Posts Tagged ‘Kairos’

Kairos SA Word to the ANC…. in these times

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28 December 2011


As we continue to celebrate the coming of the Word into the world (John 1: 1) and God made human, we, fellow South Africans and Christian theologians, now wish to pass these words on to the African National Congress, as it prepares to celebrate its centenary during 2012…

We do so in a spirit of appreciation and gratitude for you and in a spirit of true friendship, where we can both congratulate you and raise some concerns as friends, and pray that these celebrations will be appropriate and not lavish, especially given the levels of poverty and inequality in our country.

We do so, knowing that many members of the ANC are also part of the Christian community, and this document is therefore written for our collective reflection.

We also do so, knowing that many Christian leaders were involved in the formation and nurturing of the ANC over the years, and we therefore continue to feel a sense of responsibility for its existence and what it does. In 1912, the founders of the African National Congress dreamed of a different future for all the people of South Africa, where there would be no more coloniser and colonised, but where we would all be one: One people, one nation, one country!

They dreamed that the injustice that was being meted out to black South Africans by the colonisers would come to an end. We thank God that the colonial and apartheid systems have come to an end and a great effort has been made to better the lives of all South Africans, especially the poor.

Although there has been much progress in this regard, certain tensions and contradictions continue to militate against us fully achieving this dream. The effect of the 1913 Land Act, is largely still with us; the economic disparities are stuck with us; deep levels of poverty are staring at us.

In this year, we once again dream of a future of being one, united in our diversity. This unity needs to be based on justice, peace and righteousness. Let us use this year to once again dream this dream together…


We therefore congratulate the African National Congress, the oldest liberation movement on the African continent, as it celebrates this important milestone in its history. With all the challenges it has faced over the years of its existence, it could have imploded but it has remained remarkably resilient, and for that we congratulate you. We congratulate you for your pivotal role in the liberation of our country alongside that of the other liberation movements.

We congratulate you for the vision and foresight you have displayed to change as the conditions on the ground changed, and we hope that you never lose the original dream that was dreamt and the vision of a united, non-racial, non-sexist, just and democratic South Africa.


We appreciate the fact that the ANC was not initially formed to oppose the system of apartheid or even to govern South Africa, but to oppose the oppression of the black majority under colonial rule in the early 1900s in South Africa.

We appreciate that for almost 80 years of its existence, the ANC was not the party that governed South Africa, and that the ANC is the first governing party in South Africa that has attempted to take the needs of the majority of South Africa’s citizens into account through for example the provision of housing, a national health system, etc. As long as the needs of the majority of the country’s citizens remain the focus of the work of the ANC, we will express this kind of appreciation but where only a minority of the citizen’s needs or wants become paramount, we will express our disapproval.

We appreciate the fact that 17 years is not enough to reverse the legacies of almost 350 years of imperialism, colonialism and apartheid. We are convinced that more could have been done, but we appreciate that much has been done to begin to reverse the historical legacies of this country.

We also appreciate that the ANC is the only party which has consistently insisted on non-racialism and unity in South Africa for most of its existence. Both of these are constantly under threat, from within the ANC and from without, and we would ask that you hold on to these values and renew your commitment to these values not only in words, but in practical action, so that our children and grandchildren can see this and follow this example.


We therefore thank God for the African National Congress and its long history of resistance to colonialism and apartheid, and its 17 years as the governing party with a specific focus on the historically poor majority of the people of South Africa.

We thank God for the freedom that could be achieved by the people of South Africa and pledge that we will do all that is possible to maintain and preserve this freedom.

We thank God that millions of South Africans now have housing and that the most destitute and vulnerable have a small monthly income.

We thank God for continued initiatives to broaden and deepen the quantity and quality of health care to all South Africans.

We thank God that all South Africans have the freedom to express dissent and to organise against anything they might feel do not represent democratic values.


We want to confess that, in these last 100 years, the Christian Church has been divided on the question of colonialism and apartheid. It would be dishonest of us to say that the whole Church opposed colonialism and apartheid, while in fact only a part of the Church did that. A substantial part of the church in South Africa has therefore not always been with you and other liberation movements in the struggle, but some of us have been part of these struggles, and the Kairos document and the World Council of Churches Lusaka Statement of 1987 were the most emphatic expressions of that solidarity and unity with the oppressed people of South Africa.

We want to confess that the church has often also remained a spectator as the settlement of 1994, in its comprehensive sense, was unravelling. Most of the churches have failed to deal with racism and sexism within their structures and practice, including dealing with the disparities between blacks and whites within the churches.

We also want to confess that many Christians and churches have not internalised the new culture of democracy and the values of our new democracy. For many, the Christian message became a tool for either maintaining a silence about or defending the indefensible of the past as a way to pursue narrow political interests in the present.


The Christian community has of course played a significant role in the liberation of our country and also in the ANC, and it is only apt to remind ourselves of the role that Christians have played. It is in this respect that we want to reaffirm and reassert the role of Christians in the past, present and future of our country.

There are at least two significant ways in which the Christian church helped in preparing for and nurturing the environment for the birth of the ANC in 1912 – education and the emergence of dissenting voices to the misapplication of the Christian gospel to promote or condone and justify black dehumanisation.

The first is the church mission school education that helped to discipline the African intellectual prowess to produce the likes of John Tengo Jabavu, John Langalibalele Dube and his successor as ANC President, Sefako Makgatho and many, many others. Historic schools like Lovedale (1841) and Healdtown (1845) in the Eastern Cape; Adams Mission (1847), Inanda (1869) and St Francis (1883) in KwaZulu-Natal; Zonnebloem (1858) in the Western Cape; Tiger Kloof in the Northern Cape; Lemana (1875) in Limpopo, amongst others, have shaped and formed many of our leaders.

These schools provided a discipline that was to be important in the intellectualised struggle of the 20th century.

The other contribution of the church in this critical preparatory phase stems from the essential message of the Christian gospel that all people are created in the image of God, and of the love imperative in the mutuality of human living.

The second contribution of the church therefore, was in the recognition by black Christians in the 19th Century of the dissonance between the Word and the social practice of the official church, whose significance is referenced further below.

The mention of these Christian witnesses in the struggle for justice and democracy is, in part, a recognition of the role of and particular engagement by the Christian Church which has been abiding from before and in a way foundational to the formation of the ANC in 1912. After the completion of the military, economic, religious and political conquest of South Africa by the colonial powers, the struggle shifted to the sphere of the religious intellectuals and strategists. Rev Tiyo Soga, the very first African to be ordained minister, wrote in 1861:

The Kaffirs have no legal titles to their locations…I see plainly that unless the rising generation is trained to some of the useful arts, nothing else will raise our people, and they must be grooms, drivers of wagons, hewers of wood, or general servants. But let our youths be taught trades, to earn money, and they will increase it, and purchase the land. When a people are not land-proprietors, they are of no consequence in this country…our boys must be taught trades if we are to continue as a people”.

This he said over 40 years before the 1911 Hertzog Bills that became the 1913 Land Act, limiting Africans to 7% of South Africa’s land mass. It is no wonder that, as Dr Mathole Motshekga writes, “When the resolution to form the SANNAC was adopted, the congress burst into the song ‘God fulfil your promise’ – singing Tiyo Soga’s hymn, “Lizalis’idinga Lakho”. And indeed the very hymn remained to inspire the hope of Oliver Tambo in the face of the street killings of youths in 1976 as he adopted the verse that prays “Behold our land – Bona izwe lakowethu!”

Soga’s spirit was to be followed by the emergence of the nationalist Ethiopianism that used the reference to Ethiopia reaching out to God, in Psalm 68:31, to advance a break from the ethnically based struggles of the past, to a non-ethnic African agenda for emancipation – featuring the efforts of Revds Nehemiah Tile, Mangena Mokone, James Dwane, Jeremiah Mzimba, Henry Ngcayiya (later to become ANC Chaplain); and the historic Charlotte Makgomo Mannya (later Maxeke). The Ethiopian Movement had an influence on Dr Dube, the 1912 ANC president, and he brought to the ANC and national intercessions, Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika (God Bless Africa), the hymn written by Enoch Sontonga, son-in-law to Abraham Mngqibisa, one of the founders of the Ethiopian Church.

The significant role of the church-based struggles, especially as championed and institutionalised in the Bible-inspired concept of the Ethiopian Movement, is that they created a critical bridge between the disparate tribal anti-colonial struggles and the non-ethnic ANC some twenty years later, and finally to a non-racial pursuit to be enshrined in the 1955 Freedom Charter. Without this influence, our history may well have remained trapped in the dominance of ethnic constructs that have beset the politics of many countries in our continent.

Together with these symbolic witnesses of faith and fortitude, from the days of Tiyo Soga, we recognize indeed, an illustrious array of “Christian soldiers” of the struggle. These include the likes of Enoch Mgijima, all the way up to Sophiatown’s Trevor Huddleston and his then Bishop of Johannesburg Ambrose Reeves, who was deported in 1960 for his bitter stand against Apartheid.


The first words to be used at the inaugural ANC Conference, held on January 8th 1912 in Bloemfontein, were words of prayer followed by the singing of the hymn `Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika`. The initial ideals of the movement were based on a common understanding of what the Church calls ‘gospel values’ of justice, equality and the dignity that belongs to all people under God.

The formative influence of the Church is evident in the people who convened the conference and those who were chosen to lead the organisation; the mission schools that provided their education; and the provision of resources to enable the organisation to establish itself.

Its first President, John Langalibalele Dube, was a church minister. Many who followed owed an allegiance to the church: We recall the resilient Rev Zaccheus Mahabane, twice president of the ANC (1924 – 27; 1937 – 40); and the steady Rev Canon James Calata (ANC Secretary General: 1936 – 1949). It is in this tradition that Chief Albert Luthuli, President General of the ANC between 1952 and 1967 was to strongly state the connection between his faith and his engagement through the ANC:

I am in Congress precisely because I am a Christian. My Christian belief about society must find expression here and now, and Congress is the spearhead of the real struggle …. My own urge, because I am a Christian, is to get into the thick of the struggle with other Christians, taking my Christianity with me and praying that it may be used to influence for good the character of the resistance.”

These words of a revered ancestor of the ANC indicate more than any modern historic analysis the connection between the Christian community and the Christian faith in the struggles of our people, including in the life of the African National Congress.

A picture of “the black Christ” by Ronald Harrison, depicting Chief Luthuli on the cross, and BJ Vorster as one of the soldiers


If Archbishop Trevor Huddleston or Canon Calata were alive today, they would be able to tell us all about their involvement, and the involvement of many Christians, in the drafting of the Freedom Charter at Kliptown in 1955. They would speak of and about the events at Sharpeville and beyond that. They would be able to tell us of the violent forced removals from Sophiatown that happened on the 9th February 1955 and how the Apartheid regime vindictively renamed the area Triomf. They might challenge us on whether we could not be more creative in our planning in removing the spatial separation imposed by the Group Areas Act. They may remind us that building social cohesion and moving away from the racial and ethnic silos continue to be inhibited by racial separation in Church and Society

If Dr Beyers Naude was alive today, he would be able to speak about the many ways in which the Christian community stood against apartheid, at great cost to itself and to individuals who took a strong prophetic stand against apartheid. He might ask us what happened to that prophetic voice today. He might ask if the current ANC government as well as the Christian community, given our history, are not able to better differentiate between the prophetic voice and constructive criticism of faith communities on the one hand and oppositionism on the other.

Oom Bey would remind us that the faith community, on the whole, has felt an easy bond with those who have given their lives for the struggle for liberation; those who left home and family in order to struggle for social justice, and those who became the rock around which their community organised. Indeed, liberation theology expresses the shared imperative and commitment to struggle. One of Oom Bey’s key legacies is one that takes often painful positions of conscience from within the context of his or her own people, his or her own vested interests, and what he or she grew up with and cherished.

He would tell us that in these days, when the values that guided the liberation struggle are too often swamped by greed for riches and for positions of power, it is fitting to call to mind the society that we wished to create together. At a time when cadres of the movement behave all too often as did those we struggled against together, it is fitting to renew our shared commitment to service. At this time when society craves leadership towards social justice and peace it is fitting that we reflect together, however painful this may be, about what we have failed to address since the advent of democracy.

Albertina Sisulu, a lay Christian woman, because of her recent passing would be able to compare the role of women in the struggle against the Apartheid regime and the role of women today. She would remind us of her involvement in FedSAW and how with Helen Joseph and other women they marched to the Union Buildings for Justice rather than only representivity. She would challenge both the party and the church to look more clearly at how patriarchy still pervades in much policy and practice. She would ask all of us to have a more gender-inclusive approach to all we do, rather than expecting women’s interest only to be championed by certain organisations in the church or by the ANC women’s league and a ministry dedicated to people with disability, as though women were a minority in our nation.


In 1975 the church, in the voice of the then Dean of the Johannesburg Anglican Cathedral of St Mary’s, The Rev. Desmond Tutu, warned the Vorster regime in public letters, of the rising anger of the youth, which erupted into a sustained uprising in June 1976. During this time much support and inspiration was given by the South African Council of Churches (SACC), the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference (SACBC), and the African Independent Churches Association (AICA).

Many of us grew up in the 1976 era, and stood side by side with the young people as we struggled against apartheid and faced the weapons of the Apartheid regime. Some of those young people paid the ultimate price for their commitment, while others are now part of the governing structures of our society. But a new generation of youth are suffering the full brunt of unemployment, poor health, lack of education and general lack of hope for a better future.

Archbishop-emeritus Tutu, Dr Alan Boesak, Rev Frank Chikane and many other prophets of truth, operating mainly under the banner of the SACC and some world bodies, can speak very clearly about this period, as well as the following period, since they were often leading and inspiring the internal struggle against apartheid. Not only did they stand very firmly against the evil of apartheid; they often had to stand against members of the faith community who insisted that “the church and politics do not mix” and therefore they suffered a double persecution: one from the Apartheid State and one from a certain section of the Church.

Tutu’s words to the Eloff Commission in 1982 are a reminder of how the SACC viewed the work of liberation: “I will show that the central work of Jesus was to effect reconciliation between God and us and also between man and man (sic)….from a theological and scriptural base, I will demonstrate that apartheid, separate development or whatever it is called is evil, totally and without remainder, that it is unchristian and unbiblical….If anyone were to show me that apartheid is biblical or Christian, I have said before and I reiterate now, that I would burn my Bible and cease to be a Christian


The year 1983 is an important marker for South Africa, since it is the year, inspired by a call from Dr Boesak and leaders of the liberation movement, to form a united front against apartheid. In August of that year, the UDF was formed, and many church leaders again stood as patrons of this organisation, while others participated as part of the leadership.

Most of the leadership of the ANC would be aware of the Kairos Document of 1985, which was followed by a document called Violence: the new Kairos (which is still on the ANC’s website at

The 1985 document is today the foundation of the work of Kairos Southern Africa, particularly in South Africa. It still inspires different situations, such as what has happened with Christians in Palestine. It went one step further than merely declaring apartheid a heresy: it analysed the theological assumptions of the church at the time and challenged it to become actively involved in resisting apartheid by adopting what it called “Prophetic theology”, a new theological mode altogether.

Unfortunately many Christians interpreted this call as a call to only become involved in the anti-apartheid cause, and when this cause came to an end, the involvement of many Christians in reversing social and economic injustice in South Africa, also came to an end.

Many Christians lapsed back into the default position of “Church theology” and thus the decline of progressive Christian involvement in the nurturing and formation of the new South Africa began.


We now turn to the various theological responses in South Africa since 1994: In preparation for the advent of a new non-racial, non-sexist, just and equitable democratic society, some progressive theologians, like Villa-Vicencio, began to talk about the ‘theology of reconstruction’, including concepts of ‘middle axioms’ which are meant to move society from one stage to another subject to the ‘renewing power of the gospel’ which always demands more than society can deliver at any given time. In this regard some of the Christian leaders were drawn into Government to be part of the process of the transformation and reconstruction of our society.

On the other hand theological seminars held before the 1994 democratic elections came up with concepts like ‘critical solidarity’ with the new democratic government, but in reality many church activists assumed positions of ‘critical distance’ between themselves and the new democratic state which turned them into ‘wilderness prophets’ who spoke ‘truth to power’ with very little impact on the state, if any.

The older generation of the ANC leadership, like Nelson Mandela, saw the church as ‘partners’ in the struggle for the reconstruction and development of the South Africa society in the same way in which the church partnered with the liberation movement to end the apartheid system. Mandela’s view was that there were aspects of the reconstruction and development of society – what he called the ‘RDP of the soul’ – which he said only the church can deal with and this is what gave birth to the National Religious Leaders Forum.

Mbeki, who followed after Mandela, developed this into the Religious Working Group with government in the same way as he did with business, labour, youth, women, and so forth.

There was also the development of the Moral Regeneration programme which was led by the then Deputy President Jacob Zuma. Some would consider these approaches as risky as it could develop into what is called ‘State Theology’.

The latest development we have noticed, of reward for those who support the ANC, especially during elections, comes closer to the concept of ‘State Theology’ where some church leaders are at the ‘service of the party’ in a party political sense rather than be at the ‘service of the people’. Here, the prophetic voice dies at the ‘altar’ of the party and turns church leaders into uncritical ‘praise singers’ of the party.

Our responses have therefore varied: Even though many of us responded to this new situation with what we called “critical solidarity”, we have now come to realise that our key solidarity has to be with the poorest of the poor and the marginalised in society.

In the same way, as “speaking truth to power” became a catch-phrase in our midst, we now realise that “speaking truth to people” and becoming involved in organisations of the people is probably a much more appropriate response, since those in power rarely respond positively to a truth that is being spoken to them. We were hoping that the language of “power” would be transformed into the language of “service” but we have been disappointed that this has not yet happened in any significant way.

As we enter into the second century of the life of the ANC, we hope that the ANC will learn that a church that collaborates uncritically with the party or the State can be of no use to the party in terms of its national strategic objective. A National Democratic Revolution (NDR) requires constructive critical voices within civil society to save the very revolutionary objectives of the party, which is always at risk as our human nature tends to slide into sectarian and self-interests in contrast to the interests of the people, especially the poor.

Church theology, which is the default theological position held by most Christians, will probably say that it is not necessary for us to even comment on the centenary of the ANC. It wants Christians to be “neutral”, focus on the “preaching of the gospel”, etc and therefore would see this excercise as irrelevant. We reject this notion of Church Theology as we cannot separate our faith and spiritual life from the rest of our life. This attempt at dualism is counterproductive and needs to be rejected by all Christians.

Prophetic Theology is therefore about being in solidarity with and in struggle with the poorest of the poor, since that is where Jesus is to be found. It is also about “speaking truth to people” since this is the only language that will truly set us all free. That truth will also continue to empower and inspire us to continue resisting that our society becomes one where the voices of the poorest are drowned out and where their needs are trivialised as mere “entitlement”.

In the prophetic Spirit of Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of Love, it is the entitlement of the rich, the powerful and those who serve their interests that needs to be constantly challenged, since this is the dominant narrative in South Africa at the moment.


The Church is fully aware of the corporate and personal difficulties and challenges facing those in government.

