4 Kairos30 questions to discuss (and deepen) in small groups

At the Kairos 30th anniversary celebrations, we discussed the following four questions in small groups, and we asked groups to deepen/refine the question before moving on to the next question.

The four opening questions that we asked people to problematize and deepen, are:

  1. Give your comments/critiques/limitations of the 1985 Kairos document and process and any comments on subsequent processes and documents


  1. Is there an equivalent Kairos today in which is God is challenging us?


  1. Are there signs of hope? What are they?


  1. What kind of Kairos leadership is necessary for today’s challenges?

Feel free to discuss these questions in small groups in your congregations, and feed back your responses below.

For more information on what was said and what transpired from the Kairos 30th celebrations, please see:


#Kairos30: Dare we remember?

Originally posted on marthiemombergblog:


Now that I’m home from our global #Kairos30 conference (titled Kairos as a Dangerous Memory) the question remains: “What do we do with our memories?”


You see mine are not those of taking a brave stand against apartheid like the theologians who wrote the 1985 Kairos document. Mine are memories of feeling scared, incapable and paralysed. They are memories of apathy and silence about something I clearly knew was wrong. For I was one of those white South Africans who did nothing to end the systemic, legalised injustices in my country.

Thirty years ago a group of South African theologians (listed below) asked the world for help in ending apartheid. Their appeal became known as the South African Kairos document. Since then the Kairos theology has found root in diverse places such as Germany, India, the USA, Swaziland, Palestine, India, Brazil and Nigeria. This week (17-20 August 2015) delegates…

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Kairos SA 30th Anniversary conference statement

Kairos 30th Anniversary Statement:
Dangerous Memory and Hope for the Future

We gathered in Johannesburg (near Cottesloe) from 17 to 20 August 2015, to celebrate how the 1985 South African Kairos document, “Challenge to the Church,” responded to a moment of truth in the most painful days of Apartheid. That Kairos document inspired three decades of Kairos movements in many different contexts. This celebration has now re-inspired us toward a common humanity and a concern for human dignity and our environment.

The pain of Marikana and the reasons behind it (multinational profit before people and corporate greed) hovered over our conference.

The 2009 Kairos Palestine document, “A Moment of Truth,” a cry from the Palestinian Christian community, carries a disturbing echo of the dangerous memory of the South African story of Apartheid. Kairos Palestine has evoked a powerful global response from Kairos contexts around the world. The catalyzing power of Kairos Palestine was deeply felt in our gathering. We were inspired by this renewed energy. Palestine is the space where our sacred texts are contested.

There was much to celebrate in this gathering. Our Kairos conversations were intentionally multi-generational and broadly international. We were grateful to engage deeply with Muslim and Jewish perspectives. We found much joy in our solidarity and shared struggles. We were particularly encouraged by the inter-generational nature of this gathering and how that can be nurtured and encouraged. We are particularly inspired by the birth Zinzi Kairos Mbenenge during the conference. “… for unto us a child is given”!


We have reached a new moment of truth, a new Kairos. We recognize how the coming of Jesus and his teaching about a new kingdom and a new reign against the Roman empire of his day has completely passed us by. We lament that, by and large, the church of today has become distracted from this mission of preparing the way for God’s reign.

In our time, we find that various sites of pain and struggle are joined in a Global Kairos, a shared quest for justice. In our discussions, we named our shared struggle against the scourge of this global empire of our times. Empire is an all-encompassing global reality seeking to consolidate all forms of power while exploiting both Creation and Humanity. The empire we face is not restricted by geography, tribe, language or economy. Empire is an ideology of domination and subjugation, fueled by violence, fed by fear and deception. It manifests itself especially in racial, economic, cultural, patriarchal, sexual, and ecological oppression. Empire deceptively informs dominant, white supremacist, capitalist paradigms controlling global systems and structures. Global empire is sustained by weapons and military bases (hardware) along with ideologies and theologies (software).

