Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

With clenched fists, pope addresses social ills in Naples

Originally posted on CNS Blog:

Pope Francis in Scampia. (Screen shot) Pope Francis in Scampia. (Screen shot)

Pope Francis this morning issued stark warnings to people who rob others of hope; with a strong voice and a clenched fist, he condemned mafia dons, drug traffickers and those who exploit workers.

And he shook his head in wonder that anyone could treat an immigrant as if he or she was a worthless annoyance.

In Naples’ Scampia neighborhood, one of those “peripheries” of poverty and degradation the pope speaks about so often, an immigrant woman from the Philippines asked the pope to please remind people that immigrants are children of God.

“Have we reached the point where that’s necessary?” the pope asked the crowd. “Are migrants second-class humans?”

“They are like us, children of God,” he said. What is more, they are reminders that this world is not the permanent home of anyone and that “we are all migrants (moving) toward another homeland.”

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Sermon: Wondering and Wondering in the Wilderness


Excellent sermon for the first Sunday in Lent…..

Originally posted on Black and White and in Living Color:


[Given on Sunday, February 22, 2015,  by The Rev. Fr. Marcus Halley at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church –  Kansas City, MO]

Mark 1:12 (1:9-15)

O God,
take our minds and think through them,
take our lips and speak through them,
take our hearts and set them on fire
   with love for you;
may your kingdom come,
on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.

“And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.”
Mark 1:12 (NRSV)

Soaking wet, Jesus, fresh from the waters of baptism was driven by the Spirit of God into the Wilderness. In being baptized by John, Jesus was entering this revolutionary religious movement begun by John the Baptizer in which the religious authorities and systems would be overturned and revived. Jesus enters this revolutionary religious movement and, immediately after signing on the “dotted line,” he is driven by the Spirit of God into the wilderness.


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A hopeful story from Greater Hermanus

A story of hope from Hermanus

This morning I attended what was probably one of my most “spiritual” and hopeful experiences….what I experienced could also be called a “safe space sharing” experience.

Theo Krynauw from Sparkle Kids in Hermanus ( ) has now initiated a group called “Get on with it Hermanus”. This is a group of people who meet at a local restaurant once a month (the restaurant owner, Francois, is a member and he provides his space and some tea and coffee for free) and this is one of the few “multi-racial” spaces in Hermanus where people from the communities of Zwelihle, Hawston, Mount Pleasant and Hermanus all come together.

The key reason why they are together is to find ways of assisting young people between the ages of 18 – 30 who have no or few opportunities to get ahead in life.

They have partnered with DEADAT in the Western Cape (Department of Environmental Affairs, Development and Tourism) and this means that they are currently employing 130 young adults, mainly from Zwelihle, who each get R2000 per month from the Department, which is then supplemented by an employer who gives them an opportunity to work in their business for 6 months. This programme is for a 6 month period and that is all that the employer agrees to. The 130 young people in the Greater Hermanus area is a significant percentage of the 1000 young people which the Western Cape aims to recruit in any six month period. This is a ‘stepping stone’ to other opportunities for the young adults.

Some of the young people who have completed their six months of work have saved the money they have earned and have now used this money to register at Universities. Theo remarked that he could notice the confidence level of these young people who had been working – that it was above those who did not work.

The format of the meeting was relatively informal, with different people getting up at different times to explain what they are busy with. Most impressive was one young person, William, who has opened a Youth Café in Zwelihle at 1870 Msomi Street in Zwelihle. Some construction people in Hermanus have assisted him with the construction of the Youth Café and he was there to thank them and to give an update on what will happen there, including that it will be a space for matriculants to study as well as a space for cultural tourism. Already this year they have hosted 4 groups of international tourists, mainly from Sweden. Someone asked what else they need and he mentioned the need for furniture, kitchenware, etc. and it seemed as if some people were immediately ready to assist them with this. His partner is Fikiswa, and she is a cultural specialist who tells stories about the culture of the people in Zwelihle. ( )

The person who helps to source the Swedish groups, Dennis, is a Swede who was involved in education. He has already brought more than 100 used laptops from Sweden (which he sourced from municipalities there) and are handing a laptop to each child who passes their Matric with a university pass. Dennis is also involved with a project called “Future Design” where he assists young people to design their own future, away from blaming their parents etc for what they have today and where they are in life.

Another initiative mentioned was one which would deal with those who are addicted to drugs. Anthea spoke passionately about this and said that “Don’t do drugs” is one of the most useless approaches, but that she uses art to deal with this challenge (she showed us one of her artworks, even though she is not an artist) and prefer to give the following message: “You have value. You have a need to belong. Create it.”

A similar project called a “youth substance intervention programme” has also been started by Lu-Anne, and this uses a very successful MATRIX MODEL. She mentioned that in the Greater Hermanus schools, there are 280 known cases of young people on drugs, and this excludes Hermanus Primary and Hermanus High, as they would not give their statistics.

Volunteers were also called for the SHINE project and some discussion was held about saving the Whale Coast community Radio station.