Like those in power, the Church and especially its leadership, is not immune to the temptation of enrichment and other failings that compromise its integrity and its ability to do what is right and just. We therefore speak to the ruling party and to all who exercise power and authority out of a pastoral concern that is rooted in our own humanity and weakness.

We address especially those who are going through times of personal struggle as the demands of office affect family life and relationships, those who are tempted to use their position for personal gain rather than for the common good, as well as those whose health and well-being is suffering, or who are going through times of grief and mourning.

Be assured of our prayerful concern, and may you also heed our counsel to seek above all the welfare of those who voted you to leadership for the purpose of serving, to choose and act rightly according to your conscience informed by a passion for the truth, to love mercy and justice, and to respect those who are seeking to do the same even though you may disagree with them.


We now spell out the following concerns for our country and for the ANC. These are our observations based on our discernment and what we have seen happening over the last 17 years. The list of concerns below is not exhaustive nor is our analyses of our situation. Suffice to say that with all the hope we cherish and our commitment to build this society and country, we also share with you our very deep sense of concern about our country, our people our future. Things can go terribly wrong if not addressed properly and as a matter of urgency. Other countries and situations have shown and are showing this clearly. We should not think that South Africa will necessarily be different.

1. Factionalism within the ANC: As the ANC prepares for its Mangaung conference in 2012, we see the continued factionalism and possibility that delegates will once again be asked to vote for one of two or three “slates”. Such factionalism is often the direct outcome of a weak conception of participatory democracy in our political parties. Of concern to us is that disunity and factionalism in the ANC affects leadership, governance and service delivery, especially to the poorest communities. Moreover, quite often these internal battles are fought in the open in rather disrespectful even shameful ways and are often accompanied by violence, putting lives and livelihood of innocent people at risk. We are therefore also concerned that violence and threats of violence becomes a means for settling internal and national political disputes. Our message to the ANC in this regard is simple: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” (Matthew 12:25) All attempts must be made to avoid factionalism and this stand must be communicated from the top leadership to all the branches of the ANC. We will urge church leaders to communicate this message of unity through the church communication channels as well. We do not think that such divisions are in the best interest of the future of South Africa. This contestation for power seems to be able to serve self, sectarian interests or factions, not for the purposes of serving the people (particularly the poor).

2. Our second concerns is that we need to find the best possible route, maintaining our unity despite our diversity, towards economic justice and together closing the gap between the richest and the poorest in South Africa. We recognise the temptation of some to hold onto their economic privilege, and ask that a national dialogue about this matter be held as soon possible. We have started some initiatives in this regard, where we will urge those who have “said sorry” and who have begun to implement some initiatives to give effect to this, to also begin to “do sorry”, but to do so as a national project together with all South Africans who have much more than they need. The aim of this will be to contribute more significantly to closing the gap between the rich and the poor in South Africa, and to do so not merely as individuals, but together.

3. Our third concern relates to the security and intelligence forces and the maintenance of a proper order and structure within these forces and the link between this (or the lack of this) and the increase of criminality: For us, this is one of our biggest concerns at the moment. What has happened in various other countries (where the intelligence and security forces are manipulated for the benefit of a faction in society) is not what we want to see happening in South Africa. Politicising security forces is a recipe for instability, violence and conflicts between opposing forces within one State.

4. Corruption: The “arms deal” seems to have been the new South Africa’s “original sin” and we are happy that this is now getting the attention it deserves. It diverted our attention, our energy, our time and our resources away from focussing on the poorest of the poor. Corruption negatively impacts on the psyche and morality of our people, particularly that of the youth (who now believe that this was the only way to make quick money without much effort). Corruption seems to have now spread into party political activities where corrupt means of campaigning/contestation for power (votes, support, etc.) are used, thus compromising the leadership before they even go into government. How political parties are funded is also a concern that we have, and we urge for greater transparency in this regard lest we discover that things happened in our elections that the general population would not have approved of.

5. Maintaining a real social cohesion in the country: The strong leadership given by President Mandela towards building social cohesion in South Africa must continue. We thank God for his example, and call on all the leaders of the ANC to continue in his footsteps, not only for ourselves but also to serve as an example for and to honour expectations expressed towards us by the rest of Africa and for communities across the world.

6. The unsustainability of an opulent “American dream” lifestyle: this is sometimes popularised in South Africa and becomes our nightmare, since to reach this so-called dream, often means self-enrichment and quick enrichment at the expense of the poorest and at the expense of the ecology. South Africa’s recent hosting of COP17, on the eve of these centenary celebrations, must spur us to a decisive position and culture in this regard.

7. The relatively poor standards of education for the vast majority of the poor in our land: Relevant and effective education is required for intellectual and industrial productivity in a competitive world; as Nelson Mandela has said: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”

8. Making solidarity with the oppressed across the world a key to our international relations: People across the world, especially those in Africa as well as the Palestinian people, look to us for strong support. We come from a history where we called on the world to promote sanctions against an unjust regime and we call on the ANC to continue with this legacy to ensure that justice for people rather than trade become our first priority.

9. Respecting the constitution of the Republic: Our constitution is hailed as one of the best in the world and is constantly being interpreted by our Constitutional court. A healthy democracy needs checks and balances, and even though this may be frustrating for you at times, we ask that the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the Constitutional court and the decisions emanating from it, be held in the highest regard by us all.

We love our country, our people, our land, our continent. With these words we commit ourselves to continue building a better future for its children and generations to come, in moving away from the remainders of colonialism and apartheid, especially the disunity fostered by it, and doing what we need to do now to build unity amongst and between our people.


1. Relationship between the Churches and the ANC: Certain statements by some denominations have gone as far as urging its members to not vote for the ANC, while others have urged people to vote for the ANC. We urge for more direct communication between the Church leaders and the ANC government to resolve whatever tensions there may be and to develop a common understanding of the relationship between church and state. We will also have to advise churches to be careful in promoting or opposing any particular political party, including the ANC.

2. The active co-option of partisan theologians and Church leaders by the ANC: As theologians who discern the work of God in the world, we have a certain understanding about what kinds of theologies are good for the building of unity amongst all God’s people, and those which militate against the common good. There is a worrying trend within the ANC to co-opt and promote Church leaders who clearly do not have a liberatory perspective (but who might be involved in charity or development or be willing to uncritically bless the ANC). We simply want to hold this up to the ANC as a mirror and ask it to reflect on this matter, in its own interest and in the interest of the best values and morals as we move forward to build South Africa.

3. Treatment of Archbishop Tutu: Earlier this year we were profoundly disappointed with the actions of the ANC government which led to the Dalai Lama not visiting the country in response to an invitation from Archbishop-emeritus Tutu. What happened here is an example of what we have been warning about in this document: choosing Mammon above God. We feel that a national debate about this should be held. We will encourage this debate within civil society and hope that the ANC will take note of the outcomes of this debate. We do not wish for the ANC to be “like all governments” across the world: we call the ANC to higher standards, those standards which will make us as citizens proud of it, otherwise we will not be able to justify any support for the ANC.


Seek ye first the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33), is our mandate. By this we mean that God’s kingdom will come on earth as it is in heaven, a kingdom of reconciliation, of justice, peace and beauty. We see the ANC mandate as narrower than this but, in our context, complementary to it. For this reason, the government of the day would always be urged by us to do better than it is doing.

Kairos SA is clear that, at least in the South African context, we will focus over the next ten years on closing the gap between the richest and the poorest in South Africa, by attempting to empower both. Both the rich and the poor must not think that it is about disempowering the rich in order to empower the poor and neither is it simply about charity from the rich towards the poor, while leaving the poor disempowered. A key component of this will be to work for the eradication of corruption that undermines our hard earned democracy.

This also calls for a vibrant democracy where the meaningful participation of the people in public life will be paramount. We must further guard strenuously against playing off the interest of one section of our communities against those of others, using especially racial motives, ethnicity, gender, religion and country of origin. We ought to be particularly sensitive to the plight of refugees that are drawn to our country, seeking a better life and security. These things have been offered to our thousands of exiles during the Apartheid years.

We pray that we can dream new dreams together and work together towards its fulfilment: a dream where there will be no more shacks in South Africa, a dream where no person has to go to sleep hungry, a dream where entrepreneurs will feel encouraged and motivated because of the environment that has been created for them to create new businesses, new industries and new jobs, a dream where every citizen feels safe and where no citizens are discriminated against on the basis of race or ethnicity, a dream where the environment is protected to ensure that future generations may also enjoy the fruits of the earth.

This is our dream for this country, and we pray that you will dream this dream with us.


A time will come when the history of the struggle against colonialism and apartheid will become dim and young people will look forward rather than backward. We urge the ANC to begin to focus more on this new time rather than on the days when South Africans were locked in struggle against each other. We now want to engage with fellow citizens across the world, as proud South Africans who are building a country for all our citizens.

Education of our people is therefore key. The education sector must be prioritised and modern infrastructure, sports equipment and science equipment needs to be supplied to our schools, especially to those who can afford it least. The Church and the entire religious sector have capacity in this regard and are already busy with some initiatives and can contribute significantly in partnership with others to ensure that the education of our children and young people are of the highest possible standard. Woe to those who neglect the education of our children!

The poor in our midst have begun to lose patience at their entrapment in the cycle of poverty and our inability to assist them to be lifted out of this. No amount of memory of past struggles will lift the poor out of poverty. The cycle of poverty must be broken by all means possible!

The worship of Mammon (money) is one of the key signs of our times, for all people everywhere on this planet, and we need to take a strong stand against this in our country if we want to ensure our future together. The choice is stark. “No one can serve two masters, he will always love one and ignore the other” (Matthew 6:24).


We congratulate the ANC for all it has achieved in South Africa during the last hundred years. The movement has been a great source of hope for the vast majority of our people.

Our hope is rooted in our Lord Jesus Christ who has overcome death and for whom nothing is impossible.

Our prayer today is that despite all its present problems the ANC will continue to inspire hope by learning from the past and by taking decisive action during this centenary year to begin to eradicate corruption, factionalism, selfish individualism, power struggles, ill discipline and most of all the scandalous neglect of the poor.

May God bless all in the ANC who are genuinely trying to do this.

God bless Africa

Guard our children

Guide our leaders

And give us peace.

For Jesus Christ’s sake.


The initial signatories of this statement are:

1.         Rev Moss Ntlha: Contact details: or  0828098533

2.         Rev Edwin Arrison:   Contact details: or 0847351835

3.         Dr Stiaan van der Merwe

4.         Ms Dudu Masango

5.         Rev Dix Sibeko

6.         Fr Albert Nolan

7.         Dr Frank Chikane

8.         Prof John de Gruchy

9.         Rev Bernard Spong

10.       Rev Alan Smith

11.       Rev Laurie Gaum

12.       Rev Trevor Amafu Ntlhola

13.       Rev Janet Trisk

14.       Mr Phuti Thage

15.       Rev Alex Bhiman

16.       Rev Alexander Venter

17.       Rev Gerald Mthembi

18.       Rev Nimrod Kekana

19.       Rev Zwo Nevhutalu

20.       Rev Mautji Pataki

21.       Bishop Jo Seoka

22.       Bishop Peter Lee

23.       Rev Zwelidumile Tom

24.       Ms Evelyn Lotz

25.       Rev Pieter Grove

26.       Bishop Malusi Mpumwlana

27.       Fr Mokesh Morar

28.       Mr Vernon Weitz

29.       Prof Charles Villa Vicencio

30.       Mr Terry Crawford Browne

31.       Dr Maake Masango

32.       Rev Basil Manning

33.       Mr Eddie Makue

34.       Rev Leon Klate

35.       Rev Desmond Lesejane

36.       Dr Allan Boesak

37.       Br Jude Pieterse

38.       Dr Japie La Poorta

39.       Rev Gill Bowman

40.       Ms Marthie Momberg

41.       Rev Roxanne Jordaan

42.       Bafana Khumalo

43.       Dr Paddy Kearney

44.       Ms Di Oliver

45.       Rev Lucas Morena

46.       Dr Cecile Cilliers

47.       Dr Ruben Richards

48.       Rev Fr Clive Ceasar

49.       Rev Fr Bob de Maar

50.       Ms Ntombikayise Magwaza

51.       Sr Shelagh Mary Waspe  

52.       Rev Dumisani J.  Nxumalo

53.       Miss Bongiwe Magongo

54.       Rev Douglas Torr

55.       Sr Brigid-Rose Tiernan

56.       Prof Njabulo Ndebele

57.       Sr Marie Andre Mitchell SND

58.       Sr Marie McLoughlin SNDdeN

59.       Fr Michael Lapsley, SSM

60.       Rev Aaron Mokobane

61.       Fr Richard Cogill

62.       Ms Estelle Steenkamp

63.       Rev Malcolm Damon

64.       Ms Lesley Morgan

65.       Mr Roger Arendse

66.       Dr Clint le Bruyns

67.       Ms Annemarie E Bosch (Annemie)

68.       Mr Jacques Bosch

69.       Mr Elroy Paulus

70.       Mr Manie van Zyl

71.       Ms Susan van Zyl

72.       Rev. Dr. Ben Khumalo-Seegelken

73.      Rev. Ubbo Khumalo-Seegelken

74.       Mr Nkosikhulule Nyembezi

75.       Ms Loek Goemans

76.       Ms Ann Moore

77.       Fr Mike Deeb

78.       Prof. Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela

79.       Rev Jenni Samdaan

80.       Mr Ivan Samdaan

81.       Dr Carel Anthonissen

82.       Mr Cobus van Wyngaard

83.       Rev Paul Verryn

84.       Dr SI Cronje

85.       Ds Anton Pienaar

86.       Mr Anton Bosch

87.       Ms Mariana Bosch

88.       Sr Bernadette Boulle

89.       Ms Suzanne Bosch

90.       Ms Annelise Coetzee

91.       Mr Leon Coetzee

92.       Mr Almero Cloete

93.       Prof Bernard Lategan

94.       Rev Terrence Lester

95.       Mr Cedric Kgwatlhe

96.       Ms Lynette Maart

97.       Rev Chris Ahrends

98.       Dr. PC Bosch (Pieter)

99.       Mrs Ilze Bosch

100.     Mrs M.E. de Jager (Mara)

101.     Ds Marina de Wet

102.     Ds Fouche de Wet

103.     Dr Ben du Toit

104.     The Very Rev Michael Weeder

105.     Prof Nico Koopman

106.     Ms Cora Richardson

107.     Ms Gisela Nicholson

108.     Fr Joe Falkiner

109.     Ms Val Pauquet

110.     Rev Dave Morgan

111.     Prof Karel August

112.     Mr Nic Paton

113.     Rev Chris Wessels

114.     Nabs Wessels

115.     Dr Dion Forster

116.     Mrs Wendy Arendse

117.     Dr Llewellyn MacMaster

118.     Dr Bruce Theron

119.     Dr Stephan de Beer

120.     Rev Peter Steinegger

121.     Rev Stephen Pedro

122.     Mr Paul van Loosen

123.     Ms Emilia Charbonneau

124.     Dr Nico Botha

125.     Prof  Martin Pauw

126.     Rev Faure Louw

127.     Mr James Kenokeno Mashabela

128.     Rev Marius Brand

129.     Mrs Ina Brand

130.     Mr Roger Witter

131.     Dr Ludolph Botha

132.     Prof Andries van Aarde

133.     Prof Douglas Irvine

134.     Jody Cedras

135.     Dr Leslie van Rooi

136.     Maseeiso Pelesa

137.     Ms Wilna de Beer

138.     Rev Teboho Klaas

139.     Prof Rothney Tshaka

140.     Mr Carl J Lotter

141.     Prof Chika Sehoole

142.     Mr Jeremy Routledge

143.     Ds Eugene Beukes

144.     Rev Winston J Samuels

145.     Rev Andre Muller

146.     Ms Anne Hope

147.     Rev Timothy Chao

148.     Rev David Botha (jr)

149.     Mr Julius Mapatha

150.     Rev Molefe Tsele

151.     Prof Puleng LenkaBula

152.     Rev Rasani Matthews Loate

153.     Rev Dr H Mvume Dandala

154.     Prof Tinyiko Sam Maluleke

155.     Rev Rowan Smith

156.     Archbishop Thabo C Makgoba

157.     Rev Ulric Groenewald

158.     Mr Mbulelo Mbikwane

159.     Thozi T. Gwanya

160.     Mr Michael W. Davy

161.     Tennyson Baithloi

162.     Dr Thabang J Skhosana

163.     Mr Mark James

164.     Mr Herman Crowther

165.     Rev SM Thaver

166.     Rev Johnathin Pieterse

167.     Mr Allan E Wentzel

168.     Bishop Kevin Dowling

169.     Rev John Oliver

170.     Mr Peter de Witt

171.     Rev Dr Des van der Water

172.     Ms Judy Cooke

173.     Mr Julian Cooke

174.     Sister Natalie Kuhn

175.     Mrs N Phumzile Dandala

176.     Fr Sergio Lorenzini

177.     Rev Lloyd Thabang Mokoena

178.     Bishop Mike Vorster

179.     Ms Etheen Lowry

180.     Mr Donovan Lowry

181.     Rev Leon Westhof

182.     Rev Charles Ivan Williams

183.     Dr Manfred Teichler

184.     Rev Sue Brittion

185.     Dr Sue Rakoczy IHM

186.     Ms Anne McDonald

187.     Mr Louis J Cronje

188.     Rev Alan J Kannemeyer

189.     Bishop Peter Holiday

190.     Rev Mark Wiemers

191.     Bishop Joe Sandri MCCJ

192.     Bishop ZP Mvemve

193.     Rev Thulani Ndlazi

194.     Rev Elroy Fortune

195.     Archbishop-emeritus Desmond M. Tutu

196.     Mr Mandla Seleoane

197.     Rev Vuyani ‘Vido’  Nyobole

198.     Rev Randy Thaver

199.     Mr Christopher Rabaji

200.     Rev M A Mpye

201.     Cardinal Wilfred Napier

202.     Bishop Jonathan Anderson

203.     Mrs Marie Louise Anderson

204.     Rev. Sekoboto Joseph Tau

205.     Archie S Nkonyeni

206.     Lynn Maree

207.     Rev R L Steel

208.     Fr. Sibongiseni A. P. Cele, TOR

209.     Bishop JL Ponce de León IMC

210.     Ms. Elizabeth Martiny

211.     Ms Isabel Hancock

212.     Tony Osei-Tutu

213.     Rev Hendry Fortuin

214.     Dr Judith Coyle

215.     Anne Patricia Flynn

216.     Dr Murray Coetzee

217.     Mrs Veronica Coetzee

218.     Rev Dr Charles P Ryan

219.     Ms Yvonne Morgan

220.     Sethembile Mkhize

221.     Tim Dunne

222.     Neville Gabriel

223.     Solly Sethlodi

224.     Aline Ribeiro Johnson

225.     Andrew Johnson

226.     Catherine Hunter

227.     Vincent C. Bosman

228.     Gavin M Taylor

229.     Dr Sipho Senabe

230.     Sr Angelika Laub OP

231.     Fiona M. Vallance

232.     Deirdre Gilchrist

233.     John Vallance

234.     Matthew Vallance

235.     Richard Gilchrist

236.     Michael Gilchrist

237.     Dr Lucas Mogashudi Ngoetjana

238.     Mr Peter Tarantal

239.     Bishop Jan de Groef, M Afr

240.     Alice Gilbert

241.     Robin Gilbert

242.     Prof Hugh Corder

243.     Aubrey Classen

244.     Mpho Buthelezi

245.     Mr Dan Vaughan

246.     Raleigh Maesela

247.     Mr Kwane Legwale

248.     Sr Cecilia Smit OP

249.     Terrence Barnard OMI

250.     Fr Michael Bennett

251.     Dr Willy Nel

252.     Prof Aubrey C Redlinghuis

253.     Billy Metiso

254.     Peter Sadie

255.     Mervyn Abrahams

256.     Brian Helsby

257.     Dirk Kotze

258.     Lydia Cindi

259.     Ian Booth

260.     Fr Rocco Marra

261.     Zandile Jakavula

262.     Gavin Campbell

263.     Prof  James R Cochrane

264.     Pastor Monwabisi Gideon Nqiwa

265.     Rev Ontshebile Albert Samolapo

266.     Rev N N Belu

267.     Ms Judith Turner

268.     Francois Dufour

269.     Sivuyile Hlam

270.     Mark Potterton

271.     Patrick Kelly

272.     Sr Emer McNally

273.     Amelia Burger

274.     Graham Lindegger PhD

275.     Phillipe Denis OP

276.     Fr Ibercio Rojas

277.     Derek Ronnie

278.     Francis Krige OP

279.     Robert Mandeya

280.     Sr Bernadette Flinter

281.     Carol Martin

282.     Leslie Dikeni

283.     John Maloma

284.     Fr. Robert Lukwiya Ochola MCCJ

285.     Sr Deirdre Harman

286.     Sr Eileen Gallagher

287.     Sr Bernadette Wilczkiewicz

288.     Sr Linda Prest

289.     Rev Anthony Bethke

290.     Erika Bethke

291.     Andrew-John Bethke

292.     Sr Geraldine Boys OP

293.     Sr Carmen Brokamp OP

294.     Stephan Bothma

295.     Ds Eugene Malan

296.     Fr Emil Blaser OP

297.      Maryke du Plooy

298.     Mr Roderick Davids

299.     Mr John Bennett

300.     Rev Clive Calder

301.     Anthony Bullen

302.     Sr. Immaculata Ngubane

303.     Sr. Anne Rose Ngubane

304.     Sr. Lidia Danyluk OP

305.     Sr Jacinta Teixeira OP

306.    Ms Ntuthu Somdyala

307.     Dr Marjorie Jobson

308.      Mr Mike Fraser

309.      Mario Marais

310.     Maretha Laubscher

311.     Sally Gross

312.     Prof Thias Kgatla

313.     Rev Zack Mokgoebo

314.     The Rt Rev Garth Q Counsell

315.     Sr Janine Coleman

316.     Maryke du Plooy

317.     Rev Jill Buhr

318.     Walter Loening

319.     Hillary Loening

320.     Sr Margarita Raubenheimer

Rev Doreen Carmichael

321.     Rev David Newton

322.     Tony McGregor

323.     Rev Olivia le Roux

324.     Sr Anne Walsh OP

325.     Bishop Barry Wood

326.     Dirk Marais

327.     Dr Denise Ackerman

328.     Leqeku Amos Monareng

329.     Dr Daniel Maluleke

330.     Rev Hendrick Pillay

331.     Ms Ntombikayise Mahlangu

332.    Mr. Amos Mahlangu

333.     Mr. Sfiso Mahlangu

334.     Mr. Sibusiso Mahlangu

335.     Mr. Khululekani Mahlangu

336.     Ms. Nompumelelo Khanyile

337.      Mrs. Makhosazana Ngcobo

338.     Mr. Khehla Ngcobo

339.     Mr. Ntokozo Masango

340.    Mr. Sibusiso Ncaweni

341.     Mr Trevor McArthur

342.     Hendrik Jacobus van Wyk

343.     Cornelia Kirsten

344.     Louise Cull

345.     Dr Guillame Smit

346.     Rev Franklin Farmer

347.      Theo PCB Meyer

348.      Mrs Puleng Mkhatshwa

349.      Rev Mandlenkosi Frances Mkhatswa

350.      Mr Gerrit Loots

351.      Mr C Victor R Honey

352.     Fr Jeremias Martins

353.     Ds Koos Oosthuyzen

354.      Mrs Lucia Oosthuyzen

355.      Heather Goslin

356.      Mrs Mary Gagiano

357.     Rev Dylan Ellison

358.     Ds L van Z Pieters

359.     Ms  G Pieters

360.     Rev Sox Leleki

361.      Colin Smuts

362.     Rob Goldman

363.     Rev Smanga Bosman

364.     Dr Johann du Plessis

365.     Rev Ingbert Misselhorn

366.     Tony Saddington

367.     John Gardener

368.      Renee Smit

369.     Mr Cyril Turton

370.     Rev Dr Ross Olivier

371.     Dr Wilhelm H Meyer

372.     Alison Lazarus

373.     Prof Margaret Keyser

374.     Myrttle Neewat-Joubert

375.     Monika Wittenberg

376.    Prof Emeritus Gunther Wittenberg

377.     Athol Williams

378.     Sr Charity Dlamini OP

379.     Giorgio Massa

380.    Rev Dr Les Switzer

381.     Frank Molteno

382.     Andy Wingreen

383.      Ds Carl Schoeman

384.      Lesley Frescura

385.      Fr Molois

386.     Sue Gardener

387.      Ms Beryl V Botman

388.      Prof H Russell  Botman

389.       Mary Gardner

390.      Emeritus Prof Colin Gardner

391.       Dina Cormick

392.       Dr Elizabeth Oehrle

393.       Rev Kenneth R van Rensburg

394.       Shirley Moulder

395.       Bishop Geoff Quinlan

396.      Rosemary Gravenor

397.       Prof William Gumede

398.       Dr Mary Bock

399.       Zelda Isaacs

400.       Mrs Angela Hofmeyr

401.       Rev Jan Hofmeyr MCSA

402.      Mr Fana Marutla

403.      Rev Andre Allies

404.      Kevin Tait

405.      Br Timothy Jolley OHC

406.      Rev Jenny Sprong

407.      Dr Leon Fouche

408.     Bishop Oswald Swartz

409.      Br Robert James, OHC

410.       Anna Cilliers

411.        Fr Louis Bank

412.      Rev Dr Sidney Luckett

413.      Ass.Prof Dr Kathy Luckett

414.       Elfort Naku

415.       Rev Georg Meyer

416.      Rev Steven Lottering

417.      Nomabelu Mvambo-Dandala

418.      Wouter van Velden

419.      Rev J Erica Murray

420.     Janet Prest Talbot

421.     Sr Verena Kennernetch

422.     Sr Monique Mallard (little sister of Jesus)

423.     Sr Mary Tuck

424.     Ms Nomvula Dlamini

425.     Dr. JD Mienie (Juan)

426.     Dr Jerome Slamat

427.     Bishop David Russell

428.     Ms Daniela Gennrich

429.     Zimerian Mokholoane

430.     Judy Connors

431.     Franco Frescura

432.     Prof Farid Esack

433.      Ilse Ahrends

434.      Rev Nomvuyo Mhlongo

435.      George Ngamlana

436.      Rev Thapelo Selebalo

437.      Bishop Lungisa Mndende

438.      JM Kabini

439.     Ms Bonita Bennett

440.     Ms Khumo Ntlha

441.     Rev John van de Laar

442.     Dr Glenda Cleaver

443.     Rev Similo Sanqela

444.     Rev Dr Lutz Ackerman

445.     Mark Fry

446.     John Aitchison

447.     Coral Vinsen

448.     Rev Fred Celliers

449.     Julia Heaney

450.     Deon Scharneck

451.      Dr Rev Canon Rachel Mash

452.      Lavinia Crawford-Browne

453.      Mpho Ndebele

454.      Rev Julian Titus

455.      Rev Charlotte Brown

456.      The Venerable Rev Christian Hartnick

457.      Rev Terence Wilke

458.      Dr. Bishop Clyde N. S.  Ramalaine

459.      Craig Stewart

460.      Margaret Brady

461.       Bobby Brady

462.       Edward French

463.       Dr Jonathan Draper

464.       Dr Sharlene Swartz

465.       John Sevenoaks

466.      Moipone Motloung

467.       Thabang Motloung

468.      Tebogo Motloung

469.      Karabo Motloung

470.      Lebohang Motloung

471.       Dineo Motloung

472.      Rev Reggie Nel

473.      Rev Ntiti Jacob Sefatsa

474.      Rev Siyolo Patrick Dano

475.      Chabeli Lehlohonolo

476.      Athi Majija

477.      Rev Gill Padoa

478.      Fr John Dyers

479.      Lyn van Rooyen

480.     Ida Barton

481.      Bob Barton

482.      Brett Myrdal

483.      Rev David Meldrum

484.      Mrs Barbara Manthata

485.      Thom Manthata

486.      Mandulo Septi Bukula

487.       Isobel de Gruchy

488.      Mrs Lucienne Hunter

489.      Lois Law

490.      Terence Creamer

491.      The Very Rev Andrew Hunter

492.       Mr Stanley Maphosa

493.       Rev Donald Cragg

494.      Kedibone Tsoari

495.      Mathapelo Tsoari

496.      Boitumelo Mogotsi

497.      Motlatsi Mogotsi

498.     Lerato Mogotsi

499.     Lesego Mogotsi

500.     Peter Moloko

501.     Nkele Moloko

502.     Stanley Moloko

503.     Koni Moloko

504.    Winnie Moloko

505.     Mali Moloko

506.     Puleng Mbokazi

507.     Phillemon Mbokazi

508.     Buti Motloung

509.     Thabiso Moloto

510.     Modupi Moloto

511.      Lillian Kometsi

512.      Junior Kometsi

513.     Lebo Kometsi

514.     Obakeng Mogotsi

515.     Charles Moagi

516.     Vuyelwa  Mfusa

517.     Casper Mashishi

518.     Rev Keith Vermeulen

519.      Marlene Barrett

520.      Xolile Khoza

521.      Bridget Rose

522.      Dominique Souchon

523.      Neville Solomon

524.      Pastor Chris Kanku

525.      Rev George Lewis

526.      Dr Mike Smuts

527.       Trui Roozeveld van der Veen

528.      Berni Marshall-Smith

529.      Bishop Christopher Gregorowski

530.      Roland Luke

531.       Deon L Pheiffer

532.      Mxolisi Sonti

533.      Anthony Ambrose

534.      Dr. Rev Mpumelelo Qwabaza

535.      Rev Arthur Stewart

536.      Sandra Troskie

537.       Caroline Kerfoot

538.      Rev John G Lewis

539.      Brian Robertson

540.      Elna Boesak

541.       Sarah Boesak

542.       Rev Ntombekhaya Belu

543.       Fr Wrongcliffe Chisholm

544.       Clare Davies

545.       Stuart Talbot

546.       Rev Carol Walsh

547.       Luleka Nyhila

548.      Archdeacon Anthony Gregorowski

549.      Sr Brigitte von Oppenkowski

550.      Dominic Cloete

551.       Dr Betty Govinden

552.       Dr Dawid Kuyler

553.       Canon Eric Ephraim

554.       Martin Jansen

555.       Mike Louw

556.       Suzanne Ruben

557.        Dr Jeff Rudin

558.       Michael Makin

559.       Jabulani Ngidi

560.       Elaine Rodriques

561.       Teboho A Papullunwane

562.       Brenda Hain

563.       Ingrid Pinu

564.       Florah Ngubane

565.       Donalii Hain

566.       LM Bengu

567.       Bau Sibisi

568.      Robert Brien

569.      Sizakele Seme

570.      Luyanda Chamane

571.       Sylvia Wilson

572.      Nomathemba Tsekiso

573.       Vusa Tsekiso

574.      Esme Brien

575.      Regina Tees

576.      Eliza Getman

577.      Richard Cluver

578.     Rev Noel Morgan

579.     Rev Tim Gray

580.     Mervyn Bennun

581.     Usha Jevan

582.     Kate Davies

583.     Bishop Geoff Davies

584.      Lynne Holmes-Ganief

585.      Yusuf Holmes-Ganief

586.      Dr Fanie du Toit

587.      Thembekani Mehlo

588.      Vathiswa Njaba

589.      Sithembiso Mange

590.       Tasneem Fredericks

591.        Martin Mostert

592.       Cheryl Fasser-Isineyi

593.        Fatima Vally

594.        Muhammed Desai

595.        Rev Sharon Nell

596.        Mohammad Groenewald

597.        Francois Kirsten

598.       Prof Herby Govinden

599.       Kathy Henning

600.       Ferdinand Engel

601.        Freda Brock

602.       William Kerfoot

603.       Heidi Grunebaum

604.       Dr Elizabeth Oehrle

605.        Dolf Schutte

606.       Isabel Murray

607.       Bishop Peter Witbooi

608.       Hermoine Solomons

609.        Notozi Jennifer Mgobozi

610.         David le Page

611.          Roland Luke

612          Liz Palmer

613.        Jennifer Thompson

614.        Rev Duncan McClea

615.        Bonny Molokoane

616.        Nombulelo Bikwane

617.        Neill Deane

618         Alexandra Fisher

619.        Thando Melane

620.       Dieter Petsch

621.        Rev Tim Gray

622.        Linde Dietrich

623.        Marcus van Wyk

624.       Prof Anton A van Niekerk

625.       Andrea Marent-Hegewisch

626.        Mrs Amy van Niekerk CFP

627.        Rev Trevor Steyn

628.       Felicity Sikhakhane

629.        Vicky Ireland

630.        Miss Nancy Herbert

631.        Rev Cheryl Bird

632.       Ms Kathy Henning

633.       Fr Simon Kortjass

634.       Rev Ed Coombe

635.       Mr Lovey Mahopo

636.       Mrs Patience Weits

637.       Mr Josias Weitz

638.      Rev Andrè du Plooy

639.      Mrs Patricia du Plooy

640.      Mr Ronnie Atkins

641.       Mrs Enid Atkins

642.       Rev Frank Mabutla

643.      Werner Riedinger

644.     Rev Prof Peter Storey

645,      137 signatures received via fax transmission from Fr Zweli Tom (Eastern Cape)

782.     Nazir Osman

783.      20 more signatures from Pretoria

803.     20 signatures received from Rev Sue Brittion, KZN

823.     Zannie Bock

824.     Sr Elizabeth Mary Clifford O.P

825.     Sr Rose Mc Larnon O.P.

826.     A T Mc Intyre

827.     Cynthia Veitch O.P

828.     Sr Margaret Wall O.P.

829.      Barbara Coombe

830.      Dr Stephen Knight

831.       Robert Inglis

832.       Linda P Bengane

833.       Fr Edwin D. Pockpass

834.       Rev Brian J Brown

835.        Proponent Quentin S Minnaar

836.       Rev Siyabulela Gidi

837.       Bishop Lunga Ka Siboto

838.       Gwen Kgantsi

839.       20 signatures from 012 8039037

859.        Rev Friedrich von Fintel

860.        Charles K Robertson

861.         Mrs D Breetzke

862.         Rev John Wessels

863.    Fr  Mike Keggie

864.      Jenny Boraine

865.      Alex Boraine

866.      Prof Christo Lombard

867.      Prof Heather McLeod

868.      Claire Tucker

869.      Jeanette Groenewald

870.      Robert Inglis

871.      Marcus van Wyk

872.      Linde Dietrich

873.      Cecily Kruger

874.      Douglas Moledi

875.      Monnamorwa Dineo

876.      Monnamorwa  Kgosietsile

877.      Monnamorwa  Lorato

878.      Monnamorwa  Lesedi Neo

879.     Monnamorwa  Mochadibane

880.     Monnamorwa Maserame

881.      Monnamorwa  Kgomotso

882.     Seema   Clara

883.     Segoane  Valentina

884.     Madibogo Phokomela

885.      Mokgothu Irene

886.      Mokgothu  Steven

887.      Rakwena  Moses

888.     Rakwena  Phenyo

889.     Mashishi  Joyce

890.     Machogo  Selina

891.      Ngake  Selina

892.     Matsetela  Maria

893.     Sibiya  Matshediso

894.     Rankgapele Nare

895.     Sekhosana Emily

896.     Motau Kedibone

897.      Kgatle Selina

898.     Fisha Valentia

899.     Ramokgopa  Florah

900.      Rankapole Winnie

901.      Makeke  Nkele

902.      Mothiba Francina

903.      Phala  Bella

904.     Sekhoto  Christina

905.     Bishop Raphael Hess

906.     Fr Rodney Whiteman

907.     Sr Angela Sutton OP

908.    Sr Clarina Marquart OP

909.    Sr Clarissa Weber OP

910.     Sr Hildegunde Runne OP

911.     Sr Sizakele Zulu OP

912.     Fr Trevor Steyn

913.      Mr Bantu Holomisa MP

942.     29 signatures from St Andrew’s Newlands.