We rejoice that resistance against empire is manifested in a plurality of struggles throughout the world. Struggles against ecological injustice, gender injustice and patriarchy, landlessness, abuse of people on the move, refugee vulnerability, political and religious persecution, social exclusion, denial of indigenous rights, neglecting children’s rights, harm to LGBTI persons, access for the differently abled, and racial supremacism represent only a portion of the struggles against empire. Since 1985, Kairos documents have expressed resistance to these and other realities in Central America, Europe, Malawi, India, Kenya, Zimbabwe, and Palestine. In this conference, we were pleased to receive new Kairos documents from siblings in Swaziland, Nigeria, and the United States. The memory of unjust suffering in all contexts is dangerous to the purposes of empire.

In our listening to one another, we found that the context of suffering and pain created by Israel’s oppression of Palestine contains all aspects of empire. Palestine is therefore a microcosm of global empire, a critical site of reflection that can bring experiences in other locales into sharper focus. Palestine does not eclipse other situations around the globe but instead intensifies the need for greater interconnection and mutual engagement.

All Kairos movements emerge from sites of grave injustice and deep pain. Every Kairos document is a cry to God and to the world. We confess, however, that we have served two masters and preached a gospel that requires nothing of the rich young ruler, even as we build empire on the widow’s mite. We recognize that we and our church institutions have often closed our ears to our siblings’ cries and drowned them out. In many cases, very little action has followed. The church has often been ambiguous and cautious in its response to human suffering. Sometimes, the church has engaged in active opposition to the liberating work of God present in communities of resistance, increasing church complicity in structures of injustice. The church has often provided theologies of domination in the service of Empire. In our discussions, we found that the South African Kairos indictment of Church Theology is as relevant in our time as it was in 1985.


The dangerous memory of the South African Kairos document provided a prophetic critique of State Theology, theologies that validate and confirm forms of state terror. It identified as heresy theologies that justify Apartheid. In our time, we are called to expand this critique and rejection of state theology to address Imperial Theology, the ‘software’ that justifies imperial exploitation and oppression. We were encouraged to find that, although Empire seeks to divide communities from one another, peoples’ resistance can unite us across religious, ethnic and culture divides.

Imperial theology is at work in the continued oppression of Palestinians and the crisis now engulfing what is known as the Middle East. Analysis and rejection of the State Theology supporting Apartheid in South Africa was an essential element in exposing and resisting that sinful system. In its dominant forms, Zionism has been used to justify the dispossession, transfer, massacring, ghettoization and exploitation of the Palestinian people. Zionism has become an element within the dominant structures of empire. Politically, we call for an intensification of all economic and political pressures on the State of Israel, including the Palestinian civil society call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS). In our biblical interpretation, we strongly distinguish between biblical Israel and the modern State of Israel. Theologically, we declare to be heresy any Christian theologies that support the Zionism informing Israeli oppression.

We now therefore resolve

  • to act and pray, inspired by the dangerous memory of Jesus Christ, God’s siding with suffering and poor communities, aiming to do all we can to return the global and local church to the mission of Jesus to enact the reign of God, opening toward a new way of relating to humanity and the earth;
  • to encourage all Christians to respond to the Palestinian Christian call to “come and see” the living stones of the Holy Land, providing hope to all who suffer under the cross of illegal Israeli Occupation;
  • to advocate that international law must apply equally to all. We reject the imperial dictate that imposes sanctions on some regimes while vetoing and criminalizing popular calls for sanctions on egregious violations of international law;
  • to impress upon our churches, seminaries and theological institutes the need to deepen theological engagement with the pressing challenges of the world, including the global systems and structures of empire and to promote Kairos spirituality;
  • to reflect intentionally on the South African experience of the effectiveness of the BDS efforts and express our full support for an intensification of BDS as an effective, nonviolent strategy against global empire;
  • to create appropriate systems to ensure that young people will be nurtured and mentored in the Kairos understanding of faith, hope, and love and supported in their growth into leadership;
  • to express public support for those working against corruption in South Africa; while we rejoice that political apartheid has ceased in South Africa, we lament that economic apartheid continues; we commit to working toward Kairos Africa to ensure that the hopes of the next generation of the African continent are not dashed by Empire; and
  • to foster and nurture the Global Kairos for Justice movement; we are because you are.