Theo also mentioned AHA (Authentic Hopeful Action) and we will speak more about this at other monthly meetings.

To learn more about these initiatives in Hermanus, simply go to the “Get on with it Hermanus’ Facebook page. There are probably many similar groups in different communities in South Africa, and it is important that people know about these and get inspiration from these in order to build a better South Africa, from the bottom up.

AHA! – meditation by John de Gruchy


James 2:14-18

“Faith without works is dead!”

Pessimists say that the cup is half empty; and optimists, that it is half full.  Some people are pessimists by nature.  For them the world, the Hermanus town council, and the church are hopelessly falling apart, South Africa is going to the dogs (don’t ask me what dogs have to do with it!), the government is totally corrupt,  people always let you down, young people have no discipline, tomorrow is going to be worse than today — even when they hear good news they automatically add a negative comment, “yes, but!”.  Optimists also seem to be optimists by nature.  South Africa is getting better, the dogs don’t bite and snakes are more afraid of you than you are of them, people are always so nice, young people are a pleasure, and what a great day it is today despite the heat and south-easter, it could be worse.  It is easy to understand why people are pessimists, especially in circumstances such as we see every day on TV.   “It is,” Bonhoeffer wrote shortly before his arrest, “more sensible to be pessimistic, disappointments are left behind, and one can face people unembarrassed.  Hence, the clever frown upon optimism.”  But then he goes on to praise optimism because it is:

a power of life, a power of hope when others resign, a power to hold our heads high when all seems to come to naught, a power to tolerate setbacks, a power that never abandons the future to the opponent but lays claim to it,

Pessimists may keep our feet on the ground but optimists keep hope alive.  But perhaps it would be best if we were all realists who accepted the way things are, for good or ill, and then got off our butts to make things better, neither bemoaning nor turning a blind eye to what is wrong or bad.  In the end, does it really matter if the glass is half empty or half full ?  What matters is whether we are going to do what needs to be done to fill the cup to the brim.  If we are not working to make the world a better place, things will get worse whether we are pessimists or optimists.

There were plenty of prophets of doom in the Old Testament.  The difference between a true prophet and false one was that whereas the true prophet told the political and religious leaders how bad things were and they had better change their ways, the false prophets always said things were just fine, “peace, peace, when there was no peace.”  But the true prophets were actually being realists.  They were not just saying how bad things were, they were calling on people to change, to change their attitudes, change their hearts and minds, and start doing things differently.  The same was true of Jesus,  Jesus laid it on the line when speaking truth to power, when castigating the religious hypocrites of his day, and the corrupt rulers in the Temple and the Palaces of Jerusalem and Tiberias.  He did not have much faith in their willingness to change.  But he saw possibilities for healing and change in seemingly hopeless situation.  He saw the good in people rejected as irreligious, isolated because they had contagious diseases, shunned because they were tax-collectors and prostitutes, or simply ignored because they were poor.  He did not give up on them.  He exuded the power of life, and  hope.

The apostle James was clearly a realist.  He knew about the great gulf between wealth and poverty in his day but decided to do something about it.  To those who said they believed in God but did nothing to help the poor he retorted “faith without works is dead” and went on to say “Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith.”  Sparklekid Theo likewise tells us “Just get on with it!”  Yes, politicians are corrupt, the power outages are unacceptable, the conditions in the township are bad, but let’s get on and do something to make life better for everyone.  That attitude releases the power of life and hope.  And there are many such good news stories being told today around South Africa that demonstrate this in big or small ways.  Listen to one from the kindergarten across the road from Volmoed:

January 2015 kicked off with great excitement and a school filled with 38 little children, some more happy than others to join our school.  Our classes bursting at their seams with small little faces eager to embark on this new exciting path of their lives.  From our 38 students 4 are from Hamilton Russell Vineyards, a number from farms in the area and then a host of children from Zwelihle.  Two of our 3 teachers will continue their education this year via Klein Karoo and I am so excited to see how quickly they are developing, not only in their teaching abilities but also in their confidence.

Immediately after the conference held in Stellenbosch last September to celebrate my 75th birthday, a group of participants got together and decided to do something about poverty in South Africa.  They called the project AHA! which stands for “Authentic, Hopeful Action.”  They were realists who  did not simply want to talk about change but to act in ways that made a real difference to the lives of the poor.  I was not at that meeting, but I was made the Patron of AHA.  This means that even though  my “shelf-life” is coming to an end I can cajole people into doing things that might make a difference in the lives of poor people.

The AHA website has many practical suggestions that could make a difference, some of them we could all do without too much effort.  For example if you don’t already, you can give R 5 to the garage attendant whenever your car is filled.  This won’t fundamentally alter the material conditions in poor communities, but if each garage attendant at Engen down the road got R5 from  five people a day, he or she would earn at least a R100 extra per week.  Multiply that by 10 garage attendants and that would mean a R 1000 would find its way into the life of the township!  And then multiply it across the country at every filing station!