943.      Charlene van der Walt

944.      Melissa Opperman

945.      Riaan de Villiers

946.     Mizelle Mienie

947.      Zannie Bock

948.      Debbie French

949.      Allison Gwynne Evans

950.      Nigel Gwynne Evans

958.      8 signatures received from St Dominics Priory in PE

959.      Veronica Creamer

966.      Seven signatories from Franciscan Sisters in Mpumalanga

1004.    38 North-West and Gauteng signatures received from Sr Angelika

1005.     Remke Hanna

1006.     Bucher Christa

1007.     Christ Trenda

1008.     Bogner Claudette

1009.     Langer Rosella

1029.      20 more signatures from Gauteng

1049.      20 more signatures from the Eastern Cape

1050.      Prof Sampie Terreblanche

1051.       Dr Sue Armstrong

1052.       Doreen Lee

1053.       Anne Mary Carolissen

1054.       Sarah Matter

1055.       Rev Frikkie Marais

1056.       Ds Thabo Pienaar

1057.      Rev Zola Matutu

1058.      Shuaib Manjra

1059.      Fr Peter John Pearson

1060.      Dr Braam Hanekom

1100.       40 signatures from Greyton in the Western Cape

1122.        22 signatures collected at the Steve de Gruchy memorial lecture (Cape Town)

1123.        Angelika Alberts

1124.       Kathy Gaylor OP

1125.        Gary Pienaar

1126.        Dr Trunette Rippenaar-Joseph

1214         Ds George Rauch

1215          Sarah Matter

Name and   Province   83 signatories from the Eastern Cape
Revd Zola   Nanana, Eastern Province
Anthea   Kammies, Eastern Province
Jennifer   Swartz, Eastern Province
Rodney White,   , Eastern Province
Neera Madlavu,   Eastern Province
Solomon Mpolweni,, Eastern Province
Zukisa Jeyi,   Eastern Province
Sithembile   Thomas, Eastern Province
Revd Vusumzi   Elliot Banzana, Eastern Province
Thobeka Ethel   Tom, Eastern Province
Mxolisi Zolani   Makapela, Eastern Province
The Very Revd   Sharion Nell, Eastern Province
CW   Muspratt-Williams, Eastern Province
RN Koen,   Eastern Province
R Butler,   Eastern Province
Revd Jogra   Gallant, Eastern Province
E Peters ,   Eastern Province
G Siljeur,   Eastern Province
Revd ZN   Nongauza, Eastern Province
Revd T   Mngomezulu, Eastern Province
Revd D Molema,   Eastern Province
Jean Litholi,   Eastern Province
Vuyisile Hani,   Eastern Province
Revd MB Vena,   , Eastern Province
Nombeko   Madlingoza, Eastern Province
George Zanele   Sonkwala, Eastern Province
Z Matshisi,   Eastern Province
Zweliyazuza   Madlingozi, Eastern Province
Revd Mxolisi   Somandi, Eastern Province
HPT Beadon,   Eastern Province
LG Clay,   Eastern Province
Sabelo   Platana, Eastern Province
Thokozile   Ndlangalavu, Eastern Province
Zandisile   Ndzwane, Eastern Province
Charles Qoto,   Eastern Province
G Fortuin,   Eastern Province
Revd L de   Donker, Eastern Province
R Francis,   Eastern Province
MD Smith,   Eastern Province
Revd Canon   Andrew Watt, Eastern Province
M Calitz,   Eastern Province
Revd Mtutuzeli   Belu, Eastern Province
Zalisile   Patrick Nontyi, Eastern Province
Revd  R Allwright, Eastern Province
Cheryl Nelson,   Eastern Province
Veronica   Kaibe, Eastern Province
H Hing,   Eastern Province
Revd AW Kani,   Eastern Province
R Rhodes,   Eastern Province
Jeremy   Schuster, Eastern Province
Angelique M   Lottering, Eastern Province
Revd Fumi   Kula, Eastern Province
Revd Mario   Hendricks, Eastern Province
Revd Lionel   Phumla Mtila, Eastern Province
Sipho Mali,   Eastern Province
Nomvuyo   Xhallie, Eastern Province
Mbuyiseli   Livingstone Makonxa, Eastern Province
Revd Joshua   Koening, Eastern Province
Michael   Allens, Eastern Province
Revd Rob   Penrith, Eastern Province
Clive   Wilkinson, Eastern Province
Revd Robin   Behrens, Eastern Province
Tim   Douglas-Jones, Eastern Province
Nkosi Beauty   Somlots, Eastern Province
Amon Nyondo,   Eastern Province
Revd Vincent   Mdidimba, Eastern Province
Mrs mazoe   Nopece, Eastern Province
Lulu Msutu,   Eastern Province
Debbie   Mzinyati, Eastern Province
Thanduxolo   Mzinyati, Eastern Province
Thanduxolo   Kwale, Eastern Province
Thandi Stokwe,   Eastern Province
Sherry   Lochhead, Eastern Province
Catherine   Madikane, Eastern Province
Doreen Africa,   Eastern Province
Revd Charles   Church, Eastern Province
Revd Mkwanazi   Mgedezi, Eastern Province
Revd GS   Ludidi, Eastern Province
LE Fraser,   Eastern Province
RG Redcliffe,   Eastern Province
Revd ARE   Hambury
Nosizwe Mali,   Eastern Province
Thami Nyondo,   Eastern Province1299: 20 signatories from Gauteng province1319:


Some of the signatories expressed their support for the document without necessarily subscribing to the particular expressions of faith which undergirds the document. We respect their right to do so and have added their   names as we receive them without distinguishing between them and those who feel free to express their faith as contained in the statement.


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

South Africa, Palestine and the Papal Visit to the Holy Land, by Charles Villa-Vicencio

The Dangerous Memory of the Gospel South Africa, Palestine and the Papal Visit to the Holy Land


By Charles Villa-Vicencio*



The church has long had a split personality, consisting of traditional believers who cling to institutionalized ritual and what they regard as doctrinal purity and activists whose faith prioritizes social action. Numerically the former is the larger group for the simple reason that most people are conformists who accept the religious and socio-political status quo of the day. The latter invariably comprises a smaller group of people who affirm that what they believe is a part of the Christian tradition that is suppressed, if not forgotten, by the dominant structures within the institutional church.

This smaller group is customarily side-lined by the church hierarchy and frequently persecuted by political authorities.  With some exceptions, however, the two sides of the church tend, with mutual irritation, to coexist. This leads to a situation where activists disturb the conscience of traditional believers, reminding them of what the Catholic theologian Johann Baptist Metz called the “dangerous memory of the Gospel”.

Jesus of History

Jesus was a native of the dusty, rural town of Nazareth, known for its political resistance to Roman occupation. Historians tell us that, apart from what is written in the Gospels, there are only two indisputable facts that we know about the historical Jesus:  the first is that he was a Jew who led a popular movement in Palestine at the beginning of the first century CE. The second is that Rome conspired with the Sanhedrin to crucify him, based on claims that he was the “King of the Jews”—a treasonous crime punishable by death.

The lines between the historical Jesus and the Christ of faith preached by the church are blurred, with New Testament references to his teaching often contradicting one another. These include teachings that suggest racial exclusion – “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24); benevolent universalism—“Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19); peace and nonviolence— “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9);  and the promotion of violence— “Let him who has no sword, go sell your cloak and buy one” (Luke 22:36).

The earliest New Testament writings are those attributed to St. Paul, dating back to approximately 48 CE when he wrote the first letter to the Thessalonians.  Paul’s primary interest was not, however,  the historical Jesus but the proclamation of a Christian message to gentiles in the broader Roman Empire. Mark’s account of Jesus was written after 70 CE, Matthew and Luke wrote between 90 and 100 CE and John somewhere between 100 and 120 CE, with various non-canonical gospels interspersed between these dates. A lot of history and interpretation happened between the time of the ministry of Jesus and the earliest records available that record that ministry. This requires any thoughtful person to put aside preconceived theological casuistry in keeping an open mind on what Jesus may or may not have taught.

 After the death of Jesus, James, “the brother of Jesus,” apparently emerged as leader of the embryonic church.  In continuity with the teaching of Jesus, he insisted that a follower of Jesus needed to show partiality in favor of the poor. His fierce support for the poor and sharp criticism of the rich, may well explain why Ananus, the self-indulgent high priest at the time, persuaded the Sanhedrin to preside over James’ execution around 62 AD. Chaos reigned in Palestine at the time and the Roman occupiers were driven out of Palestine in 66 CE in a rebellion led by Jewish nationalists and the Sicarii (dagger men or assassins). The Romans reclaimed Jerusalem in 70 CE when they unleashed an orgy of violence against all forms of Jewish nationalism. They desecrated and burned the temple and slaughtered tens of thousands of Jews.

Barnabas and Paul had in the meantime (around 50 CE) met with “pillars of the church,” James, Peter, and John, to confirm the legitimacy of their mission to the gentiles and the freedom of gentile converts to reject the Mosaic Law.  In so doing they extended the reach of the early church into the wider Roman Empire.  The tension between James, the leader of the church in Jerusalem, and Paul, the apostle to the gentiles, is seen in the Epistle of James (probably compiled by an editor drawing on the teachings of James). Rejecting Paul’s emphasis on faith alone as a means of salvation, the writer insisted on both faith and works as a vehicle of salvation. As Christian history shows, Paul would win this debate—and fifteen hundred years later Martin Luther would reject the Book of James as an “Epistle of Straw”!

Peter and others would the flee Jerusalem to escape the persecution of Herod Agrippa, only to see Peter later crucified in Rome under the rule of Emperor Nero Augustus Caesar, probably in 66 CE.  Early Christians were at the same time eager to survive the onslaught on Jewish nationalists and distanced themselves from the Jews. They gradually transformed themselves from a Jewish sect into a separate religion centred in Rome, where Paul steadily moved the church towards a gospel more acceptable to the Hellenized culture of the Greco-Roman world. Despite this development, Paul would run afoul of the establishment, with tradition telling us that he too was executed after a lengthy period of imprisonment, possibly in the same year as Peter.

Bluntly put, the pendulum of the early church shifted away from its Jewish origins (and from the historic Jesus) to the Christ of faith as articulated by Paul. Paul’s emphasis was primarily on Christology rather than the historical Jesus, insisting that his authority came through “a [direct] revelation of Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:12), which seems to allude to his Damascus Road experience (Acts 9:5). In claiming this authority, Paul’s references to Jesus, rather than taking his total ministry into consideration, are reduced to a spiritual reflection on the last supper (1 Corinthians 11:23-26), the crucifixion (I Corinthians 2:2) and the resurrection, without which he states “our preaching is empty and your faith is in vain” (I Corinthians 15:14).

Given the demands of a gentile and Hellenized world to which Paul believed he was called, his ministry placed less emphasis than the gospel writers on the historical context within which Jesus lived. While Paul’s emphasis lessened the direct political impact of the message of Jesus in early Palestine, it was in continuity with the life of Jesus. In proclaiming that “there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female,  for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28), Paul’s message transcended race, gender and class.  This message is a crucial aspect of a gospel that rejects any sense of superiority by any group, based on race, culture, creed or gender, making it pertinent to apartheid South Africa and segregated Palestine. As such, Paul’s message needs to be embraced as a crucial part of what has been described as the “dangerous memory of the gospel” that undermines the complacency of the rich and powerful in any society.

Differently stated, there is an inter-related double heritage in the church, traceable to the person of Jesus as recorded in the New Testament. One layer of this heritage is traceable to the teachings of Jesus contained in the gospels that capture the partiality of Jesus in support of the poor and oppressed, which led to his crucifixion and the martyrdom of his followers. The other layer concerns the universality of the gospel, emphasized in the teaching of Paul, which amplifies the teaching of Jesus as reflected in the Parable of the Good Samaritan, his encounter with the Syrophoenician women, and elsewhere.

Both heritages are pertinent to a church within a society subjected to ideological distinctions based on race, class and gender.

The Dominant Tradition of Christianity

The dominant message of any movement is invariably the message of those who wield most power at a given time. The dominant history of Christianity is the history told by those who exercised political power from the time of the Roman Empire to the global dominance of the United States of America today, where the story of Jesus is essentially the story told by that country’s “popular” evangelists. Importantly, however, this power has never been left unchallenged. We see this happening in countries across the world where the poor and the marginalized in each successive age rise in resistance, and sometimes in revolution, against those who oppress and exploit them.

This is what happened in South Africa where a measure of sanity eventually prevailed in the apartheid state with the democratic elections that saw the emergence of a black majority government under the remarkable leadership of Nelson Mandela. There is no indication that the unfinished Palestinian intifadawill in the immediate future realize what the South African struggle achieved in 1994.  It is clear, however, that Palestinian resistance will not subside before the Palestinian people are afforded the opportunity to create a democratic future. This is a tried and tested reality of all history. The question is what the role of the Palestinian and global church will be as this process unfolds.

I identify in what follows a theological conflict that reaches to the heart of Christian identity, suggesting that unless the global church is prepared to observe the Palestinian conflict from the sidelines, it will be obliged to take sides with marginalized Palestinians against Israeli power.

The dominant tradition in church-state relations as we know it today emerged with the rulers of the Roman Empire imposing its imprint on the church through the 313 CE Edict of Milan, instituted under the authoritarian rule of Constantine the Great. It was an imprint imposed with a level of subtlety and Machiavellian virtu that none of Constantine’s predecessors had been able to achieve through naked force. In the process the church became what was effectively a new imperial cult—transformed from a persecuted and impoverished social minority into a church led by a hierarchy of wealthy and powerful bishops, princes and emperors that assigned the poor to the margins of the church. By the high Middle Ages the dominant church had become the single most despotic political force in Europe.

Since this dramatic imperial feat, Christianity, with some notable exceptions, has grown accustomed to bolstering the powerful and neglecting the poor and vulnerable. Among the exceptions can be counted the confessing church in Nazi Germany, the church of the poor in Latin America that gave birth to liberation theology, the black theology genre that emerged from the civil rights movement in the U.S., the feminist and womanist theology movements in different parts of the world, and the signers of the three Kairos documents in South Africa (1985), Palestine (2009), and the United States (2011).

A further sense of hope in this regard has emerged in the apostolic exhortation, entitled, The Joy of the Gospel in which Pope Francis upholds the Christian calling to challenge the alliance between political and business leaders in the promotion of “a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power.” He reaffirms a message in continuity with the Twenty-First Ecumenical Council and Pope John XXIII’s Mater et Magistra that was opposed by several influential social conservatives in the Catholic Church.

Pope Francis has declared his opposition to what he calls the “deified market” of free-market capitalism. He is however no radical; ready to renounce the social teachings of the Catholic Church. He affirms the Catholic Church’s opposition to abortion, insisting that “unborn children” are “the most defenceless and innocent among us,” while contending “it is also true that we have done little to adequately accompany women in very difficult situations.” He fits neither into any preconceived “liberal” nor “conservative” conclusions on moral theology, while calling the church to be in solidarity with the “weak and defenceless who are frequently at the mercy of economic interests or indiscriminate exploitation.”

Given the influence of conservatives in the Catholic Church, the struggle for the soul of the Catholic Church is likely to be an intense one. It is at the same time clear that the election of Pope Francis as the first pope from the Southern Hemisphere will be drawn on by progressive Catholics to challenge conservative interests in the church.  

The Pope’s visit to the Holy Land this May will also mark the 50th anniversary of an historic trip to the region by Pope Paul VI, when he met with the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras, which resulted in the easing of a 900-year-long Great Schism between the churches of the East and West. This will be only the fourth papal visit to the Holy Land since biblical times. The fact that the Holy Land is the entrenched symbol of the brutal conflict between Israelis and Palestinians and that Jerusalem is a Holy City to three of the world’s great religions will add to the expectations of what the Pope can achieve. The depth of these conflicts suggests, however, that these expectations will need to be constrained.

 Given the divide that exists between the dominant church, which is invariably careful not to offend the political powers, and activist Christians who effectively constitute a “church within the church,” Pope Francis’ visit will be carefully watched. Pertinent questions will arise concerning the level of unity among Christians regarding the Palestinian situation and the Pope’s response to the plight of the poor and marginalized people of the Holy Land. The struggle to define the message of the gospel and the response of the church to the needs of the poor can take on a new dimension as the eyes of the world’s media track the Pope’s visit.

   In each age, from the Middle Ages, through the Reformation and into the modern period Christians there have been Christians who paid the price of obedience, even at the cost of persecution and death. These range from Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Nazi Germany to Oscar Romero in El Salvador, Martin Luther King Jr., the Trappist monks killed in the Algerian civil war and the Nag Hammadi massacre of Coptic Christians. There are, in turn, countless unknown martyrs throughout the Middle East and elsewhere whose lives reflected the tradition of resistance and martyrdom.

The killings, including those of children, in Palestinian occupied territory, in turn, happen on a regular basis. Media reports on the Israeli military operations in Gaza in 2008/09 were widespread and additional reports on the killing of children over the years are extensive. These include the killing by Israel Defense Forces soldiers of Jamil Jibji and several other children and teenagers from the Askar refugee camp, who were allegedly throwing stones at military vehicles. Bushra Bargis was killed by a sniper’s bullet with her school grammar book in her hand,  and earlier a Jewish settler was sentenced to a mere six months community service and a $17,000 fine for the beating to death of an 11-year-old Palestinian boy. There are at the same time an estimated 5,000-plus Palestinians being held in Israeli prisons, including Marwan Barghoutiwho was convicted and given a life sentence for murder by an Israeli court. Barghouti has become the “face” of Palestinian political prisoners, as Nelson Mandela became the “face” of the campaign to release all political prisoners in South Africa in the “free Mandela” campaign. There are at the same time Jewish young men and women in the Army of the State of Israel who are refusing to surrender their lives in defence of an unjust state.


Kairos: The Favorable Time


The church is a global church, which requires Christians to be in solidarity with those who suffer in a particular place at a particular time. Churches are largely aware of this, as is manifest in their global ministry programs that increasingly include Palestine in their ministry. Palestinians, in turn, look to other places around the world where struggles for justice are being waged, to learn from the success and failures of these quests.


 Kairos South Africa 1985

South Africa is one of those places where Christians have fought the good fight for justice— and have to a significant sense succeeded, although there are obvious limitations inherent to the South African transition that Palestinians and others would do well to ponder. The overview of the South African struggle that follows is offered in the belief that comparative thinking and critique is required for Christians to “stand on the shoulders of others”—not in order to mimic them, but with a view to building on and improving their experiences and witness.

In this spirit of inquiry it is worth asking why it is that the South African struggle caught the imagination of the world. It was and is a struggle that is anything but romantic or painless. It cost those involved in the process dearly and there are lessons to be learned from its complicated history.

Early resistance to apartheid was essentially limited to peaceful protests. It was only after the African National Congress (ANC) and Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) were banned in 1960 in the wake of the Sharpeville massacre and all channels for political opposition were eliminated that these groups resorted to armed resistance as a declared strategy to complement other non-violent strategies. There were at the same time, and continue to be, ideological differences and policy variations within the liberation movements, which militated against unified opposition to apartheid, much in the same way that Palestinian movements are marred by both inter- and intra-group conflict.  Ideological and political differences in South Africa led to the establishment of the Black Consciousness Movement under the leadership of Steve Biko in the late 1960s as well as other divisions and factions. The broader objective of resistance to white rule nevertheless grew and the global community was mobilized in support of this development, the internal struggle intensified and the resistance to apartheid within faith communities grew:

Global Support

The work of the ANC as well as the PAC, once they established themselves in exile with offices in London, Lusaka and countries around the world, was a crucial factor in the South African struggle. These organizations worked through the United Nations (UN), the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), and anti-apartheid organizations across the world, which resulted in a level of global opposition that led to the declaration of apartheid as a crime against humanity by the General Assembly of the UN. This came into force in 1976 and led to a process that included an international arms boycott, trade sanctions, cultural boycotts and student protests against the apartheid regime.

The Internal Struggle

Co-operation between ideologically estranged groups at home grew as a result of student movements, trade union affiliations and the establishment of the United Democratic Front (UDF) in 1983 and the Mass Democratic Movement (MDM) in 1988. This mobilized black South Africans in a campaign to render the country ungovernable.

It was a costly process: 40,000 people were detained in the 1980s. There were dramatic increases of deaths in detention and in the flight of people into exile to join the armed struggle. Significantly though, as violent clashes between the government and the liberation movements escalated, clandestine meetings were being held between government leaders and the ANC. Structured meetings followed, top government officials met with Nelson Mandela and in December 1988 Mandela was moved from Pollsmoor Prison to Victor Verster Prison, with open telephone lines to consult with ANC colleagues in exile and in South Africa. In March 1989 Mandela wrote to President PW Botha, proposing that they meet to discuss the possibility of a negotiated settlement. Faced with global and internal pressure, the government released Mandela and others from prison. Political movements were unbanned and democratic elections were held in 1994.

