South Africa

Brian E. Konkol 12-11-2012
Photo by Foto24/Gallo Images/Getty Images

A man holds a national flag during celebrations marking Day Of Reconciliation 2011. Photo by Foto24/Gallo Images/Getty Images

Instead of celebrating a victory in war or recognizing the founding of an armed unit, South Africa renamed Dec. 16 as “The Day of Reconciliation” for the purpose of transformation, empowerment, and multi-racial national unity. In what can now be described as a dramatic conversion of symbolism, the newly redefined public holiday was celebrated for the first time in 1995.

The Day of Reconciliation is appropriately placed within the Christian liturgical season of Advent, for this period of expectation and longing for Jesus’ birth is a reminder of the ways that God’s presence heals wounds and redefines relationships. As the people of South Africa renovated their national holiday to embrace a transformed national identity, the Season of Advent prepares us to be made new through the birth of Jesus, and thus moves us to promote restored local and global communities through the practice of radical hospitality, as is written in 2 Corinthians 5:19: “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, and entrusting to us the ministry of reconciliation." 

Julie Polter 11-27-2012

I Told My Soul to Sing: Finding God with Emily Dickinson by Kristin LeMay / Grace and Mercy by Jonathan Butler / Gather at the Table: The Healing Journey of a Daughter of Slavery and a Son of the Slave Trade by Sharon Leslie Morgan and Thomas Norman DeWolf / We Are Not Ghosts by Mark Dworkin and Melissa Young


Bishop Kevin Dowling, the Catholic bishop of Rustenburg, South Africa, is co-president with Marie Dennis of Pax Christi International, representing the global Catholic peace movement. The massacre by South African police of 44 striking miners at British-owned Lonmin's platinum mine in Marikana is in Bishop Dowling's diocese. He is an active leader in the Catholic nonviolence movement.

Agenzia Fides reports from Johannesburg:

"Maybe tomorrow, August 29th, there will be the signing of an agreement between the unions and the managers of the platinum mine in Marikana (North West Province, in South Africa). This was reported to Fides Agency by His Exc. Mgr. Kevin Dowling, Bishop of Rustenburg.

"We hope the efforts of the government to sign a reconciliation agreement tomorrow among four trade union organizations and the management of the mine is successful," said Mgr. Dowling.

"Negotiations are still in progress and relate in particular to an increase in wages. Tension is still very high and workers who want to return to work are blocked with threats by strikers," said the Bishop, who is participating in efforts to negotiate with the other Christian leaders who are part of the South African Council of Churches.

On August 16, a union protest in the Marikana mine degenerated into violence: the police shot and killed 34 miners. In the fighting a total of 44 people died. In a statement sent to Fides Agency the Southern African Catholic Bishops'Conference (SACBC) called for a thorough investigation into the massacre and condemned the violence.

Read the rest here.

Steve Stockman 07-18-2012

African schoolchildren celebrate Mandela's 94th birthday today in Soweto. STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP/GettyImages

Back in 2005, Africa was a recurring theme of U2's worldwide Vertigo tour, where Bono’s campaigning for debt relief, trade justice and immediate intervention in the AIDS pandemic — each fueled by his following of Jesus — met in his music in indelibly powerful collision of faith, justice, and art.

When Bono and his bandmates played “Where The Streets Have No Name,” the most amazing mass of colors dropped from the rafters as millions of Willie Williams-designed, light bulbs descended from the rafters to form stage’s back drop and a modern-mosaic high-tech screen. Then came the flags of each African nation in the most moving light show I’ve ever seen.

During the razzle-dazzle on stage, Bono made his claim,

“From the swamp lands of Louisiana to the high hills of Kilimanjaro, from the bridge at Selma to the mouth of the Nile…AFRICA…AFRICA…AFRICA…the
 journey of equality moves on, moves on…AFRICA…from town centers to townships…sacred ground, proving ground…”

The link between the Martin Luther King Jr. (the Doctor of the Deep South of America’s inequality) to Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela (the Archbishop and President of Africa’s inequality) was particularly potent art.