The list of possibilities whereby we can help make a difference to the lives of other people through authentic, hopeful action is endless if only we put our minds to it and get on with it.   At the very least we could go onto the AHA webpage, or talk to Theo over coffee,  to find out what even those of us whose shelf-life is short can do.  This is surely better than talking ourselves into a state of despair about the state of the nation!  Whether congenitally pessimists or optimists, let us be realists.  Poverty is a crime against humanity, especially in a country where there is so much wealth. We don’t need a AHA moment or movement to tell us.  But we do need to act authentically and hopefully, and maybe.  some help to know what we can do, to show by our works what our faith means.  Instead of saying AMEN or ALLELUIA today, let  us all shout  “AHA!”

John de Gruchy

Volmoed 12 February 2015

By the Way – Sat 24 January 2015: ‘The country truly belongs to all the people who live in it’

Originally posted on BY THE WAY ...:

There are two items of furniture in our cathedral, St George’s, that are symbols of how we South Africans can engage each other in the matters of the public square.
The one best known of the two is the pulpit. The preacher, before entering it, is encouraged to pray, as did Saint Anselm of Canterbury, for an eloquent and gentle wisdom. A mouth proclaiming, “words of consolation, edification, and exhortation, that I may encourage the good to better things.” The more often honoured temptation is to preach at people. We are less inclined to affirm more splendidly how God believes in their ability to bless the world with their gifts and commitment.
Then there is the bishop’s chair, occupied on occasions of solemn rectitude. It is suggestive of listening and speaking in the manner of conversation. Being silent and engaging in spirit and the will to understand how we are…

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The New Freedom Charter

Originally posted on Becoming...:

This past weekend the ANC’s 103 anniversary statement emphasised the spirit of the Freedom Charter 60 years after its penning. In my last City Press column of 2014 I penned some thoughts for a new Charter I hope might be crafted soon…

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AHA document for 2 December launch at UWC

AHA-Movement – Authentic Hopeful Action

A Christian response to the triple problem of poverty, unemployment and inequality in South Africa
Draft 10
12 November 2014

“You humble yourselves by going through the motions of penance, bowing your heads like reeds bending in the wind. You dress in burlap and cover yourselves with ashes. Is this what you call fasting? Do you really think this will please the Lord? No, this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help. Then your salvation will come like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind.” – Isaiah 58:5-8 (New Living Translation)


Over the last 100 years churches in South Africa have offered a concerted response to at least two massive social challenges. The first case was the response of predominantly Afrikaans churches to the poor white problem through a series of volkskongresse in the 1930s and 1940s. Given the narrow racial focus and the apartheid policies that followed from that, such efforts remained deeply flawed. Nevertheless, there is no doubt about the massive scale of such efforts, the intriguing critique of capitalism or about the concern that was demonstrated for (some of) the poor. The second case was the much celebrated church struggle against apartheid in South Africa, especially in the 1970s and 1980s. The one shadow hanging over such efforts is that churches remained deeply divided in this struggle. Such divisions were found amongst churches but also within particular churches.

There have been numerous efforts from churches, ecumenical bodies and Christian organisa-tions to respond to a wide range of societal challenges since 1994. These include the long-standing commitment of churches to address the many faces of poverty in South Africa. Following discussions at a conference on “Theology on the Edge” hosted at Stellenbosch in September 2014, an initiative emerged amongst participants from various organisations and institutions with the aim of fostering a concerted and massive response from Christians in South Africa to the triple problem of poverty, unemployment and inequality that is radically undermining the social fabric of our society. This would require an in-depth analysis of the deepest roots of such problems, a spiritual discernment of what is at stake and, especially, a coordinated response.

The participants in the planning meetings of the emerging AHA-movement have asked Kairos Southern Africa/Centre for Christian Spirituality to provide the secretariat for a process of mass-mobilisation in which as many churches, ecumenical bodies, Christian organisations and individual Christians as possible will hopefully participate. The process is therefore an open and inclusive one focused on the responsibility of Christians to address poverty, unemployment and inequality in South Africa. Although the point of departure is Christian responsibility, there is an obvious need for cooperation with all levels of government, business and industry, trade unions, other groups in civil society and other religious traditions if the triple problem of poverty, unemploy¬ment and inequality in South Africa is to be addressed adequately. This inclusive approach is reflected in the phrase “authentic hopeful action” – which has been adopted as the name for the emerging movement.

The process should be understood as an ad hoc one that does not resort under any one umbrella organisation and in which the secretariat, currently assigned to Kairos Southern Africa/CCS, provides some backbone to the movement and is a provisional one that will be re-assessed on an ongoing basis. The emerging AHA-movement draws in many similar initiatives to address poverty, unemployment and inequality in South Africa, does not replace any of them, and seeks as much convergence as possible around a common agenda. The AHA-movement will therefore not seek to become an organisation in its own right but will at best serve, where possible, to coordinate the efforts of numerous other organisations and also animate new actions.