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed but not in despair,
persecuted but not abandoned; struck down but not destroyed.
(2 Corinthians 4)

20 August 2015

A cry from the Vaal area to all Churches in South Africa: Wake up!

(This contribution was sent to Kairos SA by a group in the Vaal that has been reflecting on the situation in South Africa. We have not attempted to edit what was written….Your comments about this will be appreciated)



A cry from the Vaal area to all Churches in South Africa: WAKE UP!!!

We say: Evil thrives when good people become comfortable and complacent!


Looking at Churches and their role in the SA society today -2015

We, a group  of community and church activists, have been gathering for the past nine months grappling with social issues,  most of them related to Churches and their role in South Africa today.

We acknowledge that, we all belong to different churches, but we do not feel at home in the Church, since  some are more powerful and privileged and this makes us feel neglected and betrayed and then we become passive in our churches.

Our Concerns

 Currently certain people in our Churches are not treated equally: albinos, gays, lesbians, disabled, youth. Many still face discrimination according to race, culture, sexual orientation, and to a large extent women and the poor are still marginalized, and kept unemployed and poor by the State and society.

Tribalism, xenophobia, patriarchy, and racist practices are still rife in some churches and communities. What are Church leaders doing to stop these?  

We remember that St Paul said in his letter to Galatians: “For all of you who were baptized in Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor master, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus”.(3:27+28).

This is what church leaders used to teach us under apartheid. Now there seems to be a new kind of apartheid even  in our Churches.

There is an acknowledgement that Churches contributed to the wider spread of education, however  Churches have not been critical enough of  colonialism, apartheid and the present global economic system, to bring about real and meaningful change to the majority of the people.

Poor quality of education is one of the causes of poverty, however the root causes of poverty is capital globalization perpetuated by the neo-liberal capitalism as adopted by the South African government in 1996.

Churches are not doing enough to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor. One example is  the division between  commercial and small scale farming and it appears that Churches are more supportive of the commercial farming: including practices like child labour, evictions, Genetically Modified Organisms , which have serious implications for food security and the environment. The problem of evictions is now experienced even in urban areas after 1994.

 Food is for profit, not for people and, profit that is increasing poverty.

The present neoliberal policies of the SA government – such as privatization, Public Private Partnership , National Development Plan , Tax Incentive Act,  the youth wage subsidy, Expanded Public Works Programme, Zivuseni and voluntarism are part of the exploitation of workers and the poor. When the poor have no  money it leads to cut-offs (water and electricity); but also illiteracy, evictions, poor education, homelessness, landlessness, etc, which are signs of pure slavery. Yet, our church leaders for the most part are silent.

Are they silent because they gain and  benefit from the exploitation of the poor by big businesses? As the prophet Amos warned: “Hear this you who trampled the needy and bring the poor of the land to an end. You buy the needy for a pair of sandal”. (2:6)


Now is the time to listen to our conscience as there are  false prophets in our Churches, who are only interested in making profits.

Therefore we have become critical of our Churches

Church leaders were vocal, active in defying apartheid, however after 1994 they were quite. And this silence is worrying because we know that some Church leaders are co-opted and are benefiting by their alliance of the old and new elite.

Many churches have joined the privatisation process. How? By selling holy water, uniforms, and funeral services – yes, even prayers! The question must be asked: how can they do this and WHY?

Churches preach prosperity to the point that they demand tithes and payment for funerals from those who are poor and unemployed, without even looking at how they can assist those without income. WHY?

At the start of apartheid Churches were quiet and are still in denial regarding racism, however they have also been faced with the class division within their own midst. Churches are not doing enough to change the system where the rich are exploiting and oppressing the poor.