Cathleen Falsani 05-25-2012

“If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him.” ~President John F. Kennedy

Twenty-five years after the release of Paul Simon's Graceland album, the singer-songwriter returned to South Africa to visit the musicians who worked with him on what many believe is his musical masterpiece. A new documentary film, Under African Skies, which premieres tonite (Friday, May 25) on A&E, chronicles Simon's journey and the role that music — and artists — may have played in bringing about the end of apartheid.

This masterful film, which debuted earlier this year to wide acclaim at the Sundance film festival, makes a convincing argument for the important role that artists play in changing the world for the better.



Tom Getman 05-24-2012
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, John Thorne/Washington Diocese

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, John Thorne/Washington Diocese

Engaging in international travel to participate in political justice — especially anti-apartheid issues in the Mid East and Africa — is a bit like playing big league baseball.  The “player” must submit to an excellent coach, pick a good team, learn the essential rules about foreswearing violence, not getting caught stealing by the opposition, and arrive home safely with limited physical or psychic injury. 

One of the “hall of fame” coaches still is Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu who wisely said, “if we had taken up arms when things appeared hopeless in our struggle against apartheid in South Africa we would all be dead and apartheid would still exist.”   

The Archbishop was in town last week for a CBS webcast interview along with American Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori on the “Mission of the Church.” He reinforced that “mission is about receiving the love of God in Jesus and then going to the world to make love incarnate” rather than trying to resolve the world’s terrible conflicts with military interventions.   

Tom Getman 04-26-2012
Squatter camp in South Africa. Photo courtesy of Tom Getman.

Squatter camp in South Africa. Photo courtesy of Tom Getman.

As an annual visitor to South Africa I am often asked, “will the budding democracy survive or will it go the way of other African dictatorship kleptocracies?” 

For starters of course it can be said that all democracies, even America’s in an election year, are works in progress.

But beyond the obvious it is accurate to assert that the model post-apartheid constitution and bill of rights in the early 1990s established a sound foundation. The media and courts remain vibrant and even courageous, African National Congress party discipline is improving, the government is being held accountable for corruption and lack of basic service delivery, and a growing vocal parliamentary opposition is emerging. The grass roots civil society—planted and thriving from the liberation struggle—is active in movements such as Kairos Southern Africa.

Tom Getman 03-09-2012
Key members of the SA Kairos Committee with two senior ANC representatives. (Pho

Key members of the SA Kairos Committee with senior ANC representatives. (Photo courtesy Tom Getman)

In 1985 the South African writers of the Kairos Document declared the Dutch Reformed Church’s “state church” theology to be heretical because of its justification of apartheid. In the months following, Desmond Tutu and many other anti-apartheid leaders risked their lives for change.

On the 2012 Centenary Celebrations of the African National Congress, 21 years after Nelson Mandela’s release from prison, the Kairos Southern Africa theologians have released, “A Word to the ANC in These Times.” The document boldly calls attention to the “certain contradictions [that] continue to militate against … fully achieving the dream that the injustice … meted out to black South Africans by the colonizers would come to an end.”

The document raised other critical issues, such as diminishing diversity, party factionalism and inappropriate security measures. The authors clearly declared, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” (Matthew12:25)

The Kairos steering committee met with the ANC executive in a closed meeting February 8. The discussion focused on poor standards of education, unsustainability of an “opulent ‘American dream’ lifestyle, respecting the Constitution of the Republic, and closing the gap between the richest and poorest.

Joshua Witchger 12-12-2011
COP 17 image via Wylio

COP 17 image via Wylio

After two weeks of extensive talking, and running hours beyond schedule, a deal to cut global carbon emissions finally has been reached. As the climate conference in Durban, South Africa came to a close last weekend, a treaty known as the Durban Platform emerged, requiring all countries to begin curbing carbon emissions by 2020.