While the emerging AHA-movement will focus on the South African context, support from the international community will be welcomed. In future, the movement may well be broadened to include other Southern African countries and further afield on the African continent.

“Here are the kinds of beliefs that God our Father accepts as pure and without fault. When widows and children who have no parents are in trouble, take care of them. And keep yourselves from being polluted by the world.” – James 1:37 (NIRV)

Poverty, Unemployment and Inequality

There is no need here to explain the scale and depth of the problems associated with poverty, un¬¬employment and inequality in South Africa. Five brief comments in this regard may suffice:
Firstly, it is helpful to treat these problems of poverty, unemployment and inequality (PUI) together as they reinforce each other. For example: to alleviate poverty through social grants without addressing unemployment and employability will not do since that would still under-mine a sense of self-worth and human dignity. Likewise, although poverty may be alleviated through social grants, this does not necessarily overcome growing inequality if the rich are getting richer while the poor are falling further behind and the unemployed become unemployable in a service-based economy. It may be noted that this phrase is recognised in literature across many disciplines and contexts. This will facilitate a common language in addressing the problem.
Secondly, to focus on poverty, unemployment and inequality is not to deny or relativize the full range of other social problems in South Africa. The long litany includes the impact of climate change, corruption, crime, domestic violence, (the quality of) education, elitism, exclusion on the basis of gender and sexual orientation, factionalism, the freedom of expression in the media, the impact of globalisation, HIV/AIDS, nepotism, pollution, racism, rape, sexism, social cohesion, TB and xenophobia. One may well argue for the relative priority of each of these. For example, some would argue that concerns over ecological integrity override economic feasibility since the economy depends upon the biophysical climate. Others would rightly point to the crucial role of education and training. Yet others would stress the need to establish participatory democratic structures amidst concerns over corruption. There can be no doubt that each of these problems needs to be addressed and that churches are asked to be involved in this process. However, one may also argue that each of these problems are caused by, influenced by or worsened by poverty, unemployment and inequality. The impact of poverty, unemployment and inequality on the ability to address any other concern is evident to those working in such sectors. A failure to address this adequately would affect all other sectors and will undermine social stability for decades to come. Social inequality will necessarily affect those who are affluent and / or fully employed as well. The ongoing and widespread so-called service delivery protests provide a sobering indication of the simmering tensions in the country. If these problems are not addressed adequately, the social fabric of our society may disintegrate even further – with disastrous consequences. In short, this may be regarded as the challenge of our time, another “Kairos” (moment of truth), and a key component in dealing with the other challenges of our time.
Thirdly, there is little doubt that poverty, unemployment and inequality are manifestations at the surface level of a deeper underlying problem in our society. The problem is not merely poverty, unemployment and inequality as such but the structural causes of such poverty, unemployment and inequality. This requires moral and spiritual discernment. One may mention the structural injustices of the past associated with the legacy of imperialism, colonialism and apartheid – so that there are some beneficiaries who have become undeservedly affluent while others are undeservedly poor. This calls for a focus on justice and not merely on charity. One must consider the many forms of violence and the violation of human dignity. One would need to take into account the ideologies of nationalism, racism, classism, sexism and elitism. One would need to analyse the economic model of neo-liberal capitalism that is currently dominant. One would need to address issues of (political) power and corruption. One would have to confront the extravagant desire for affluence amongst the elite, the consumerist aspirations of the middle class and the yearning of many poor people to somehow imitate such examples. One would need to question the assumption that limitless economic growth is possible on a finite planet. One would need to unmask triumphalist theologies that legitimise the status quo, that seem to romanticise poverty and that suggest quick access to prosperity. In short, one would need to speak of realities of sin, idolatry, ideology and heresy.
Fourthly, the problems associated with poverty, unemployment and inequality require a response from all sectors of society. This of course includes civil society, Faith-Based Organi-sations (FBOs), and various religious traditions. This role of civil society is explicitly recognised in the National Development Plan. There can be no doubting the important role of churches in this regard given the adherence of millions of Christians in South Africa to the Christian faith. The AHA-movement will focus on the particular response of churches, ecumenical bodies, Christian organisations and individual Christians in South Africa to the triple PUI-problem. This clearly does not exclude the need for cooperation with other religious traditions, other organi¬sations in civil society or other sectors of the South African society. The movement would obviously need to draw from expertise in all sectors of society. At best, whatever churches do to address inequality will serve as a catalyst and support for cooperative efforts in civil society. It is never¬theless important to recognise the particular responsibility of churches and the immense possibilities that church involvement opens up. This also implies that the engagement of churches in responding to the PUI-problem should take place on their own terms and given the parti¬cu¬larity of various Christian traditions – and not merely in functionalist terms, given the potential influence that churches collectively have in society. This is reflected in the emphasis on authenticity in the name of the movement (AHA).
Fifthly, there can be no doubt that churches and Christian organisations are already deeply engaged in efforts to respond to poverty, unemployment and inequality. Such efforts are indeed commendable so that there is an obvious need to gather together examples and models of best practice. However, such efforts are seldom coordinated with other initiatives, at least not at a national level. Moreover, while some call for justice and restitution, others focus on charity, while the one is clearly impossible without the other. There is a need for some convergence, a bringing together of initiatives and of similar attempts at coordination. What is needed is a response from churches on a massive scale that would capture the imagination of the whole nation (that would prompt an “Aha”-moment of joy and surprise), that would energise people through its symbolism and that would at the same time make a substantive difference at the local level.
This concern over poverty, unemployment and inequality is expressed in numerous theo¬logical documents released in South Africa. In recent years one may mention the Oikos Journey: A Theological Reflection on the Economic Crisis in South Africa (Diakonia Council of Churches, 2006), Climate Change: A Challenge to Churches in South Africa (SACC, 2009), A Word to the ANC (Kairos Southern Africa, 2011) and The Church Speaks for such a Time as this … (2012). The AHA-movement will take such statements forward with a view to implement responses to the triple problem of poverty, unemployment and inequality and also use it and other processes to develop a comprehensive theological rationale for the work that has to be done.