 Even now after 1994 the new Black elite has joined the old elite in the oppression and exploitation. The Church leaders are quiet. WHY? 

Churches have also been quiet regarding the debt situation of the country, including the odious apartheid debt that was accepted by the democratic government. Today it has serious impacts on the poor and the marginalised. How can Churches be quiet when our government has to pay the apartheid debt? And why?

We remember how we celebrated the Jubilee Year of 2000 and read in the book of Leviticus: “that the land should be returned, the debt should be written off, and relationships should be restored” (25:10).





 Based on the above we call for meaningful action by Church leaders.

  1. Civil society including Churches and labour unions should be more vocal regarding social justice when it comes to land.


2.The programmes of Churches must use land in a sustainable manner but also promote especially organic and perma-culture, instead of commercial farming  using GMOs and pesticides.


3.The formation of youth structures outside the Church should be supported, whilst the church youth cooperates with such structures especially in addressing poverty.

  1. Churches must be open to the communities where they are, and their teachings must also address the root causes of poverty.

The poverty eradication programmes of different churches must collaborate and not compete with each other for resources and prestige.

  1. We need the involvement of  Churches in all community struggles – marches, campaigns, and protest against all manifestations of injustices in our society –  be it xenophobia, drug abuse, but especially neo liberal policies, that are leading to these social ills. A recent example is that of four Boiketlong community leaders who are being sentenced to 16 years in prison and the other four who are being restricted from public activities in Sebokeng – Zone 19.
  2. Education is a necessary tool for progress, therefore, Churches must work towards changing the current education system, which is class based. There should be one education system for all that aims at bringing out the best in everyone for the common good.


Churches must stop playing “neutral” in the name of “peace and reconciliation”  – Churches must be on the side of the poor, as these members are directly affected by current social ills.

Church leaders should openly support and pledge solidarity in marches, campaigns and service delivery protests. It’s a belief of the group that Churches must stand not only for peace but for the truth and justice.

Jesus took a prophetic stance against the religious authorities of his day, when he rode on the back of donkey into Jerusalem and people were crying to him for help to bring hope in their lives of suffering and oppression. (John 12:12-19).

We call upon Churches to play a meaningful role in educating their members to deepen understanding of total liberation from all social ills caused by neoliberal system.

We have learned  that the Bible is good news for the poor and should not be used to oppress and exploit the poor, as was done under apartheid. Even today some Church leaders mislead their members by giving them false hope to get rich quickly.  

Neoliberal agenda leaves the country suffering from unemployment, inequality and poverty, The masses continue to be victims of crime, police brutality, evictions, corruption, drug abuse, discrimination and racism. Churches should oppose this, and join those fighting the present neo-liberal system for a just and caring society we dream of.

In the Gospel of John (10:10) – Jesus said: “The thief comes only to steal and destroy; I came that you may have life, and to the fullest”.

Churches must not be quiet anymore, but should be vocal on the needs of the community in line with Batho Pele principles.

We pray that Churches will hear the cry of the poor and wake up to work with the poor and oppressed for true liberation.



For more information contact the following

Mr. George Makhanya @ 073 978 1193

Ms.Teatea  Manana @ 083 549 7511

Prof John de Gruchy explains what a “Kairos” moment means….


Micah 6:6-8

Matthew 13:54-58

“What does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with you God?”

“Prophets are not without honour except in their own country and in their own house.”