Faith Communities

The struggle against apartheid was always political, reaching to every sphere of existence. As such it included the participation of faith communities. The World Council of Churches (WCC) and Program to Combat Racism within the WCC played a major international role in exposing the iniquities of apartheid. They mobilized churches across the world against apartheid and exposed the atrocities committed by the South African military in the frontline states of (then) South West Africa (Namibia), Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and Mozambique, and deeper into Africa.

  In South Africa religious communities were similarly mobilized to resist apartheid. The South African Council of Churches (SACC) and the South African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) played a significant role in this regard, even though these organizations failed to secure the unqualified support of their member churches in so doing.  Indeed, the divisions within member churches resulted in religious rivalry and the formation of splinter groups breaking away from the established churches, with the apartheid government taking advantage of this by pumping huge amounts of money into pro-apartheid groups in the churches.

Interfaith cooperation, both in opposing apartheid and in preparing the nation for democracy, was also a significant feature of the South African transition.  In 1991, a year after the release of Mandela from prison, South African Muslims convened a National Muslim Conference in Cape Town. This was a gathering of 750 Muslims representing every shade of Muslim opinion who came together to debate Muslim Personal Law and related matters of concern to Muslims in anticipation of a new South African dispensation. The conference committed itself to support a multi-faith culture under a secular constitution. A subsequent National Interfaith Conference involving Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus and people of other religious beliefs, in turn, committed itself to support a political settlement, democratic elections and a secular constitution.

 It is important, however, to remember is that the religious resistance to apartheid and interfaith cooperation only came about in the wake of a long and hard-fought battle within which religious identities were used to bolster political conflicts. There were, however, Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, members of other faiths, atheists, agnostics and secularists who found a deep common cause in their opposition to apartheid. They were frequently beaten by the police, imprisoned, driven into exile and in some cases killed, which deepened the solidarity among South Africans opposed to apartheid.

Facing an apartheid state that claimed to rule in obedience to God, it was Christians opposed to apartheid who felt a special responsibility to resist the state. The history of Christianity in South Africa tells of both confrontation and cooperation between church and state from the time of the arrival of the first white settlers in the country. It is from the time of colonial expansionism and the discovery of minerals in the nineteenth century that the institutional church was essentially supportive of white interests and privilege.

The turning point in Christian opposition to apartheid only came in the wake of the Sharpeville massacre in 1960. The WCC convened a meeting in Cottesloe, Johannesburg, shortly after the massacre, to consult with South African churches concerning their stance on apartheid. The conference decisively voted against apartheid.  Hendrik Verwoerd, the architect of statutory apartheid and prime minister at the time, rebuked the delegates to the conference from the Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk (NGK), the largest of the white Afrikaner Dutch Reformed Churches, by accusing them of forgetting their responsibility regarding the “high purpose of apartheid.” Many recanted, while Beyers Naudé, the moderator of the Southern Transvaal synod of the NGK, rejected Verwoerd’s reprimand and was later expelled from his church. As the divisions within the church deepened, a space opened up within which leaders from various churches, such as Beyers Naudé, Desmond Tutu and others, became household names in the fight against apartheid.

The theological breakthrough in the church struggle took a significant step forward with the publication of two important books. One was Allan Boesak’s doctoral thesis, Farewell to Innocence, in 1975. This was effectively the first black theology publication to capture public attention in South Africa. The other breakthrough came with the publication of Albert Nolan’s Jesus before Christianity in 1976.

Two earlier developments prepared the way for this breakthrough in different ways. The so-called English-speaking churches (the majority of whose members were black as result of nineteenth-century mission work) were instrumental in the writing of the Message to the People of South Africa in 1968, which rejected apartheid as a “pseudo-gospel.” The NGK, in turn, adopted a declaration in 1974 with the pretentious title of Human Relations and the South African Scene in the Light of Scripture, providing a biblical justification for apartheid. This led, largely at the instigation of Allan Boesak, to the decision of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC), to adopt a resolution declaring the theological justification of apartheid to be a heresy. Boesak was also elected president of the WARC at their 1982 General Council, which afforded him a global platform to further mobilize the world-wide church against apartheid.

Among themost significant and prophetic events in the history of the theological struggle against apartheid in the turbulent 1980s by the church in resistance to apartheid were the controversial Call for the End to Unjust Rule, which emerged at a deeply divided South African Council of Churches conference in 1984 and the South Africa Kairos Document (published in 1985).[i] Both identified the rupture between the established institutional church and Christians in rebellion against apartheid. The Call for the End to Unjust Rule asked Christians to pray “that God will replace the present structures of oppression with ones that are just, and remove from power those who persist in defying his laws, installing in their place leaders who will govern with justice and mercy.”

The message of the 1985 South African Kairos Document was, in turn, clear that the witness of the prophetic church needs to be grounded in “an understanding of politics and political strategy” designed to change an unjust situation. It rejected a notion of reconciliation before the affirmation of justice and the blanket condemnation of “all that is called violence”, distinguishing between the violence associated with resistance to apartheid on the one hand and oppressive forms of institutional and police violence on the other. The Kairos Document reminded the church that tough calls need to be made in tough times.  It rejected “state theology” in which the apartheid state drew on a distorted interpretation of chapter 13 in Paul’s Epistle to the Romans and other passages of scripture to claim its authority is derived from God. It also rejected “church theology,” describing it as having drawn on “a few stock ideas derived from the Christian tradition,” without taking sides with oppressed people in their fight against apartheid. In so doing it affirmed a “prophetic theology” which rejected the state as having “no moral legitimacy” and being “an enemy of the common good”, while rejecting the ethical restraint of the institutional church.

Kairos Palestine: 2009

Palestinians have fought hard for their freedom, with two burdens that are more difficult to carry than those faced by South Africans. These concern the limitations of global solidarity with Palestinians and the hesitation of the global church to support the Palestinian cause to the same extent that it supported the South Africa struggle.  This suggests the urgent need for levels of Palestinian unity, the global co-ordination of its work, domestic solidarity across ideological differences, the redefining of viable strategies for change and the need for the level of leadership that South Africans have produced not only in Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo, Steve Biko and Desmond Tutu, but also leaders at other levels of society. Despite the remarkable theological work undertaken by Palestinian scholars and activists, such as Elias Chacour, Archbishop of the Melkite Church, and the Rev. Naim Ateek, founder of the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem, the WCC and WARC have not embraced the Palestinian cause with the same enthusiasm with which they embraced the anti-apartheid cause. Geopolitical factors supportive of Israel bear as heavily on the church as they do on other dimensions of the Palestinian situation.

Nevertheless, in 2009, an impressive number of Palestinian Christian institutions and leaders, including the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Michel Sabbah, signed the Kairos Palestine document [for the complete list, see] According to its authors, Israel’s military occupation is “a sin against God and humanity,” and all peoples, political leaders, and decision-makers must “put pressure on Israel and take legal measures in order to oblige its government to put an end to its oppression and disregard for international law.” And explicitly, the document  affirms that nonviolent reaction to this injustice “is a right and duty for all Palestinians, including Christians.”

Kairos USA: 2011

 On June 18, 2011, Christianleaders from around the United States issued an official response to the Kairos Palestine document.

Called Kairos USA, it begins with a confession of sin for the failure to say “Enough” to Israel’s confiscation of Palestinian lands, as well as the equal failure to say “Enough” both to the billions of dollars the U.S. government gives Israel each year to subsidize its expanding settlements and to the veto-wielding votes it casts in the U.N. to shield Israel from international censure.

 The document ends by inviting Christians across the U.S. to join the nonviolent effort to support those in Israel, the occupied territories, and throughout the world who work to end the illegal occupation and redress other legitimate Palestinian grievances through peaceful means. The Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS)  is directed at Israeli policy, not the state of Israel itself or its citizens, and certainly not against the Jewish people.  [For the list of signatories and other specific actions that can be taken, go to Kairos USA’s impressive website:]

The honesty embedded in this document is a sobering challenge to Christians in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world:

 As individuals and as church members, we have supported a system of control, inequality and oppression through misreading our Holy Scriptures, flawed theology and distortions of history. We have allowed to go unchallenged theological and political ideas that have made us complicit in the oppression of the Palestinian people. Instead of speaking and acting boldly, we have chosen to offer careful statements designed to avoid controversy and leave cherished relationships undisturbed. We have forgotten the differences between a theology that supports the policies and institutional structures of oppression and a theology that, in response to history and human affairs, stands boldly with the widow, the orphan and the dispossessed.


The cautious response of the West to human rights abuses of Palestinians evokes the need for a prophetic theology which addresses the political challenges associated with the geopolitical forces of the West as currently being played out in the Middle East. This essentially involves the question whether the church is prepared to confront the sense of Constantinian captivity to the state that is challenged by the memory of Jesus of Nazareth, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith— and, from the perspective of African spirituality, the primary ancestor of the Christian community.

The dominant church in the West needs to be held accountable to this gospel, which an increasing number of Christians are beginning to realize. Consider, for example, Bishop Richard Pates who, as chairman of the Committee of International Justice and Peace of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops,  sent a letter, dated January 28, 2014, to Secretary of State John Kerry stating that the United States should urge the government of Israel to cease and desist in efforts to unnecessarily confiscate Palestinian lands.

This is Kairos, the favorable time, when God issues a challenge to decisive action. We are called on to ask whether, by default, if not by design, the church is sustaining an alliance between the church and a state that perpetuates the suffering of the poor and oppressed, or whether it is providing a voice for those who seek redemption from economic, political and ultimately spiritual destitution (Luke 4:18). It cannot serve both ends.

The Palestinian – South African Interface Today

The similarities between apartheid South Africa and Israeli discrimination against Palestinians is widely debated and need not be dealt with here.[ii] Suffice it to say, the connections are difficult to ignore. John Dugard, in 2001, as Special Rapporteur to the UN Human Rights Commission, provided what is probably the most comprehensive study on the situation concerning the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.  Later, in his report to the Russell Tribunal on Palestine in 2011, he charged that there are human rights abuses in Palestine threatening international peace which many in the West would like to see swept under the carpet.[iii]


Palestinians have fought hard for their freedom, with two burdens that are more difficult to carry than those faced by South Africans. This makes the building of global solidarity and international church cohesion in support of Palestine a priority for the ecumenical church, with the South African struggle in the 1980s providing an example of the kind of solidarity and theological commitment that is both needed and possible in maximizing opposition to unjust rule.

This said, the international church, as well as the church in Palestine and South Africa, needs explicitly to heed the failure of post apartheid South Africa to give sufficient attention to matters of major ethical and theological importance. Two critiques are pertinent in this regard: the failure of post-apartheid South Africa state to embrace the kind of economic transformation that is required to enable the victims of apartheid to liberate themselves from poverty; and its failure to give sufficient attention to the gender discrimination that was prevalent in both apartheid South Africa and, with some notable exceptions, in the liberation movements.

South Africa today, twenty years after the first democratic elections, faces a Gini coefficient above 63 which makes it one of the most unequal places on earth, with an income gap between the rich and the poor bigger than in Brazil or India. Ten percent of the country earns more than 50 percent of household income and the poorest 20 percent less than 1.5 percent of household income. This, together with corruption, government non-delivery and nationwide protests, is at the root of the country’s deepest crisis since its democratic transition in 1994.

There is at the same time documented evidence that women continue to be among the most exploited and impoverished of all South Africans. President Mandela was quick to recognise the need to address the structural and cultural obstacles to realising gender equality in South Africa. In a speech on Women’s Day in 1996 he observed:

The legacy of oppression weighs heavily on women. As long as women are bound by poverty and as long as they are looked down upon, human rights will lack substance. As long as outmoded ways of thinking prevent women from making a meaningful contribution to society, progress will be slow. As long as the nation refuses to acknowledge the equal role of more than half of itself, it is doomed to failure.

Despite the commitment of South Africa to gender equality, progress has been slow in addressing the profound inequalities in South African society




Towards a Prophetic Theology

The influence of Israel on the West’s global and Middle East policy is vast. The fact that the global church is at best restrained in confronting Western governments who choose to support the status quo in Israel, however, raises deep theological questions which the institutional church in the West is obliged to address. This essentially involves the question whether the church is prepared to confront the sense of Constantinian captivity to the state that is challenged by the memory of Jesus of Nazareth, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith – and, from a perspective African spirituality, the primary ancestor of the Christian community.


The 1985 Kairos Document has over the years  raised  several questions concerning aspects of the South African armed struggle, the legitimacy of violence, the relationship between justice and reconciliation, and the link between prophetic and pastoral theology – issues that are likely to debated for a long time to come.  It is at the same time important to note that the 2012 message addressed to the ANC by the Kairos Southern Africa movement, entitled Theological and Ethical Reflections on the 2012 Centenary Celebrations of the African National Congress offers a very different theology of church-state relations to that of the 1985 Document.  Although written in a decidedly different context to that which prevailed in the struggle against apartheid, the 2012 document is nevertheless too cautious and restrained in relation to the challenges that prevail in the country today.  As such it should not be left unchallenged by those who seek to be obedient to a gospel first proclaimed in first century Palestine.


The defining challenge of Kairos theology is to enquire whether by default, if not design, the church is sustaining an alliance between the church and a state that perpetuates the suffering of the poor and oppressed or whether it is providing a voice for those who seek redemption from economic, political and ultimately spiritual destitution. It cannot serve both ends.

An Interfaith Excursus

A long neglected dimension of prophetic theology is the need for interfaith dialogue and recent developments in the Middle East stress the need for people of different religions and factions within religions to find ways of mutual coexistence. The deep divisions within Islam, the presence of Egyptian-based Copts as well as small Jewish communities in Iran, Iraq, Yemen and elsewhere, all contribute to the religious heterogeneity of the region. Many of the existing national borders were ‘artificially imposed’ over a number of centuries, dividing ancient tribal, cultural and religious groups. The controversial Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916 gave Britain and France control over the Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire outside the Arabian Peninsula. The first and second Balfour Declarations of 1917 and 1926 saw an escalation in the number of Zionist immigrants into Palestine and the state of Israel was established in 1948. This resulted in an increase of displaced people both within and beyond the borders of Palestine. Each of these developments has contributed to the emergence of religious-based ideologies and nationalisms that impact the region.

Mark Braverman, a devout Jewish American, who believes that working for justice in Palestine is the most import Jewish thing he can do, has contributed significantly to transcending the Jewish-Christian divide in the Palestinian conflict, as portrayed in his recent book, A Wall in Jerusalem.[iv] Together with organisations such as the Jewish Voice for Peace Rabbinical Council and other Jews in America and elsewhere in the world, he draws on the Jewish theological tradition to support the Palestinian struggle for justice. He powerfully identifies the ‘Jewishness of Jesus’, and in so doing the authentic genius of Judaism. Reminding us that the early church was born in a struggle to define the authenticity of God’s will in the broken world of first century Palestine, Braverman insists that the Christian church is required to discern the will of God in Palestine, “guided by a vision of an alternative society in building God’s kingdom”. This, he argues, needs to be accomplished in response to what he defines as the tyranny of Israeli-American politics in the Middle East.

Of equal importance to Christian-Jewish relations are, of course, Christian-Muslim and Christian-Jewish-Muslim relations in Israel-Palestine and the Middle East, which clearly need to ensure that inter-faith debate reaches beyond doctrinal differences and similarities to deal with the political conflicts that are underpinned by religious ideologies.

These are dialogues that are, of course, portrayed nowhere more powerfully than in the city of Jerusalem. For Jews, Jerusalem is the city of King David and the location of the Jewish Temple, containing the Ark of the Covenant. For Christians, it is where Christ died, was buried and rose again, as well as being the birthplace of the Church.  For Muslims, it is holy because they believe Muhammad ascended to heaven from the Jerusalem’s Temple Mount during his Night Journey.

It is too much to expect that Pope Francis’ visit to the Holy City will result in historic reconciliation between Muslims and Christians or bridge the vicious gap between Israelis and Palestinians. His visit will however create the opportunity to highlight the plight of Palestinians as well as the plight of oppressed Christians in some Arab states. It is the obligation of Christians, Jews and Muslims in the Holy Land as well as in Syria, Iraq, Egypt and other parts of the Middle East, to ensure that the Pope is exposed to the suffering of the victims of abuse in their respective areas. Handled with integrity and sensitivity by all religious groups (Christians, Muslims and Jews in all their different sectarian forms) as well as Israeli and Palestinian political groups (in their different ideological guises), the papal visit can contribute to a new phase in the struggle to resolve the entrenched problem facing Israelis and Palestinians. During this visit the media will track every footstep the pope takes.

I had a theology professor who liked to tell his students that there are three areas of conflict in the world to which there was no human solution: South Africa, Northern Ireland and Israel-Palestine.  Looking back, I would like to say to my honourable professor, “Well Sir, two down, one to go.” The question is how the Israeli-Palestine conflict will be resolved and whether the Palestinian people will be released from a captivity that prevents them from creating a future anticipated in the message of Jesus to the Palestinian people under Roman occupation at the time. The role of the church in this regard waits to be resolved as the struggle continues between a church in captivity to the dominant powers of our time and an alternative church that seeks to be obedient to one who resisted the occupation of first century Palestine, by choosing to be on the side of the poor and the oppressed.




& An edited edition of this essay appeared in The Link Magazine, Vol.42, No.2, April /May 2014.

* Emeritus Professor of Religion and Society at the University of Cape Town, Visiting Professor in the Conflict Resolution Program at Georgetown University in Washington DC in the Fall Semester, Senior Research Fellow in the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation in Cape Town.



[i] The publication of fourteen declarations by the churches in South Africa concerning apartheid and related matters are accessible in Charles Villa-Vicencio, Between Christ an Caesar: Classic and Contemporary Texts on Church and State (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986.)


[ii] See, inter alia, Ben White, Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide, (New York: Pluto Press, 2009); Heribert Adam and Kogila Moodley. Seeking Mandela: Peacemaking Between Israelis and Palestinians, (Philadelphia: Templeton University Press, 2009).


[iii]Russell Tribunal on Palestine. Cape Town Session. 7 November 2011. Available at

[iv]Braverman, Mark. A Wall in Jerusalem: Hope, Healing and the Struggle for Justice in Israel and Palestine. New York: Jericho Books, 2013.


German version of the 1985 Kairos document by Ben Khumalo-Seegelken



Schriftensammlung und Dokumentation

zum Themenkomplex Apartheid, Widerstand und Befreiung

Ben Khumalo-Seegelken

Das Kairos-Dokument  (1985)



Ein theologischer Kommentar zur politischen Krise in Südafrika


 Vorwort (2004)

Vorwort (1985)


  1. Die Stunde der Wahrheit


  1. Kritik der „Staatstheologie



2.1   Römer 13,1-7

2.2   Gesetz und Ordnung

2.3   Die kommunistische Bedrohung

2.4         Der Gott des Staates


  1. Kritik der „Kirchentheologie


3.1   Versöhnung

3.2   Gerechtigkeit

3.4   Gewaltlosigkeit

3.5         Das Grundproblem


  1. Auf dem Weg zu einer prophetischen Theologie


4.1         Soziale Analyse

4.2         Unterdrückung in der Bibel

4.3         Gewaltherrschaft in der christlichen Tradition

4.4         Botschaft der Hoffnung


  1. Herausforderung zum Handeln


5.1         Gott steht auf der Seite der Unterdrückten

5.2         Teilnahme am Kampf

5.3         Veränderung kirchlicher Aktivitäten

5.4         Besondere Aktionen

5.5         Ziviler Ungehorsam

5.6         Geistige Führerschaft





Unterzeichner des Dokumentes






Ein theologischer Kommentar zur politischen Krise in Südafrika·



Vorwort (2004)


Die Feier der Menschen im Südlichen Afrika dazu, dass das Unrecht der Apartheid endlich überwunden wurde und die Geburt des lang ersehnten demokratischen Rechtsstaates, des „neuen Südafrika“, mittlerweile Wirklichkeit geworden ist, spornt Menschen in vielen Ländern der Erde heute dazu an, mitzufeiern: „10 years of freedom! 1994-2004“  – so lange ist es inzwischen schon!