“When down-and-outers get a break, cheer! And when the arrogant rich are brought down to size, cheer! Prosperity is as short-lived as a wildflower, so don’t ever count on it. You know that as soon as the sun rises, pouring down its scorching heat, the flower withers. Its petals wilt and, before you know it, that beautiful face is a barren stem. Well, that’s a picture of the “prosperous life.” At the very moment everyone is looking on in admiration, it fades away to nothing.” – James 1:9-11 (MSG).

The need for a new vision

There is no need here to explain why Christians are so deeply concerned about the triple problem of poverty, unemployment and inequality. The Biblical roots of the Christian tradition make God’s compassion, mercy, loyalty and justice both compelling and abundantly evident. This provides the source of spiritual energy for Christians to work towards “Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation”. This implies of a vision of the sharing of resources, living together on the basis of mutual respect and sustainable livelihoods for all. Any adequate Christian response will therefore require prayer, self-examination, biblical meditation and theological discernment, alongside social analysis and strategies for implementation. The theological rationale behind the commitment to address poverty, unemployment and inequality will have to be tested and developed on an ongoing basis in order to keep drawing on the deepest sources of inspiration.

It may not be difficult to find a theological rationale for the concern over the triple problem of poverty, unemployment and inequality. It is less clear how this should be translated into an appropriate economic vision for South Africa. There can be no doubt about the need for such a vision, but this is of course deeply contested in competing paradigms and economic ideologies. Following the South African Council of Churches’ document on Climate Change: A Challenge to Churches in South Africa (2009) one may say that some emphasise the need for the production of wealth (i.e. economic growth) and focus on the factors that contribute to productivity. Others emphasise the need for an equitable distribution of the wealth already produced (through taxes, legislation, restitution). Yet others call for a redefinition of what “wealth” means and question the measurement of wealth in terms of the Gross Domestic Product. There can be little doubt that these are all legitimate emphases but the relationship between them is highly contested.

The evocative images and symbols used throughout the Bible are captured in the New Testament under the notion of the “coming reign of God”. This does suggest a radical alternative but emerged in a very different economic and political context. The question is how these images may be translated into an appropriate vision within the current South African context. The question is also what vision would guide the AHA-movement in this regard. This clearly cannot be determined in advance and would lead to endless discussions. Such an appropriate vision would have to emerge as a result of the process itself but the need for such a vision should be recognised throughout. It may be noted that a vision statement emerged from the first SACLI indaba, while a particular economic vision is also contained in the NDP. Within the AHA movement it would be necessary to discern whether there is any need for a new “vision statement” or whether the emphasis should not rather be on implementation of the existing visions that in different ways articulate very well what South Africans desire for our society.

“Jesus looked at his followers and said, “Great blessings belong to you who are poor. God’s kingdom belongs to you.” – Luke 6:20 (ERV).

Format of the movement

In order to invite a concerted response from churches in South Africa to poverty, unem-ployment and inequality it may be helpful to envisage what the end product would entail. The following format is provisionally proposed but remains open for debate and suggested alternatives given other initiatives that are also currently underway (e.g. the “rolling church action for social change” initiative):
The initiative will centre around the drafting of a four page document in which the following four core questions are addressed in language that any Grade 12 learner can understand:
• What can we as individual Christians (starting with those of us gathered at this particular gathering), who are involved in churches in various ways, have different vocations in society, are situated in different contexts, are members of numerous other organisations and participate in other movements, do to address poverty, unemployment and inequality and to support others who are involved in similar efforts?
• What may Christians (starting with those of us gathered at this particular gathering) request churches and their leaders to do (holding them accountable at an institutional level) that will indeed make a substantial difference in addressing poverty, unemployment and inequality?
• What policies may Christians (starting with those of us gathered at this particular gather-ing) challenge the various levels of government to introduce in order to address poverty, unemployment and inequality – because such policies, processes and programmes will make a real difference and because they are clearly in line with the gospel?
• What initiatives may Christians (starting with those of us gathered at this particular gathering) challenge leaders in the field of business and industry to introduce because such initiatives will make a real difference and because they are clearly in line with the gospel?
It will be crucial that such responses be formulated in terms of recommendations that are very concrete and specific, that can capture the imagination so that this would energise action. These recommendations should not be vague and general but should indicate quite specific steps that can be targeted for implementation.