The deal binds all countries — rich and poor — to “hold the increase in global average temperature below 2C or 1.5C above pre-industrial levels,” according to the Framework Convention on Climate Change.  Further, plans for enhanced action must be solidified by 2015, with the contracts bearing legal force.

Michael Jacobs, a member of the of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment in London, told the BBC that " by forcing countries for the first time to admit that their current policies are inadequate and must be strengthened by 2015, it has snatched 2C from the jaws of impossibility. At the same time it has re-established the principle that climate change should be tackled through international law, not national, voluntarism.”

But the treaty has its drawbacks.

Duane Shank 11-07-2011

A round-up of recent Op-Ed columns from the mainstream media.

Jim Wallis 10-28-2011

If justice is only an implication, it can easily become optional and, especially in privileged churches, non-existent. In the New Testament, conversion happens in two movements: Repentance and following. Belief and obedience. Salvation and justice. Faith and discipleship.

Atonement-only theology and its churches are in most serious jeopardy of missing the vision of justice at the heart of the kingdom of God. The atonement-only gospel is simply too small, too narrow, too bifurcated, and ultimately too private.

Mary Elizabeth King 08-16-2011

The rioting and rampages that spread across English cities last week have caused severe property destruction and raised public alarm. Writing in London's Guardian, community organizer Stafford Scott describes how he was among the group that on August 6 sought information from the police in Tottenham, a poorer section of London. They wanted an official statement on whether Mark Duggan had been killed by police bullets, as had been reported in the news.

All we really wanted was an explanation of what was going on. We needed to hear directly from the police. We waited for hours outside the station for a senior officer to speak with the family, in a demonstration led by young women. A woman-only delegation went into the station, as we wanted to ensure that this did not become confrontational. It was when the young women, many with children, decided to call it a day that the atmosphere changed, and guys in the crowd started to voice and then act out their frustrations.

This event is what most media accounts have identified as the spark that set England on fire, which has caught the world by surprise. Yet, says Scott, "If the rioting was a surprise, people weren't looking."

Mary Elizabeth King 08-04-2011

'The sun' photo (c) 2007, John - license: account in The New York Times by Ethan Bronner reports that Israeli women and West Bank Palestinian women and girls have once again broken Israeli laws. They have gone swimming in the Mediterranean Sea.

More than two dozen Israeli women invited Palestinian women and girls from the southern part of the West Bank of the Jordan River -- who are not normally allowed into Israel and have no access to the sea -- to go swimming with them. Under Israeli military occupation since 1967, according to Bronner, "most had never seen the sea before."

Kimberly Burge 07-27-2011

soj1108The lost art of reading might be in danger, but I'm happy to report that the desire to write remains strong, at least with Amazw'Entombi ("Voices of the Girls").

This creative writing club in Gugulethu, a township 10 miles outside Cape Town, South Africa, drew together nearly two dozen expressive girls, ages 13 through 20, each week for a year. With the help of a prompt -- a phrase or a short piece of writing to get started -- together the girls and I wrote. Like athletes in training, we built up from an initial three minutes of writing to, eventually, 20 minutes and sometimes longer when they asked for more time. Then we would go around the circle where we sat and read aloud what each of us wrote.

One week, the girls collectively wrote their manifesto (below), and staged a reading when the Flip camera came out. Then Sharon added her own contribution, "Proudly South African" (to hear her read, click here). She's now enrolled in her first year studying psychology at the University of Cape Town. I'm secretly hoping she switches to journalism.

Kimberly Burge 07-27-2011

In the new South Africa, the future is speaking in the voices of the girls.

Places and spaces become holy because they are locations where the human and the divine meet.
Eugene Cho 06-20-2011
It's likely that some of you will take offense at the title of this post. But if you read through the post, it'll certainly make more sense in the larger context.
The Hebrew scriptures recount time and again how God blesses the earth with enough provision and food for its inhabitants.
Alan Storey 06-07-2011
His name is Potlako. Potlako means "earlier than expected," I suppose he was named Potlako because he was either a premature baby or he followed soon -- too soon -- after his elder brother.