Das Gedankengut, mit dem bis dahin versucht wurde, die bewusste Entrechtung und gewaltsame Erniedrigung der einen und die entsprechende Bevorzugung und Bereicherung der andern auf Kosten anderer, Rassismus und Staatsterror für gut zu heißen und als „Wille Gottes“ anzupreisen, ist leider lange noch nicht gänzlich aus der Welt.  Wachsamkeit ist nach wie vor vonnöten, wenn gleichberechtigtes, friedliches Miteinanderleben auch in Zukunft kein Traum mehr bleiben soll.


„Wie war es überhaupt möglich, dass … ?“  Verständnislos und zugleich sehr interessiert fragen junge Menschen heute, die die Freilassung Nelson Mandelas und die ersten freien Parlamentswahlen 1994 nur als „Wunder“ deuten zu können meinen, mit welchen Argumenten Menschen damals für und gegen die Apartheid eingetreten sind.  Sie suchen nach den Hintergründen, um jene Denkstrukturen vielleicht erfassen und deren Auswirkungen einordnen und beurteilen zu können.


Die Schriftensammlung „Quellen und Zeitzeugen“, die wir mit dem Diskussionspapier „Das KAIROS-Dokument“ eröffnen, soll den Weg zu den Ereignissen, Orten und Personen ebnen, von denen die Unterdrückungs- und Befreiungsgeschichte Südafrikas handelt.  Dies soll das Interesse wach halten und den Gedankenaustausch darüber fördern.


Ursprünglich als Handapparat für Teilnehmende am Seminar „Sklaverei und Christentum“ am Evangelisch-theologischen Institut der Carl-von-Ossietzky-Universität Oldenburg Sommersemester 2004 konzipiert, die Schriftensammlung „Quellen und Zeitzeugen“ stellt inzwischen eine stattliche Auswahl von Dokumenten zur Verfügung. Es sind – u.a. – die Folgenden:


° Zum Selbstverständnis des Apartheidstaates 1948-1994 – die Präambel

          zur Verfassung der „Republik Südafrika“ (bis 1994), Dokument 2;


° das Gelübde von „Blood River“ (1838), Dokument 3,


° eine biblisch-theologische Kritik durch Beyers Naudé und Roelf Meyer

(1971) zum damals gottesdienstlich begangenen burischen `Nationalfeiertag´ 16. Dezember anlässlich der Ausstattung des Monuments am „Blood River“ mit 64 lebensgroßen bronzenen Ochsenwagen 1971: „Geloftedag: Christusfees of Baálfees? `n ope vraag ann Suid-Afrika oor Geloftedag´ (1971), Dokument 4;


° eine Auswahl von einleitenden Ausarbeitungen zu den Stichworten:

„Apartheid“, Dokument 5; „Theologische Begründung der Apartheid“, Dokument 6; „Kirchen in Südafrika“, Dokument 7; „Gesetze der Apartheid“, Dokument 8; „Rassendiskriminierung in Südafrika“, Dokument 9; „South African Council of Churches (SACC)“, Dokument 10;  „Black Theology“, Dokument 11;  


° sowie eine wissenschaftliche Arbeit von Fritz Hasselhorn

über „Die Hermannsburger Mission in Südafrika im Spiegel des Missionsblattes 1870-1910“ (o.J.), Dokument 12.


Den Lehrenden und Studierenden an der Universität Wien sowie an der Carl-von-Ossietzky-Universität Oldenburg, denen ich die Anregung zu dieser Schriftensammlung verdanke, wünsche ich weiterhin gesundes Interesse am Zeitgeschehen, wachsende Liebe für die Wahrheit und den langen Atem im Eintreten für Aussöhnung und Frieden.



Ben Khumalo-Seegelken.

 Vorwort (1985)


Das KAIROS-Dokument ist ein christlicher, biblischer und theologischer Kommentar zur politischen Krise im heutigen Südafrika.  Es ist ein Versuch besorgter Christen in Südafrika, über die vom Tod gezeichnete Lage in unserem Land nachzudenken.  Es ist eine kritische Beurteilung der gegenwärtigen theologischen Modelle, die festlegen, in welchen Aktivitäten sich die Kirch engagiert, um die Probleme des Landes zulösen.  Es ist ein Versuch, aus dieser verworrenen Situation heraus ein alternatives biblischen und theologischen Modelle, die festlegen, in welchen Aktivitäten sich die Kirche engagiert, um die Probleme des Landes zu lösen.  Es ist ein Versuch, aus dieser verworrenen Situation heraus ein alternatives biblisches und theologisches Modell zu entwickeln, das seinerseits zu Aktivitäten führen wird, welche die Zukunft unseres Landes nachhaltig und richtungsweisend beeinflussen können.


Wie dieses theologische Material zusammengetragen wurde, dürfte von besonderem Interesse sein.  Als sich im Juni 1985 die Krise im ganzen Land zuspitzte, als immer mehr Menschen getötet, verstümmelt und ins Gefängnis geworfen wurden, als eine schwarze Township nach der anderen sich gegen das Apartheidregime auflehnte, als sich die Menschen – täglich den Tod vor Augen -, gegen die Unterdrückung wehrten und sich weigerten, mit den Unterdrückern zu kooperieren, und als die Armee der Apartheid in die Townships einrückte, um mit Gewehren ihre Herrschaft aufrecht zu erhalten, trafen sich über die Situation besorgte Theologen mit dem dringenden Bedürfnis, sich nachhaltig mit der Lage zu befassen und darüber nachzudenken, welches die richtige und angemessene Reaktion der Kirche und aller Christen in Südafrika sein müsste.


Eine erste Diskussionsgruppe traf sich Anfang Juli mitten in Soweto.  Die Teilnehmer sprachen sich offen über die Lage und die verschiedenen Reaktionen der Kirche, der Kirchenführer und der Christen überhaupt aus.  Es erfolgte eine kritische Überprüfung dieser Reaktionen; ebenso wurde die Theologie, die diesen Reaktionen zugrunde lag, einer kritischen Analyse unterzogen.  Einzelne aus der Gruppe wurden beauftragt, Material zu besonderen Themen, die während der Diskussion aufkamen, zu sammeln und dieses bei der nächsten Sitzung der Gruppe vorzulegen.


Bei der zweiten Sitzung wurde dieses Material wiederum kritisch durchgesehen, und verschiedene Personen wurden beauftragt, besonders problematische Bereiche noch weiter zu untersuchen.  Die vorgelegten Untersuchungsergebnisse wurden mit dem übrigen Material zusammengestellt und in der dritten Sitzung  vorgestellt, bei der mehr als 30 Theologen, Laientheologen und einige Kirchenführer anwesend waren.


Nach sehr ausführlicher Diskussion wurde einiges berichtigt und hinzugefügt, besonders in dem Abschnitt „Herausforderung zum Handeln“.  Dann berief die Gruppe einen Ausschuss, der den Auftrag erhielt, das Dokument weiteren christlichen Gruppierungen im ganzen Land zur Beurteilung vorzulegen.  Allen wurde deutlich gemacht, dass dies „ein vom Kirchenvolk verfasstes Dokument sei, das sich jeder zu eigen machen könne, selbst wenn er es kritisch zerpflücke – vorausgesetzt, sein Standpunkt könne dem Test biblischen Glaubens und christlicher Erfahrung in Südafrika standhalten.“  Außerdem wurde gesagt, dies sei ein Dokument mit offenem Ende, das niemals endgültig genannt werden dürfe.


Der „Arbeitsausschuss“, wie man ihn nannte, wurde von den verschiedensten Gruppierungen und Einzelpersonen überall im Lande mit Kommentaren, Vorschlägen und begeisterter Zustimmung überflutet.   Noch am 13. September 1985, als das Dokument zur Veröffentlichung freigegeben wurde, kamen ständig neue Anregungen und Empfehlungen hinzu.  Diese erste Veröffentlichung muss demnach als ein erster Schritt gewertet werden, als Grundlage für ale Christen im Land zur weiteren Diskussion.  Weitere Ausgaben werden zu einem späteren Zeitpunkt veröffentlicht werden.







Die Zeit ist gekommen, die Stunde der Wahrheit ist da.  Südafrika ist in eine Krise gestürzt worden, die unsere Fundamente erschüttert.  Alle Anzeichen sprechen dafür, dass diese Krise eben erst begonnen hat, das sie sich vertiefen und in den kommenden Monaten noch bedrohlichere Ausmaße annehmen wird.  Es ist dies der KAIROS  oder die Stunde der Wahrheit,  nicht nur für die Apartheid, sondern  auch für die Kirche.


Als Theologen haben wir versucht, die theologische Bedeutung dieses in die Tat sehr ernsten Augenblicks unserer Geschichte zu verstehen.  Für sehr viele Christen in Südafrika ist dies der KAIROS, die Stunde der Gnade und der Möglichkeiten, die angenehme Zeit, in der Gott uns zu verschiedenem Handeln herausfordert.  Es ist ein gefährlicher Augenblick, denn wird diese Chance verpasst und nehmen wir sie nicht wahr, wird der Verlust für die Kirche, für das Evangelium und für alle Menschen Südafrikas unschätzbar sein.  Jesus weinte über Jerusalem.  Er weinte, weil die Zerstörung der Stadt und das große Sterben ihrer Bewohner unmittelbar bevorstand, „darum, dass du nicht erkannt hast die Zeit (KAIROS), darin du heimgesucht bist“ (Lukas 19,44).


Eine Krise ist ein Urteilsspruch, der einige zum Besten und andere zum Schlimmsten anspornt.  Eine Krise ist die Stunde der Wahrheit, in der deutlich  wird, wer wir wirklich sind.  Da gibt es kein Verstecken mehr und keine Möglichkeit vorzutäuschen, was wir sind. Diese entscheidende Zeit in Südafrika wird offenbar machen, was die Kirch ein Wirklichkeit ist, und kein Vertuschen wird mehr möglich sein.


Obwohl es vielen von uns schon immer deutlich war, zeigt die gegenwärtige Krise, dass die Kirche gespalten ist.  Immer mehr Menschen geben heute zu, dass es in der Tat zwei Kirchen in Südafrika gibt – eine Weiße Kirche und eine Schwarze Kirche-  Selbst innerhalb derselben Denomination gibt es in Wirklichkeit zwei Kirchen.  In der sich jetzt in Südafrika zuspitzenden tödlichen Auseinandersetzung zwischen unterschiedlichen sozialen Kräften stehen Christen (oder jedenfalls Menschen, die sich Christen nennen) auf beiden Seiten des Konfliktes; andere versuchen, ihren Platz zwischen den Fronten zu bewahren.


Beweist dies, dass der christliche Glaube bedeutungslos und nicht relevant für unsere Zeit ist?  Zeigt dies, dass man die Bibel jedem Zweck dienlich machen kann?  – Derlei Probleme wären für die Kirche unter beliebigen Umständen gefährlich genug.  Doch zieht man in Betracht, das sich der Konflikt in Südafrika zwischen Unterdrückern und Unterdrückten abspielt, dann verschärft sich die Krise für die Kirche als Institution um noch vieles mehr.  Sowohl Unterdrücker als auch Unterdrückte nehmen für sich Loyalität zu ein und derselben Kirche in Anspruch.  Beide sind in derselben Taufe getauft und brechen dasselbe Brot des Leibes und Blutes Jesu Christi.  Währen wir in ein und derselben Kirche sitzen, werden draußen christliche Kinder von christlichen Polizisten geschlagen und umgebracht; christliche Gefangene werden zu Tode gefoltert, während wieder andere Christen dabeistehen und kraftlos zum Frieden ausrufen.


Die Kirche ist gespalten, und ihr Tag des Gerichts ist angebrochen.


Die Stunde der Wahrheit hat uns herausgefordert, die unterschiedlichen Theologien unserer Kirche zu analysieren und eindeutige und mutige Aussagen zur tatsächlichen Bedeutung dieser Theologien zu machen.


Wir unterschieden drei Theologien, die wir als „Staatstheologie“, „Kirchentheologie“ und „Prophetische Theologie“ klassifiziert haben. In unserer durchgängigen Kritik der beiden ersteren Theologien wollen wir kein Blatt vor den Mund nehmen; dafür ist die Lage zu ernst. 






Der Apartheidstaat Südafrika hat seine eigene Theologie, und wir haben uns dafür entschieden, sie „Staatstheologie“ zu nennen. Die „Staatstheologie“ ist ganz einfach die theologische Rechtfertigung des status quo, der Rassismus, Kapitalismus und Totalitarismus in sich vereint.  Sie segnet die Ungerechtigkeit, mach den Willen der Machthaber zur alleinigen Richtschnur und verurteilt die Armen zu Passivität, Gehorsam und Apathie.


Auf welche Weise geht die „Staatstheologie“ vor? Sie missbraucht theologische Konzepte und biblische Texte für ihre eigenen politischen Ziele.  In diesem Dokument möchten wir auf vier Schlüsselbeispiele dieser Praxis in Südafrika aufmerksam machen.  Das erste ist der Gebrauch von Römer 13,1-7, womit dem Staat absolute und „göttliche“ Autorität zugestanden werden soll.  Das zweite ist der Gebrauch des Begriffs „Recht und Ordnung“  (Law and Order), mit Hilfe dessen festgelegt und kontrolliert wird, was das Volk als gerecht bzw. ungerecht ansehen darf.  Das dritte Beispiel ist der Gebrauch des Wortes „Kommunist“, um jeden zu brandmarken, der sich gegen die „Staatstheologie“ ausspricht, und schließlich ist die Art und Weise zu nennen, wie mit dem Namen Gottes umgegangen wird.


2.1         Römer 13,1-7


Der Missbrauch dieses berühmten Textes beschränkt sich keineswegs nur auf die gegenwärtige Regierung Südafrikas.  Im Laufe der Geschichte der Christenheit haben schon immer totalitäre Regime versucht, unter Berufung auf diesen Text blinden Gehorsam und absolute Unterwürfigkeit gegenüber dem Staat zu legitimieren.  Der Bekannte Theologe Oscar Cullmann wies vor dreiß9g Jahren darauf hin:


„Sobald Christen aufgrund ihrer Loyalität zum Evangelium Jesu dem totalitären Anspruch eines Staates Widerstand leisten, pflegen die Vertreter des Staates oder ihre theologischen Berater und Kollaborateure, sich auf diesen Ausspruch von Paulus zu berufen, als sei den Christen hier empfohlen, alle Verbrechen eines totalitären Staates zu billigen und ihnen Vorschub zu leisten.“

(Übers.  aus „The State in the New Testament, SCM 1957, S. 56)


Doch wie ist dann Römer 13,1-7 zu verstehen und warum ist der Gebrauch dieser Aussage seitens der “Staatstheologie” von einem biblischen Standpunkt aus gesehen nicht zu rechtfertigen?


Die „Staatstheologie“ geht davon aus, dass Paulus in diesem Text uns die absolute und endgültige christliche Doktrin über den Staat vorlegt, in anderen Worten: ein absolutes und allgemein gültiges Prinzip, das in allen Zeiten und unter allen Umständen von gleichbleibender Gültigkeit sei. Viele Bibelwissenschaftler  haben nachgewiesen, wie falsch diese Annahme ist. (z.B. Ernst Käsemann, Commentary on Romans, SCM, S. 345-347; O. Cullmann, The State in the New Testament, SCM, S. 55-57).


Hier wurde eines der grundlegendsten Prinzipien der Bibelauslegung übersehen:  Jeder Text muss in seinem Kontext ausgelegt werden.  Einen Text aus seinem Kontext herauszulösen und ihn im Abstrakten auszulegen heißt, die Bedeutung von Gottes Wort zu verzerren.  Unter Kontext sind hier nicht nur die vorsausgehenden oder nachstehenden Verse und Kapitel eines Textes zu verstehen, noch begrenzt er sich auf die ganze Bibel überhaupt.  Der Kontext berücksichtigt auch die Umstände, unter denen Paulus diese Aussage gemacht hat.  Der Brief des Paulus war an eine ganz bestimmte christliche Gemeinde in Rom gerichtet, die zu jener Zeit und unter den damaligen Umständen ihre eigenen und spezifischen Probleme in ihrer Beziehung zum Staat hatte.  Dies alles gehört zum Kontext dieser Aussage.


Viele Autoren haben darauf hingewiesen, dass Gott nirgendwo sonst in der Bibel verlangt, sich gehorsam Unterdrückern zu unterwerfen.  Genügend Beispiele können angeführt werden, von den Pharaonen bis Pilatus und weiter bis in die Zeiten der Apostel.  Die Juden und später die Christen glaubten nicht daran, dass ihre mächtigen Beherrscher, die Ägypter, Babylonier, Griechen oder Römer, irgendein von Gott gegebenes Recht hatten, über sie zu herrschen und sie zu unterdrücken.  Diese Reiche waren die im Buch Daniel und in der Offenbarung beschriebenen Tiere. Gott ließ es zu, dass sie eine gewisse Zeit herrschten, doch er billigte ihr Tun nicht.  Es war nicht Gottes Wille.  Sein  Wille war die Freiheit und Befreiung Israels. Römer 13,1-7 kann nicht im Widerspruch zu all dem stehen.


Doch am aufschlussreichsten sind die Umstände, unter denen die römischen Christen lebten, als Paulus ihnen schrieb.  Sie waren keineswegs Revolutionäre. Sie versuchten nicht, den Staat zu stürzen. Sie forderten keinen Regierungswechsel.  Man hat sie als „Antinomer“ oder als „Enthusiasten“ bezeichnet, und sie Glaubten, dass Christen als einzige von der Pflicht entbunden seien einem Staat, einer Regierung oder jedweder politischen Autorität zu gehorchen, weil allein Jesus Christus ihr Herr und König sei.  Das ist natürlich häretisch, und Paulus fühlte sich verpflichtet, diese Christen darauf hinzuweisen, dass es vor der Wiederkunft Christi stets irgendeine Staatsgewalt oder weltliche Regierung geben würde und dass Christen nicht von der Pflicht entbunden seien, sich politischer Obrigkeit unterzuordnen.