The responses to these four questions imply the need to engage constructively and where necessary critically with the National Development Plan, given the NDP’s emphasis on partnerships with civil society. This also implies the need for constructive and where necessary critical engagement with all levels of government in order to facilitate the implementation of any proposed steps to address poverty, unemployment and inequality.

In response to each of these four questions and for the sake of simplicity it might be helpful to identify, select and describe only the ten most important steps/actions that can be taken in this regard, i.e. those ones that will indeed make a substantial difference given contextual needs and the distinctive contribution that civil society in general and Christians in particular can make. Where need be, subsidiary steps may be indicated. This will of course require much debate and discernment, especially given contextual differences. Christians are found in all walks of life and in very different positions in society so that an appropriate response would have to appreciate these differences, but then in such a way that it is clear that there is a common if differentiated responsibility.
Such a four-page document will identify what should be done in easily accessible language. On each of the recommendations it will be necessary to supplement that with responses to two further questions, namely to explain why that should be done, how that should be done and by whom that should be done.

The rationale for each recommendation (why it should be done) would entail especially two dimensions, namely social analysis and theological discernment (the dimensions of seeing and judging in the widely-used Act-See-Judge-Act cycle).

Addressing the practical question as to how each recommendation will be implemented and by whom will constitute the core of the movement. A wide range of forms of implementation would have to be considered that may include, for example, massive fundraising efforts to implement actual projects, the development and implementation of liturgies, the production of information pamphlets, the development of educational tools, Bible studies, protest actions, counter-budget proposals, the establishment of observer groups in civil society and so on and so forth. There would be a clear need for creative responses that would capture the imagina-tion of people.
This will require an inclusive and participative process in which Christians from all walks of life, church leaders from a wide variety of churches are involved, together with representa¬tives from ecumenical bodies, Faith-Based Organisations including Christian organisations, lay Christian leaders, academic institutions and other relevant bodies. The involvement of those engaged at the grassroots level with such issues, especially women, young people and persons with first-hand experience of unemployment will be crucial. Such involvement should be based on an open invitation in the hope of drawing in as many churches, ecumenical bodies and Christian organisations as possible from across the various provinces and regions in South Africa.

A movement of the kind envisaged here needs to come from below. The gap between churches and Faith-Based Organisations that do innovative work at the grass-roots and ecumenical bodies concerned with policy-making, needs to be bridged so that good practice and appropriate models can be captured, replicated, consolidated and multiplied in order to inform policy change.

Such a movement cannot be an aim in itself. Likewise, the church is not an aim in itself, but a concrete sign or sacrament of God’s coming reign and an instrument that could be used by God’s Spirit to establish God’s reign, on earth as it is in heaven. In practical terms this implies the need for clear targets that are related to barometers for poverty, unemployment figures and the GINI-coefficient. Such targets cannot be indicated here and would obviously need to be debated. This cannot be done by Christians on their own. To reach such targets will require mass-mobilisation. However, it may be helpful to remind oneself that if such a movement cannot influence the disturbing current indicators, it would not meet its objectives.

“He brings about justice for those who are oppressed. He gives food to those who are hungry. The Lord sets prisoners free.” – Psalm 146:7 (GW).

The need for mass-mobilisation: A series of indabas from 2015 to 2030

In order to make a substantive difference to the problems around poverty, unemployment and inequality, there will be a need for a participatory decision making process that can facilitate mass-mobilisation. This will require a decentralised process but also some coordination. Any such an initiative needs to start on a small scale to test and develop the vision.