About a third of the Old Testament is made up of books referred to as “The Prophets.”  We are probably all familiar with some of them, or at least a few of their verses, whether from Isaiah or Jeremiah, Amos,  Ezekiel or Jonah, though we are probably less familiar with Obadiah and Zephaniah to say nothing of Habakkuk and Haggai.  Then in the New Testament we read about the “gift of prophecy” and how prophets in the early church brought messages of encouragement and guidance to congregations and individuals.  We also read about “false prophets” who proclaim “peace, peace” when there is no peace, and prophets who misled the church usually out of greed.  And then there are the self-proclaimed contemporary prophets who clam to predict the future, some who claim to have a hot-line to God, can heal you of all your diseases, and can tell you precisely when Jesus will return.   But there are also others we deem prophets today who. in the tradition of the great OT prophets, speak truth to power, proclaiming the need for justice if there is to be peace and reconciliation.  I generally use the word prophet in this sense, but  when we use the word we need to be sure  we know who we are referring to.

The great prophets of social justice in the Old Testament were not religious leaders or professional preachers, neither were they fortune tellers who knew precisely when the end of the world would come, nor did they spend their time writing proof texts for the coming of the Messiah.  But as they witnessed injustice in the land, and saw the way in which the poor were oppressed conrary to God’s commandments, they declared in no uncertain terms that if Israel did not change its ways, it would be judged by God with dire consequences.  But if they did change, the prophets declared, God would fulfil his promise of peace.  In that sense they predicted the likely future, and also indicated that one day God would send his anointed one, that is, Messiah, to establish God’s kingdom on earth.  Christians believe Jesus was that anointed one and therefore fulfilled not just the law of Moses but also the promise and hope of the prophets. Jesus, for us, was more than a prophet, but he was also a prophet in the lineage of the great prophets of Israel.

In 1985 during the first State of Emergency while I was teaching at the University of Cape Town, a well-known South African Roman Catholic theologian, Albert Nolan, arrived, almost out of the blue it seemed, to give a seminar in our Department at UCT.  Albert, who was a leading figure in the anti-apartheid struggle was on the run from the Security Police,  so his sudden appearance was quite dramatic, and our graduate students, who were already familiar with his writings, were excited to meet him in person and listen to his seminar presentation.  It was all about a new theological document called the Kairos Document which was in the process of being drafted by a group of theologians in Soweto and Johannesburg.  As he read it to us and talked about it, we soon realised that this was a momentous event, for the Document  was the most frontal theological attack on apartheid we had yet heard.  It was, in the tradition of a Hebrew prophets, a prophetic statement. At the end of the seminar we all put our names to it and within a few weeks the document was made public, causing a major stir within the churches and in government.  And those of us who signed it soon came under attack from various quarters.

Next week Edwin Arrison and  I will be attending a conference in Johannesburg to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the  Kairos Document, and as a matter of interest, Alyson’s great painting of one of the Stations of the Cross, will be unfurled at the opening ceremony in Regina Mundi Cathedral in Soweto.  Also attending the conference will be people from around South Africa and the rest of the world, some of whom have subsequently produced their own kairos documents. So what is so important about the Kairos Document that we should celebrate its thirtieth anniversary?

Kairos is a Greek word which means “time,” not time understood in terms of years, months, days, hours, and seconds, that is chronological time; in the New Testament kairos refers to “God’s time,” the time of God’s judgment and salvation.  Jesus arrived, St. Paul tells us, in the “fullness of kairos,” (Galatians 4:4) in other words, at the right moment, and Mark begins his gospel by saying that “the kairos is fulfilled. and the kingdom of God has come near.” (Mark 1:15).  God’s time or kairos is, in short, a “prophetic moment.”  That is, a moment in time when peoples and nations are in crisis and prophets arise calling them to grasp the opportunity to change their ways or else they will face catastrophe.

The mid-nineteen-eighties was such a time in South Africa.  President P.W. Botha had infamously failed to cross the Rubicon in 1983 and the country was heading towards civil war.  At that “prophetic moment” the Kairos Document was  a call to Christians and the churches to actively resist injustice and work for a truly reconciled nation.   Neither the government nor most white South Africans, were prepared to accept this word of prophecy which so fundamentally challenged the status quo with its clear cut message.  But looking back, what the Kairos Document declared was right on target.  It was  in the tradition of the great prophets of ancient Israel.  It was, as it claimed, a prophetic theological document.