Paulus spricht weder die Frage einer gerechten bzw. ungerechten Staatsordnung an, noch die Notwendigkeit, eine Regierung gegen eine andere auszuwechseln.  Er stellt nur klar, dass es immer eine Art weltlicher Autorität geben wird, und dass Christen als solche nicht von der Pflicht entbunden sind, sich weltlichen Gesetzen und Obrigkeiten unterzuordnen.  Er sagt nichts darüber, wie Christen sich verhalten sollen, wenn der Staat keine Gerechtigkeit walten lässt und Unterdrückung praktiziert.  Das ist eine andere Frage.


Infolgedessen erweisen jene Paulus einen schlechten Dienst, die auf die sehr andersartigen Fragen und Probleme unserer Zeit in Römer 13,1-7 Antworten zu finden suchen. Der Gebrauch, den die „Staatstheologie“ von diesem Text macht, sagt mehr über die politischen Ziele derer aus, die diese Theologie konstruiert haben, als über die Bedeutung von Gottes Wort in diesem Text. Ein Bibelwissenschaftler hat es folgendermaßen ausgedrückt:


„Wichtigstes Anliegen ist es, die Interessen des Staates zu rechtfertigen, und der Text wird ohne Rücksichtnahme auf den Kontext und die Intentionen des Paulus in den Dienst des Staates gezwungen.“


Wenn wir in einer Situation, in welcher der Staat, der nach Römer 13,6 „Gottes Diener“ sein soll, diese Berufung verrät und statt dessen im Dienst des Satans steht, nach richtungsweisender Führung in der Bibel suchen, können wir das 13. Kapitel der Offenbarung studieren.  Hier wird der römische Staat zum Diener des Drachen (des Teufels) und nimmt die Gestalt eines schrecklichen Untiers an. Seine Tage sind gezählt, denn Gott wird es nicht zulassen, dass sein ungetreuer Knecht für immer regiert.



2.2         Gesetz und Ordnung


Der Staat bedient sich des Begriffs von „Gesetz und Ordnung2 (Law and Order), um den status quo, den er als normal bezeichnet, aufrechtzuerhalten.  Doch dieses Gesetz bedeutet die ungerechten und diskriminierenden Apartheidgesetze und diese Ordnung die organisierte und institutionalisierte Un-Ordnung der Unterdrückung.  Jedem der diese Ordnung verändern will, wird bedeutet, er sei gesetzlos und füge sich nicht der Ordnung.  Anders gesagt: Man vermittelt ihm das Gefühl, er habe sich einer Sünde schuldig gemacht.


In der Tat ist es Pflicht des Staates, Recht  und Ordnung aufrechtzerhalten, doch er hat keinen göttlichen Auftrag, irgendein beliebiges Gesetz oder eine beliebige Ordnung aufrechtzuerhalten.  Eine Sache wird nicht moralisch und gerecht, nur weil der Staat sie zum Gesetz erklärt hat; und die Organisation einer Gesellschaft stellt keine gerechte und rechtmäßige Ordnung dar, nur weil sie vom Staat eingesetzt wurde.  Wir dürfen nicht irgendein beliebiges Gesetz und eine beliebige Ordnung akzeptieren.  Das Anliegen der Christen ist die Schaffung eines gerechten Gesetzes und einer rechtmäßigen Ordnung in unserem Land.


In der gegenwärtigen Krise und insbesondere während des Ausnahmezustandes hat die „Staatstheologie“ versucht, den status quo der geordneten Diskriminierung, Ausbeutung und Unterdrückung durch einen Appell an das Gewissen der Bürger im Namen von Gesetz und Ordnung wiederherzustellen.  Sie versucht, jenen, die dieses Gesetz und diese Ordnung ablehnen, das Gefühl zu geben, sie seien gottlos.  Der Staat reißt hier nicht nur das Recht der Kirche an sich, über Recht und Gerechtigkeit in unserer Lage zu urteilen, er geht sogar noch weiter und fordert von uns im Namen von Gesetz und Ordnung einen Gehorsam, der allein Gott gebührt.  Der südafrikanische Staat anerkennt keine höhere  Autorität über sich, und deshalb wird er nicht zulassen, dass man in Frage stellt, was er als „Gesetz und Ordnung“ festgelegt hat.  Dennoch gibt es heute Millionen von Christen in Südafrika, die mit Petrus sagen: „Man muss Gott mehr gehorchen denn den Menschen“. (Apg. 5,29)


2.3         Die kommunistische Bedrohung


Wir alle wissen, wie der südafrikanische Staat von dem Etikett „Kommunist“ Gebrauch macht.  Alles, was den status quo bedroht, wird als „kommunistisch“ bezeichnet.  Jeder, der sich dem Staat wiedersetzt, und insbesondere jeder, der seine Theologie ablehnt, wird ganz einfach als „Kommunist“ abgetan.  Von dem, was Kommunismus wirklich bedeutet, wird keinerlei Notiz genommen.  Kein Gedanke wird darauf verwandt, warum sich in der Tat Menschen für den Kommunismus oder irgendeine Form des Sozialismus entscheiden. Selbst Mensche, die keineswegs den Kapitalismus ablehnen, werden als „Kommunisten“ bezeichnet, sobald sie die “Staatsttheologie“ ablehnen.  Der Staat benutzt das Etikett „Kommunist“ unkritisch und unreflektiert als sein Symbol des Bösen.


Wie jede andere Theologie muss auch die „Staatstheologie“ ihr eigenes konkretes Symbol für das Bösehaben.  Sie muss ihre eigene Version der Hölle haben.  Und so hat sie den Mythos des Kommunismus erfunden – oder vielmehr übernommen.  Alles Böse ist kommunistisch, und alle kommunistischen oder sozialistischen Ideen sind atheistisch und gottlos.  Drohungen mit dem Fegefeier und ewiger Verdammnis werden durch drohende Warnung vor dem Schrecken eines tyrannischen, totalitären, atheistischen und terroristischen kommunistischen Regimes – einer Art Hölle auf Erden – ersetzt.  Es ist ein sehr zweckdienliches Mittel, Menschen so sehr Furcht einzujagen, dass sie bereit werden, von Seiten einer kapitalistischen Minderheit jede Art von Herrschaft und Ausbeutung zu akzeptieren.


Der südafrikanische Staat hat seine eigne häretische Theologie, und nach den Kriterien dieser Theologie werden Millionen von Christen in Südafrika (ganz zu schweigen vom Rest der Welt), als „Atheisten“ eingestuft.  Es ist bedeutsam dass in früheren Zeiten, als die Christen die Götter des Römischen Reiches ablehnten, sie vom Staat als „Atheisten“ gebrandmarkt wurden.


2.4         Der Gott des Staates


Als Mittel zur Unterdrückung des Volkes benutzt der Staat immerund immer wieder den Namen Gottes.  Militärpfarrer benutzen ihn, um den südafrikanischen Streitkräften Mut zuzusprechen, und Kabinettsminister benutzen ihn in ihren Propagandareden.   Doch am bezeichnendsten ist vielleicht der gotteslästerliche Missbrauch von Gottes heiligem Namen, der sich in der Präambel zu der neuen Apartheidverfassung findet:


„In demütigem Gehorsam gegen den Allmächtigen Gott, der die Geschicke der Nationen und die Geschichte der Völker lenkt, der unsere Vorväter aus vielen Ländern zusammengeführt und ihnen diese Land zu eigen gegeben hat, der sie geführt hat von Generation zu Generation, der sie auf wunderbare Weise aus den Gefahren, die sie bedrohten, errettet hat …“


Dieser Gott ist ein Götze.   Er ist ebenso arglistig, unheilvoll und böse wie irgendeiner der Götter, mit denen sich die Propheten Israels auseinander zu setzen hatten.  Hier haben wir es mit einem Gott zu tun, der im Verlauf der Geschichte immer auf Seiten der weißen Siedler war, der die schwarzen Menschen ihres Landes beraubt und der den größten Teil des Landes seinem „auserwählten Volk“ zuspricht.


Es ist der Gott der überlegenen Waffen, der jene besiegte, die mit nichts als Speeren bewaffnet waren.  Es ist der Gott der „casspirs“* und „hippos“*, der Gott von Tränengas, Gummigeschossen, Nilpferdpeitschen, Gefängniszellen und Todesurteilen.  Hier ist ein Gott, der die Hoffärtigen erhebt und die Armen erniedrigt – das genaue Gegenteil von dem Gott der Bibel; er „zerstreut die hoffärtig sind in ihres Herzens Sinn, er stößt die Gewaltigen vom Thron und erhebt die Niedrigen“ (Lukas 1,51-52).  Das Gegenteil vom Gott der Bibel ist aus theologischer Sicht der Teufel, der Satan.  Der Gott des südafrikanischen Staates ist nicht nur ein Götze oder falscher Gott, es ist der Teufel in der Maske des Allmächtigen Gottes – der Antichrist.


Für Christen wird dieses Regime der Unterdrückung stets besonders verabscheuungswürdig sein, eben deswegen, weil es das Christentum benutzt, um sein vom Bösen bestimmtes Handeln zu rechtfertigen.  Als Christen können und dürfen wir diesen lästerlichen Gebrauch vom Namen Gottes und seinem Wort nicht tolerieren.  Die „Staatstheologie“ ist nicht nur häretisch, sie ist blasphemisch.  Christen, die versuchen, dem Gott der Bibel treue zu bleiben, sind entsetzt darüber, dass es Kirchen wie die weiße „Holländisch Reformierte Kirche“ und andere christliche Gruppen gibt, die sich tatsächlich dieser häretischen Theologie verschrieben haben.  Die “Staatstheologie“ braucht ihre eigenen Propheten und findet sie in den Reihen derer, die sich in einigen unserer Kirchen als Verkünder von Gottes Wort bezeichnen.  Für Christen ist es besonders tragisch, mit anzusehen, wie viele Menschen sich von diesen falschen Propheten und ihrer häretischen Theologie verwirren und zum Narren halten lassen. 





Wir haben die Erklärung analysiert, die von Zeit zu Zeit von den sogenannten englischsprechenden Kirchen abgegeben werden.  Wir haben gelesen, was Kirchenführer in ihren Reden und Presseerklärungen zum Apartheidregime und zur gegenwärtigen Krise zu sagen pflegen.  In all diesen Verlautbarungen sind wir auf eine Reihe im Zusammenhang stehender theologischer Auffassungen gestoßen.  Wir haben uns entschlossen, diese Auffassungen „Kirchentheologie“ zu nennen.  Wir sind uns sehr wohl bewusst, dass diese Theologie nicht dem Glauben der Mehrheit der Christen Südafrikas, die den größeren Teil der meisten unserer Kirche ausmacht, entspricht.  Wie dem auch sei, die von den Kirchenführern geäußerten Ansichten werden in dien Medien und allgemein in unserer Gesellschaft als die offizielle Meinung der Kirchen verstanden.  Deshalb haben wir uns dafür entschieden, diese Ansichten „Kirchentheologie“ zu nennen.  Die heutige  Krise jedoch fordert uns dazu heraus, diese Theologie in Frage zu stellen, ihrer vorausgesetzten Annahmen in Frage zu stellen, ebenso ihre Implikationen und praktische Durchführbarkeit.


Diese Theologie übt begrenzte, zurückhaltende und vorsichtige Kritik an der Apartheid.  Ihre Kritik ist jedoch oberflächlich und bewirkt das Gegenteil.  Denn anstatt eine tiefgreifende Analyse der Zeichen unserer Zeit vorzunehmen, verlässt sie sich auf einige wenige, aus dem Vorrat christlicher Tradition entnommene Begriffe, und wendet diese wiederholt und unkritisch auf unsere Situation an.  Begriffe, die von Kirchenführern benutzt werden und die wir an dieser Stelle untersuchen wollen, sind: Versöhnung (oder Frieden), Gerechtigkeit und Gewaltlosigkeit.


3.1         Versöhnung


Für die „Kirchentheologie“ gilt „Versöhnung“ als Schlüssel zur Problemlosung.  Sie spricht von der Notwendigkeit der Versöhnung zwischen Weiß und Schwarz bzw. zwischen allen Südafrikanern.  Die „Kirchentheologie“ pflegt den christlichen Standpunkt oft folgendermaßen zu beschrieben: „Wir müssen fair sein.  Wir müssen beide Seiten hören.  Wenn sich beide Seiten nur zu Gesprächen zusammensetzen würden und miteinander verhandeln, dann wird man Differenzen und Missverständnisse ausräumen und den Konflikt beilegen.“  – Das mag sich nach außen hin sehr christlich anhören, doch ist es das in Wirklichkeit?


Der Trugschluss hierbei liegt in der Tatsache, dass „Versöhnung“ zu einem absoluten Prinzip gemacht worden ist, das in allen Konfliktfällen und bei jeder Meinungsverschiedenheit angewandt werden muss.  Doch nicht alle Konfliktfälle gleichen sich.  Man stelle sich einen privaten Streitfall zwischen zwei Personen oder Gruppen vor, der aus Missverständnissen entstanden ist.  In einem solchen Fall ist es angemessen, Gespräche und Verhandlungen zu führen, um die Missverständnisse auszuräumen und die beiden Seiten miteinander zu versöhnen.


Doch gibt es auch andere Konflikte, in denen die eine Seite recht hat und die andere im Unrecht ist.  Es gibt Konflikte, in denen die eine Seite ein voll bewaffneter und gewaltsam vorgehender Unterdrücker ist, während die andere Seite wehrlos der Unterdrückung ausgesetzt ist.  Es gibt Konflikte, die nur als Kampf zwischen Gerechtigkeit und Ungerechtigkeit, zwischen Gut und böse, zuwische Gott und dem Teufel bezeichnet werden können.  Diese beiden Seiten versöhnen zu wollen, ist nicht nur eine falsch verstandene Anwendung des christlichen Begriffs der Versöhnung, sondern ein völliger Verrat an dem, was der christliche Glaube überhaupt bedeutet.  Nirgendwo in der Bibel oder in der christlichen Tradition ist jemals der Gedanke aufgetaucht, dass wir eine Versöhnung erreichen sollten zuwischen Gut und Böse, zwischen Gott und dem Teufel.  Es ist uns aufgetragen, das Böse, die Ungerechtigkeit, Unterdrückung und Sünde zu überwinden – nicht uns damit zu arrangieren.  Wir müssendem Teufel Widerstand leisten, ihn konfrontieren und ihn von uns  weisen, und nicht versuchen, uns mit ihm an einen Tisch zu setzen.


In unserer heutigen Lage in Südafrika wäre es ganz und gar unchristlich, um Versöhnung und Frieden zu bitten, ehe nicht die bestehenden Ungerechtigkeiten beseitigt sind.  Jede derartige Bitte spielt in die Hand der Unterdrücker, weil sie versuch, uns als Unterdrückte dazu zu bewegen, die Unterdrückung zu bejahen, und uns mit den unerträglichen Verbrechen, die gegen uns begangen werden, auszusöhnen.  Dies ist nicht christliche Versöhnung, es ist Sünde.  Diese Einstellung würde uns auffordern, Komplizen  unserer eigenen Unterdrückung, Diener des Teufels zu werden.  Ohne Gerechtigkeit ist in Südafrika keine Versöhnung möglich.


Dies bedeutet in der Praxis, dass ohne Buße weder Versöhnung noch Vergebung noch Verhandlungen möglich sind.  Die biblische Lehre von Versöhnung und Vergebung stellt eindeutig klar, dass nur der Vergebung empfangen und mit Gott versöhnt sein kann, der wegen seiner Sünden Buße tut.  Ebenso wenig wird von uns erwartet, dem unbußfertigen Sünder zu vergeben.  Wenn er Buße tut, müssen wir bereit sein, ihm sieben Mal siebzig mal zu vergeben; doch ehe dies geschieht, müssen wir denen, die sich an uns versündigen, Buße predigen.  Versöhnen, vergeben und verhandeln wird erst dann in Südafrika unsere Pflicht als Christen sein, wenn das Apartheidregime Anzeichen echter Buße zeigt.  Die kürzlich von P.W. Botha in Durban gehaltene Rede, die fortgesetzten militärischen Repressionen gegen die Bevölkerung in den Townships und die Festnahme aller Regierungsgegner sind eindeutiger Beweis für das Fehlen jeglicher Bußfertigkeit auf Seiten des gegenwärtigen Regimes.


Nichts wünschen wir mehr als wahre Versöhnung und echten Frieden – den Frieden, den Gott gibt, und nicht den Frieden, den die Welt gibt (Joh. 14,27).  Der Frieden, den Gott gibt, steht auf der Grundlage von Wahrheit, Buße, Gerechtigkeit und Liebe.  Der Frieden, den die Welt uns anbietet, ist eine Einigkeit, welche die Wahrheit aufs Spiel setzt, Ungerechtigkeit und Unterdrückung vertuscht und nur von selbstsüchtigem Eigeninteresse motiviert ist.  So wie Jesus es getan hat, müssen auch wir jetzt diesen falschen Frieden entlarven, unsere Unterdrücker konfrontieren und Zwietracht säen.  Als Christen müssen wir mit Jesus sagen: „Meint ihr, dass ich gekommen bin, Frieden zu bringen auf Erden?  Ich sage: Nein, sondern Zwietracht“ (Lukas 12,51).  Ohne Gerechtigkeit und Buße kann es keinen echten Frieden geben.


Es wäre falsch, „Frieden“ und “Einigkeit“ um jeden Preis erhalten zu wollen, bis hin zu dem Preis von Wahrheit und Gerechtigkeit – und noch schlimmer: um den Preis von Tausenden junger Menschenleben.  Als Jünger Jesu sollten wir uns vielmehr um jeden Preis für Wahrheit und Gerechtigkeit einsetzen, selbst um den Preis, auf unserem Weg Streit, Uneinigkeit und Zwietracht zu säen.  Wollen unsere Kirchenführer dem Wort der Bibel wahrhaft gerecht werden, dann müssen sie sich eine Theologie zu eigen machen, die sich Millionen von Christen bereits zu eigen gemacht haben – nämlich die biblische Theologie der direkten Konfrontation mit den Kräften des Bösen, anstatt einer Theologie der Versöhnung mit der Sünde und dem Teufel.




3.2         Gerechtigkeit


Es wäre falsch, den Eindruck zu vermitteln, die „Kirchentheologie“ in Südafrikahabe den Ruf nach Gerechtigkeit nicht zu ihrem besonderen Anliegen gemacht.  Sie hat sehr nachhaltig und sehr aufrichtig Gerechtigkeit gefordert.  Doch an dieser Stelle muss die sehr ernste theologische Frage gestellt werden: Um welche Gerechtigkeit handelt es ich dabei?  Eine Überprüfung der kirchlichen Erklärungen und Verlautbarungen hinterlässt den eindeutigen Eindruck, dass eine Gerechtigkeit der Reformen gemeint ist, das heißt, eine Gerechtigkeit, die von dem Unterdrücker, von der weißen Minderheit festgelegt und dem Volk als eine Art Zugeständnis angeboten werden sollte.  Es scheint nicht die radikale Gerechtigkeit  zu sein, die von unten kommt und über die das Volk Südafrikas selbst entschiedet.


