Khotso House, located in the center of Johannesburg, South Africa, means "The House of Peace." I visited Khotso House last spring and found a building bustling with energy and activity. It was the headquarters of the South African Council of Churches (SACC), and it also housed the offices of human rights, trade union, and detainee support groups. Everyone in Khotso House was deeply engaged in the struggle against apartheid and for a new South Africa.
At approximately 1:10 a.m. on the morning of August 31, an expertly set bomb destroyed the House of Peace. No one was seriously injured, but the building was so structurally damaged that it may well be beyond repair. The bombing of the SACC offices was similar to other attacks on church, union, and other organizations that have challenged the white South African government. Just over a year ago, the Johannesburg headquarters of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), the nation's largest labor federation, was destroyed in a very similar bombing attack. Six months ago in Cape Town, a bomb damaged Community House, which provided offices for a number of church and community groups. These bombings remain unsolved.
The most recent attack came shortly after the South African churches and prominent church leaders launched a new campaign of nonviolent direct action and civil disobedience aimed at the system of apartheid. In the political vacuum created by the silencing of most other groups, the churches have moved to the front lines of the freedom struggle in South Africa. The early-morning bombing appears to be an answer to the churches stepping forward.