A Target of Chemical Warfare | Sojourners

A Target of Chemical Warfare

IT WAS A WARM DAY IN SOWETO, BUT 3-YEAR-OLD OTLILE PLAYED OUTSIDE in a pair of colorful winter boots. His father grinned and said, "He got them as a gift, and we can't get him to take them off."

As Rev. Frank Chikane entered their home, he made the seemingly misplaced remark that the curtains in the living room do not match. Then he explained. The house was fire-bombed in 1985, and one set of curtains went up in flames; the replacement is a shade different.

Frank Chikane is a man acquainted with suffering. During his first of five detentions since 1977, he was tortured so brutally that he could not walk. In 1981 his Apostolic Faith Mission Church suspended him for a year because of his activities against apartheid. He was appointed general secretary of the South African Council of Churches in 1987 while in hiding from the government. He is a man of gentle spirit -- and unwavering determination.

The threats and violence of the South African state have done nothing to turn Frank Chikane around. "I suspect that the state is going to be forced to be more brutal against the church, simply because of the amazing determination of church leaders," Chikane said just a few weeks after he and other religious leaders had led a march on Parliament in protest of the government's banning of 17 anti-apartheid organizations. "I suspect that the state might try other than just the legal methods of dealing with church leaders. We are already experiencing harassment and attacks. We might have to go through an experience of assassinations and people disappearing."

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