, of the church of the poor and the oppressed in a way that we've never seen before. For the first time in South Africa, there is an overt and explicit attempt, by recognized church leaders to mobilize the oppressed within the churches to be on the side of the broad liberation struggle.