The following steps have been proposed at a series of preparatory meetings held in Stellenbosch on 12 September 2014, at UWC on 26 September 2014, in Stellenbosch on 10 October 2014 and at UWC on 31 October 2014:
• The initiative will be launched at a meeting to be held at the University of the Western Cape on the afternoon of Tuesday 2 December 2014 from 13h30-16h30. This meeting will coincide with the launch of the Desmond Tutu Centre for Spirituality and Society at UWC that morning – which will bring together many of the same potential role players. Funding will be solicited through the Konrad Adenauer foundation to invite a number of key role players from other provinces in South Africa and to cover costs for transport and accom¬mo¬dation in this regard. Attention will be taken to ensure the presence of women, youth and represent¬atives from Faith-Based Organisations working at the grassroots level, including people who understand what it means to be unemployed. The meeting will seek to launch the initiative, to offer basic information in this regard, to gather inspiration and to seek guidance for the further process.
• A smaller planning session (with around 30 participants) will take place on the following day, Wednesday 3 December, also at UWC. This meeting will at least include the invited role players from other provinces but will be open for additional participants suggested at the launch the previous day. This one day planning session will outline the further path, for example for regional implementation. It will also consider training for young adults to take the process forward.
• In 2015 a series of indabas (for want of a better term to indicate that this is not merely a discussion forum) is envisaged in each of the provinces in South Africa. Each of these indabas will discuss and recommend steps in response to the four questions as outlined above. This will involve social analysis, theological discernment, the gathering of information on what is already done and steps for further implementation. The focus of the first round of provincial indabas will therefore be on what needs to be done and not so much on how this is to be done. Each indaba would need to create optimal space for participation and sharing. Information from previous initiatives (e.g. the “Poverty hearings” that was held under the leadership of Archbishop-emeritus Ndungane), will be revisited in order not to re-invent the wheel.
• In 2016 a first large national indaba will be held where feedback from all the regional indabas will be discussed. This first national indaba will bring together Christians and others of all walks of life (of course including church leaders but also lay leaders and youth leaders) to discuss an appropriate response to the triple problem of poverty, unemployment and inequality. It will receive the recommendations from the various provincial indabas in response to the four questions raised above on what should be done (in theory there could be 9 X 4 X 10 such recommendations). It will debate these, seek convergence where possible and prioritise them in order to identify no more than 10 such recommendations on each of the four questions. It will then select some of these to address in more depth during the course of the indaba. It is envisaged that ad hoc working groups will be established to take each of the selected recommendations further over the next two years. These working groups would need to focus on how such recommendations would be implemented. Each working group may include economists, theologians, representatives from research institutions, youth leaders and so forth.
• A second round of provincial indabas will be held in 2017. These provincial indabas will receive the recom¬menda¬tions approved by the first national indabas. Each indaba will be asked to debate these, to add other recommendations (if need be) and to comment on priorities. Each indaba will also receive an interim report from the selected number of ad hoc working groups established at the previous national indaba. This will provide an oppor¬tunity to discuss further implementation at the provincial, regional and local levels. Here the role of youth leaders will be crucial.
• The second national indaba will then be held in 2018. It will revisit the recommendations approved at the previous national indaba. It will receive comments in this regard from the provincial indabas of 2017 and consider these. It will also receive reports from the various working groups established at the previous national indaba, discuss ways of taking each initiative forward, revise the composition of each ad hoc working group, terminate some of the working groups where need be (where they have successfully implemented the recommendation or where this has proven not to be feasible in the interim) and establish new working group to address (some of) the other recom¬menda¬¬tions. The secretariat will play a crucial role in pre-empting the selection of recommendations.
• It is envisaged that such indabas will be held every alternative year in different locations in urban centres in South Africa until 2030 in such a way that uneven years allow room for regional and more local indabas. The pattern indicated above will therefore be repeated over two year cycles.
The nature and format of these indabas will need to be discussed at some length. The following suggestions are put on the table to invite discussion and alternative suggestions:
• The national indabas will be organised (provisionally) by Kairos Southern Africa / Centre for Christian Spirituality but only insofar as it provides the secretariat for the planning of the conference. What such a secretariat would entail would still need to be clarified in more detail but it would certainly include arrangements around a venue, advance registration, the selection of topics to be addressed on the basis of the previous indaba and participants in the programme.
• The process towards and the hosting of such indabas will hopefully be formally endorsed by as many individuals, churches, ecumenical bodies and Christian organisations as possible. By endorsing the movement, churches, ecumenical bodies and Christian organisations will agree to encourage their members to participate in such events, to acknowledge the secretariat provided by Kairos South Africa and to hold it accountable for that role.
• The indabas will maintain an ad hoc nature in the sense that any decisions taken will be decisions of the individuals present at that conference and not of the organisations that they represent. Any organisation or church may of course endorse such decisions after-wards. The decisions of a previous indaba will therefore not be binding on the next one, although report back from the previous indabas and from the ad hoc working groups established at the previous indaba will be required for the sake of continuity. This ad hoc nature will encourage the movement character of the initiative. It will not be controlled by any one umbrella organisation. This will also prevent the need establish a new organisa¬tion with a constitution and leadership structures.
• The chairperson of the indaba, a deputy chairperson and a secretary will be elected by each indaba and for that indaba alone. They will be tasked to pass the baton on to subsequent indabas.
• Participation (with voting rights) in such indabas will be open to any interested individual as long as they are duly registered. Funding for such participation will have to be provided by the individuals themselves or by the organisations where they are based and in some limited and exceptional cases by the secretariat.
• It is envisaged that such national indabas will each attract (far) in excess of 1000 participants.
• The agenda of the national indabas will follow the format as suggested above, namely 1) to discuss and prioritise (by voting) a) steps that Christians in South Africa can take to address poverty, unemployment and inequality; b) steps that churches can take at an institutional level to address poverty, unemployment and inequality; c) concrete policy recommendations to government; and d) recommendations for implementation by business and industry (see above); 2) to engage in social analysis and theological reflection on why such steps need to be prioritised; 3) to gather information on what is already being done by churches, ecumenical bodies and Christian organisations in this regard; 4) to celebrate (through stories, exhibitions, music, dance and art) in gratitude what has been achieved and to inspire further authentic hopeful action; 5) to discuss imple¬mentation plans that can be reviewed at the following national indaba and 6) to establish working groups on each of the recommendations that can report back at the next indaba.
• It is envisaged that all six these items will be on the agenda of each of the national indabas but that the focus will gradually shift towards implementation rather than social analysis. It will be crucial to ensure that these indabas do not degenerate into talk shops. There will nevertheless need to be a research component that can inform the social analysis. There will also need to be a gathering of information to capture what churches are already doing. However, the emphasis should be on appropriate responses for implementation.
• If funds permit, a comprehensive website will be developed that can be a platform for continuous communication.
• The indabas should not consume money but should capture the imagination, be of symbolic value for the whole nation, generate substantial funds (through the various strategies for implementation to be discussed) and make a substantial difference to the problems associated with poverty, unemployment and inequality. Each indaba should prompt a moment where people would say: “Aha! That is the way forward!”