Prophets of God’s justice are invariably rejected by the authorities and end up in prison or worse.  It was Jesus who declared that Jerusalem rejected and stoned the prophets, and they did so because they refused to acknowledge the things that made for peace, namely doing God’s justice.  So, with reference to himself, Jesus declared in the passage we read today, “prophets are not without honour except in their own country and in their own house.”   And that was so true in South Africa, of Beyers Naudé, Sheena Duncan, Desmond Tutu, Steve Biko and others, as it is of prophets around the world today who are speaking out about the ecological crisis facing us, or about the situation in Palestine, and a host of other issues, including poverty and corruption in South Africa.  The message is the same as it has always been, Unless you change your ways disaster will strike.

As we take note of what is happening around the world as well as in our own country, we would be foolishly blind if we did not recognise the global and national crises facing us.  The world has become a much more dangerous place than we ever imagined when we entered this new millennium.  So we should listen to the prophets.  They are not prophets of doom but prophets of justice and hope.  This is God’s time, they declare, a time to grasp the opportunity to change.  So let us not be among those who, as Isaiah said, “look but do not see, or listen but do not hear.”  Rather let us following the counsel of the prophet Micah and the Kairos Document “ do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.”

John de Gruchy

Volmoed 13 August 2015

Names of those killed at Marikana in August 2012

In memoriam:
Tembelakhe Mati
Hendrick Tsietsi Monene
Sello Ronnie Lepaaku
Hassan Fundi
Frans Mabelane
Thapelo Eric Mabebe
Semi Jokanisi
Phumzile Sokanyile
Isaiah Twala
Julius Langa
Molefi Osiel Ntsoele
Modisaotsile Van Wyk Sagalala
Nkosiyabo Xalabile
Babalo Mtshazi
John Kutlwano Ledingoane
Bongani Nqongophele
Cebisile Yawa
Mongezeleli Ntenetya
Henry Mvuyisi Pato
Ntandazo Nokamba
Bongani Mdze
Bonginkosi Yona
Makhosandile Mkhonjwa
Stelega Gadlela
Telang Vitalis Mohai
Janeveke Raphael Liau
Fezile David Saphendu
Anele Mdizeni
Mzukisi Sompeta
Thabiso Johannes Thelejane
Mphangeli Thukuza
Thobile Mpumza
Mgcineni Noki
Thobisile Zimbambele
Thabiso Mosebetsane
Andries Motlapula Ntsenyeho
Patrick Akhona Jijase
Julius Tokoti Mancotywa
Michael Ngweyi
Jackson Lehupa
Khanare Elias Monesa
Mpumzeni Ngxande
Thembinkosi Gwelani
Dumisani Mthinti
Paulina Masuhlo
Daluvuyo Bongo
Mafolisi Mabiya

Open Streets in Bellville this coming Sunday 9 August


Open Streets, the Greater Tygerberg Partnership (GTP) and the Somali Community Forum in Bellville are pleased to invite you to join us for a Talking Streets walk on
Sunday 9th August, 10:00 – 11:30am.

Talking Streets is a monthly walking series that invites residents of Cape Town to observe, discuss and reimagine their streets. In July, we held a Talking Streets walk in Bellville as part of the GTP’s ‘Future Tyger Creative’ series. You can read some reflections about this experience by Open Streets co-founder, Rory Williams here.

Both of these Talking Streets walks form part of a process to explore the possibility of holding an Open Streets Day in Bellville later in the year, and are aimed at engaging residents, business owners, and other key community members.

During the walk we will discuss:

  • What is Open Streets all about?
  • Why Bellville?
  • What are the opportunities and challenges of holding Open Streets on Kruskal Avenue?
  • Who else should be involved in the planning process?

Please join us at 10am at the corner of Durban and Voortrekker Roads and invite your friends.

For any queries and to RSVP, email info@openstreets.co.za


The Open Streets Cape Town Team


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