“You mortals, the Lord has told you what is good. This is what the Lord requires from you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to live humbly with your God.” – Micah 6:8 (GW).

Financial aspects

Given the ad hoc nature of the process and the emphasis on decentralisation and individual participation, the AHA movement should not become heavily reliant on outside funding. As a form of mass-mobilisation that draws on its own sources of inspiration, the energy should be harnessed from within. The task of the secretariat will include the need to secure conference venues, to oversee the process of registration, to provide organisational support, to coordinate the programme, to invite research activities and so forth. What that secretariat involves would still need to be clarified in the further process. There will clearly be a need for some coordination of the regional indabas in order to ensure continuity and to pass on the relay baton. This implies that people who have played leadership roles in previous national indabas would need to participate in at least some of the regional indabas. There may also be a need for some form of scholarship to enable people to attend the envisaged indabas. Funding for such purposes would need to be solicited, probably through the secretariat.
In general the vision is that the initiative would generate rather than consume funds. The ethos of the indabas should be in line with the aim of addressing poverty, unemployment and in-equality in South Africa. A sense of frugality, wisdom, gratitude and responsibility should prevail. Such frugality will allow for some celebration, through story-telling, art, music and liturgy, of what has been done. Given the immensity of the challenges, this will un¬doubtedly need to elicit prayer, self-examination, confession, expectation and irrepressible hope.
It will be important for the AHA-movement to engage with business in South Africa. This can happen with individual business people and businesses (small, medium and large business) and also with organised formations such as Business Unity South Africa (BUSA), the Black Business Council (BBC), NAFCOC etc.

There are several aims for such an engagement with business. Firstly, there is a need to discuss the moral and ethical implications of a South Africa with the current levels of poverty, unemployment and inequality. This is clearly not sustainable and not in the interest of growing businesses in South Africa. Secondly, the inverse is also true, namely that an environment where authentic hopeful actions are taken to counter poverty, unemployment and inequality is a good environment in which businesses can thrive. Thirdly, this will offer business an opportunity to connect with this movement. It could provide its own theoretical input and also provide things such as venues, staff, facilities, research capacity and direct financial aid to the secretariat.

On this basis the secretariat will connect with as many individual business people, businesses and state-owned enterprises as possible and report to the leadership teams as well as to the provincial and national indabas.

Then the King will speak to those on his right. He will say, ‘My Father has blessed you. Come and take what is yours. It is the kingdom prepared for you since the world was created. I was hungry. And you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty. And you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger. And you invited me in. I needed clothes. And you gave them to me. I was sick. And you took care of me. I was in prison. And you came to visit me. – Matthew 25:34-36 (NIRV).

Participation and Endorsements

The secretariat of the AHA-movement invites individuals and organisations to formally endorse the process as outlined in Draft 10 (dated 12 November 2014) of the planning document for the AHA-movement.

It may be noted that this is a living document that may well be altered after every next indaba. After the first national indaba is held it will need to be appended by a four-page document indicating recommendations on each of the four questions identified above. Nevertheless, there was consensus after the initial series of planning meetings that Draft 10 sufficiently outlines the process that is envisaged.
For individuals to endorse the process implies a simple gesture of support for the aims and strategies as outlined above. For organisations to endorse the process again implies a gesture of support but also an undertaking to encourage its individual members to participate in the series of indabas. Individuals and organisations based outside of South Africa may also send endorsements and will be included on a separate list.

Endorsements may be emailed to Sipho Mahokoto at A brief letter of endorsement would be welcomed.

Comments and suggestions on the actual content of Draft 10 may be emailed to Ernst Conradie at

Carefully formulated recommendations in response to each of the four questions as well as RSVPs may already now be emailed to the secretariat at

Edwin Arrison
On behalf of Kairos Southern Africa & CCS
Secretariat for the AHA-Movement
12 November 2014

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.
O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life. – Prayer attributed to St Francis of Assisi


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