Einer der Hauptgründe, der zu dieser Schlussfolgerung führte, ist die einfache Tatsache, dass fast alle kirchlichen Erklärungen und Aufrufe an den Staat oder die weiße Bevölkerung gerichtet sind.  Man scheint von der Annahme auszugehen, dass Veränderungen von den Weißen oder zumindest von denen kommen müssen, die ganz oben sind.  Im Großen und ganzen scheint man der Meinung zu sein, man brauche nur an das Gewissen und den guten Willen derer zu appellieren, die für die Ungerechtigkeit in unserem Land verantwortlich sind; haben diese einmal ihre Sünden erkannt, Buße getan und sich mit anderen beraten, dann werden sie die notwendigen Reformen des Systems  durchführen.  Warum sonst sollten Kirchenführer Gespräche mit P.W. Botha führen, wenn dies nicht ihre Vision einer gerechten und friedlichen Lösung unserer Probleme wäre?


Im Mittelpunkt dieser Auffassung steht die Erwartung, dass sich durch „persönliche Bekehrung“ als Antwort auf 2moralische Appelle“ die Strukturen der Gesellschaft verändern werden.  Dieses Muster hat bis heute nicht funktioniert und wird es auch in Zukunft nicht tun.  Die gegenwärtige Krise mit ihrer Brutalität, Grausamkeit und gefühllosen Härte ist Beweis genug für die Wirkungslosigkeit jahrelangen „Moralisierens“ über die Notwendigkeit zu leiben.  Bei dem Problem, mit dem wir uns hier in Südafrika auseinandersetzen, geht es nicht nur um persönliche Schuld, sondern um strukturelle Ungerechtigkeit.


Tag für Tag leiden Menschen, werden zu Krüppeln geschlagen, werden umgebracht und gefoltert.  Wir dürfen es uns nicht bequem machen und darauf warten, dass der Unterdrücker eines Tages das Licht erkennen möge, damit die Unterdrückten dann die Hand ausstrecken und ihn um  die Brosamen einiger kleiner Reformen bitten könnten.  Das wäre in sich selbst entwürdigend und würde der Unterdrückung Vorschub leisten.


Reformen sind eingeführt worden, und ohne Zweifel wird es in der nahen Zukunft noch weitere Reformen geben.  Es mag sehr wohl sein, dass die Appelle der Kirchen an das Gewissen der Weißen in beschiedenem Maße zur Einführung einiger dieser Reformen beigetragen haben.  Doch können solche Reformen jemals als echte Veränderungen angesehen werden, als die Einführung wahrer und dauerhafter Gerechtigkeit?  Reformen, die von oben kommen, sind niemals befriedigend. Sie bewirken selten mehr, als dass die Unterdrückung noch wirksamer und noch akzeptabler wird.  Sollte der Unterdrücker jemals echte Veränderung bewirkende Reformen einführen, so wird dies nur aufgrund starken Drucks von Seiten der Unterdrückten geschehen können.


Wahre Gerechtigkeit, Gottes Gerechtigkeit, fordert eine radikale Veränderung der Strukturen, und diese kann nur von unten, von den Unterdrückten selbst kommen.  Gott wird die Veränderung durch die Unterdrückten herbeiführen, so wie er es mit den jüdischen Sklaven in Ägypten getan hat. Gott schafft seine Gerechtigkeit  nicht durch die Reformen der Pharaonen dieser Welt.


Warum also wendet sich die „Kirchentheologie“ eher an die Spitze der Gesellschaft als an das leidende Volk?  Warum fordert diese Theologie nicht, das die Unterdrückten selbst für ihre Rechte einstehen und ihren Unterdrückern den Kampf ansagen?  Warum sagt sie den Menschen nicht, dass es ihre  Aufgabe sei, sich für Gerechtigkeit einzusetzen und die ungerechten Strukturen zu verändern?  Vielleicht liegt die Antwort auf diese Fragen in der Tatsache, dass Appelle von den „Spitzengremien“ der Kirchen sehr leicht dazu tendieren, Appelle and die „Spitzengremien“ der Gesellschaft zu sein.  Ein Appell an das Gewissen jener, die den Fortbestand des Unrechtssystems gewährleisten, ist notwendig.  Doch echte Veränderung und wahre Gerechtigkeit kann nur von unten kommen, von den betroffenen Menschen selbst – die meisten von ihnen sind Christen.



3.3         Gewaltlosigkeit


Es ist der Einstellung der „Kirchentheologie“ zur Gewaltlosigkeit, die sich in einer allgemeinen Verurteilung von allem, was sich mit Gewalt bezeichnen lässt, ausdrückt, nicht gelungen, Gewaltanwendungen in unserer Situation einzudämmen, sondern in Wirklichkeit wurde sie – obgleich unabsichtlich – zu einem entscheidenden Faktor für die neuerliche Eskalation der Gewalt ton Seiten des Staates.  Hier wird wiederum Gewaltlosigkeit zum absoluten Prinzip erhoben, angewandt auf alles, was irgendjemand Gewalt zu nennen beliebt, ohne Rücksichtnahme darauf, wer von dieser Gewalt Gebrauch macht, auf wessen Seite dieser steht und welches Ziel er anstrebt.  In unserer Situation kann diese Einstellung nur gegenteilige Auswirkungen haben.


Das Problem, das sich hier für die Kirche stellt, besteht in dem Gebrauch, den die Staatspropaganda von dem Wort Gewalt macht.  Der Staat und die Medien haben sich dafür entschieden, das, was Menschen in den Townships in ihrem Kampf um Befreiung tun, Gewalt zu nennen – nämlich das Werfen von Steinen, das in Brand stecken von Autos und Gebäuden und manchmal das Töten von Kollaborateuren.  Doch schließt dieses die strukturelle, institutionalisierte und uneinsichtige Gewaltanwendung des Staates aus, insbesondere die unterdrückerische und nackte Gewalt der Polizei und Armee.  Diese Dinge werden nicht als Gewalt bezeichnet. Selbst wenn „unangemessenes Vorgehen“ zugegeben wird, spricht man von „Verfehlungen“ oder sogar von „Verstößen“, doch niemals von Gewalt.  Deshalb bedeutet der Satz „Gewalt in den Townships“ nur das, was die jungen Leute tun, und nicht, was die Polizei oder die Apartheid als solche den Menschen antut.  Fordert man unter diesen Umständen Gewaltlosigkeit, so setzt man sich dem Verdacht aus, Kritik am Widerstand des Volkes zu üben, während man gleichzeitig die Ausübung von Gewalt seitens der Polizei und des Staates rechtfertigt oder zumindest übersieht.  So versteht es nicht nur der Staat und seine Anhänger, sondern auch die Menschen, die um ihre Freiheit kämpfen.  In unsere Lange ist Gewalt ein mit vielen Hypotheken belastetes Wort.


Es stimmt, dass auch in Erklärungen und Verlautbarungen der >Kirche das gewaltsame Vorgehen der Polizei verurteilt wird. Es heißt darin, dass die Kirche jede Anwendung von Gewalt ablehne. Doch ist es – insbesondere unter den gegebenen Umständen – berechtigt, das rücksichtlose und repressive Handeln des Staates einerseits und die verzweifelten Verteidigungsversuche des Volkes andererseits mit ein und demselben Wort zu bezeichnen, nämlich mit dem Wort „Gewalt“, deren Anwendung die „Kirchentheologie“ pauschal verurteilt?  Müssen derartige Abstraktionen und Verallgemeinerungen nicht für noch mehr Verwirrung sorgen?  Wie ist es möglich, Unerdrückung, Ungerechtigkeit und Domination mit Widerstand und Selbstverteidigung gleichzusetzen?  Wäre es berechtigt, beides – die physische Gewalt eines Sexualverbrechers und der physische Widerstand einer Frau, die sich wehrt – mit demselben Begriff „Gewalt“ zu bezeichnen?


Überdies finden sich weder in der Bibel noch in unserer christlichen Traditon Hinweise, die derartige Verallgemeinerungen zulasen würden.  Überall in der Bibel wird das Wort „Gewalt“ (violence) nur da gebraucht, wo das Tun eines gottlosen und bösen Unterdrückers beschrieben wird.  Zum Beispiel:



          Psalm 72,12-14

„Denn er wird den Armen erretten, der um Hilfe schreit,

 und den Elenden,  der keine Helfer hat.

Er wird gnädig sein den Geringen und Armen,

und den Armen wird er helfen.

  Er wird sie aus Bedrückung und Frevel erlösen,

 und ihr Blut ist wert geachtet vor ihm.“


Jesaja 59,1-8

Vers 6: „Ihre Gewebe taugen nicht zu Kleidern,

 und ihr Gespinst taugt nicht zur Decke.

 Ihre Werke sind Unheilswerke,

 and ihren Händen ist Frevel.“


Jeremia 22,13-17

Vers 17: „Aber deine Augen und dein Herz sind

auf nichts anderes aus

als auf unrechten Gewinn und darauf,

unschuldig Blut zu vergießen, zu freveln und

zu unterdrücken.“


Amos 6,3

„… die ihr meint, vom bösen Tag weit ab z sein,

 und trachtet immer nach Frevelregiment, …“


Micha 2,2

„Sie reißen Äcker an sich und nehmen Häuser,

 wie sie’s gelüstet. 

So treiben sie Gewalt mit eines jeden Hause

und mit eines jeden Erbe.“




Micha 3,1-3

„… Ihr solltet die sein, die das Recht kennen.

Aber ihr hasset das Gute und liebet das Arge;

ihr schindet ihnen die Haut ab und das Fleisch

von ihren Knochen …“


Micha 6,12

„Ihr Reichen tun viel Unrecht,

und ihre Einwohner gehen mit Lügen um

und haben falsche Zungen in ihrem Halse.“


(Zitate zugefügt vom Übersetzer)


Das Wort „Gewalt“ (violence) wird niemals gebraucht, um das Vorgehen der Armen Israels in ihrem Widerstand gegen Aggression und ihrem Kapf um Befeiung zu beschreiben.  Wenn Jesus uns anweist, die andere Backe darzubieten so sagt er uns, das wir nicht Rache übern sollen; er sagt nicht, dass wir uns oder andere niemals verteidigen dürfen.  Die Anwendung physischer Gewalt (physical force), um sich gegen Tyrannen und Aggressoren zur Wehr zu setzen, ist in einer langen und gleichbleibenden christlichen Tradition begründet.  In anderen Worten: Es gibt Umstände, unter denen physische Gewaltanwendung (physical force) erlaubt ist.  Diese Umstände sind äußerst begrenzt – Gewalt darf nur als letzter Ausweg oder als das kleinere von zwei Übeln gelten oder, wie Bonhoeffer es nannte, „die geringere von zwei Möglichkeiten, schuldig zu werden.“ (Zum Problem bei Bonhoeffer vgl. Ges. Schriften III, S. 469. Anm. d. Übers.)  Es ist einfach nicht wahr, wenn gesagt wird, dass jegliche Anwendung physischer Gewalt mit Gewalttätigkeit gleichzusetzen und, unter welchen Umständen auch immer, niemals zulässig sei.


Das soll nicht heißen, dass es Menschen, die unterdrückt werden, erlaubt sei, zu jeder beliebigen Zeit ein beliebiges Maß an Gewalt (force) anzuwenden, nur weil sie um ihre Befreiung kämpfen.  Es hat Fälle gegeben, die kein Christ jemals gutheißen kann, in denen Menschen verletzt und getötet wurden.  Doch hier liegen die Gründe unserer Missbilligung in der Sorge um echte Befeiung und in der Überzeugung, dass derlei Vorkommnisse unnötig, ungerechtfertigt und kontraproduktiv sind, und nicht, weil solche Fälle unter die pauschale Verurteilung jeglicher Gewaltanwendung unter welchen Umständen auch immer fallen.


Was schließlich die erklärte Gewaltlosigkeit der „Kirchentheologie“ in den Augen vieler – uns selbst eingeschlossen – äußerst verdächtig macht, ist die stilschweigende Unterstützung, die der wachsenden Militarisierung des südafrikanischen Staates von Seiten vieler Kirchenführer zuteil wird. Wie ist es möglich, jede Gewaltanwendung zu verurteilen und dennoch Militärpfarrer zum Dienst in einer äußerst gewalttätigen und unterdrückerischen Armee zu ernennen?  Wie kann man Gewaltanwendung verurteilen und es dennoch zulassen, dass weiße junge Männer ihrer Einberufung in die Streitkräfte Folge leisten?  Ist es deshalb, weil die Einsätze von Polizei und Armee als Verteidigung angesehen werden?


Das wirft die äußerst ernste Frage auf, auf wessen Seite diese Kirchenführer wohl stehen mögen.  Warum gilt das Vorgehen der jungen Schwarzen in den Townships nicht als Verteidigung?


Auf wessen Seite man steht, scheint in der Praxis darüber zu entscheiden, was mit “Gewalt“ (violence) und was mit “Selbstverteidigung“ bezeichnet wird. Jeden Gebrauch physischer Gewalt (physical force) als „Gewalttätigkeit“ (violence) zu bezeichnen, ist ein Versuch, Neutralität zu wahren und sich zu weigern, selbst zu urteilen, wer im Recht und wer im Unrecht is.  Der Versuch, in diesem Konflikt neutral zu bleiben, ist sinnlos.  Neutralität ermöglicht den Fortbestand des status quo der Unterdrückung (und damit der Gewalttätigkeiten (violence)).  Es ist eine Haltung, die den Unterdrücker stillschweigend unterstützt.


3.4         Das Grundproblem


Es genügt nicht, Kritik an der „Kirchentheologie“ zu üben, wir müssen diese Kritik auch begründen.  Was steckt hinter den Fehlern, Missverständnissen und Unzulänglichkeiten dieser Theologie?


An erster Stelle möchte wir auf das Fehlen jeglicher sozialer Analyse hinweisen.  Wir haben aufgezeigt, wie die „Kirchentheologie“ dazu tendiert, sich absoluter Prinzipien wie Versöhnung, Verhandlung, Gewaltlosigkeit und friedlicher Lösungen zu bedienen, und diese unterschiedslos und unkritisch auf jede Situation anzuwenden.  Geringen Anstrengungen werden unternommen, um zu analysieren, was in unserer Gesellschaft vor sich geht und warum dem so ist.  Es ist nicht möglich, gültige moralische Urteile über eine Gesellschaft zu fällen, ohne überhaupt den Versuch gemacht zu haben, diese Gesellschaft zu verstehen.  Die Analyse der Apartheid, die der „Kirchentheologie“ zugrunde liegt, ist ganz einfach inadäquat.  Die gegenwärtige Krise hat sehr eindeutig zu Tage gebracht, dass die Bemühungen der Kirchenführer, wirksame und begehbare Möglichkeiten zur Veränderungen unserer Gesellschaft herbeizuführen, fehlgeschlagen sind.  Dieses Fehlschlagen ist in nicht geringem Maße der Tatsache zuzuschreiben, das die „Kirchentheologie“ keine Sozialanalyse entwickelt hat, die es ihr ermöglichen würde, die Mechanismen von Ungerechtigkeit und Unterdrückung zu durchschauen.


In engem Zusammenhang damit steht der Mangel an angemessenem Verständnis für Politik und politische Strategie.  Grundlegend ist es Sache der Politik, die Strukturen einer Gesellschaft zu verändern.  Dies erfordert eine politische Strategie, die auf deiner klaren sozialen oder politischen Analyse aufgebaut ist.  Die Kirche muss sich diesen Strategien und der ihnen zugrundeliegenden Analyse zuwenden.  In diese politische Situation gilt es, das Evangelium hineinzutragen, jedoch nicht als Alternativlösung für unsere Probleme – so, als liefere uns das Evangelium unpolitische Lösungen für politische Probleme.  Es gibt keine spezifisch christliche Lösung.  Es wird Möglichkeiten geben , die politischen Lösungen christlich anzugehen, es wird eine im christlichen Glauben begründete Einstellung dazu und christlich motiviertes Handeln geben.  Aber es besteht keine Möglichkeit, Politik und politische Strategien zu umgehen.


Doch das Grundproblem haben wir noch immer nicht aufgezeigt.  Warum hat die “Kirchentheologie“ keine Sozialanalyse entwickelt?  Warum zeigt sie kein adäquates Verständnis für die Unabdingbarkeit politischer Strategien?  Und warum hat sie es zur Tugend erhoben, Neutralität zu wahren und am Rand zu sitzen?


Die Antwort muss in der besonderen Art des Glaubens und der Spiritualität gesucht werden, die jahrhundertelang das Kirchenleben bestimmt haben.  Wie wir alle wissen, war Spiritualität von jeher geneigt, eine Angelegenheit einer anderen Welt zu sein, die sehr wenig – wenn überhaupt etwas – mit den Dingen dieser Welt zu tun hat.  Soziale und politische Anliegen wurden als weltliche Angelegenheiten, die nichts mit dem geistlichen Auftrag der Kirche zu tun haben, abgetan.    Überdies wurde Spiritualität immer als rein privat und nur den Einzelnen betreffend verstanden.  Öffentliche Angelegenheiten und soziale Probleme wurden als außerhalb des Bereichs der Spiritualität liegend gesehen.  Und schließlich neigt die uns vererbte Spiritualität dazu, sich auf Gottes Eignreifen zu verlassen, das mit er zu seiner Zeit in der Welt in Ordnung bringe, was verkehrt sei. Außer für Gottes Eignreifen zu beten, bleibt de Menschen bei dieser Einstellung sehr wenig zu tun übrig.


Genau diese Auffassung von Spiritualität versetzt so viele Christen und Kirchenführer in einen fast gelähmten Zustand, wenn sie sich mit der gegenwärtigen Krise im Land konfrontiert sehen.


Es braucht hier  kaum gesagt zu werden, dass besagter Glaube und besagte Spiritualität jeder biblischen Grundlage entbehren.  Die Bibel trennt den Menschen nicht von der Welt, in der er lebt.  Sie trennt den Einzelnen nicht von der Gesellschaft oder das Privatleben vom öffentlichen Leben.  Gott erlöst den ganzen Menschen als Teil seiner ganzen Schöpfung (Römer 8,18-24).  Eine wahrhaft biblische Spiritualität  würde jeden Aspekt der menschlichen Existenz durchdringen und keinen Teil davon von Gottes Erlöserwillen ausschließen.  Der biblische Glaube hat für alles, was in dieser Welt geschieht, prophetische Relevanz. 






Der KAIROS  dieser Zeit verlangt von den Christen eine biblische, geistliche, pastorale und vor allem eine prophetische Antwort.  In dieser Lage genügt es nicht, verallgemeinerte christliche Prinzipien zu wiederholen.  Wir brauchen eine mutige und präzise Antwort – eine Antwort, die prophetisch ist, weil sie die besonderen Gegebenheiten dieser Krise anspricht, – eine Antwort, die nicht den Eindruck erweckt, man halte sich zwischen den Fronten, sondern eine Antwort, die klar und eindeutig Stellung bezieht.


4.1         Soziale Analyse


Die vordringlichste Aufgabe einer prophetischen Theologie für unsere Zeit wäre der Versuch einer sozialen Analyse oder, was Jesus „über die Zeichen der Zeit urteilen“ (Matt. 16,3), bzw. „diese Zeit prüfen“ (ìnterpreting this KAIROS´) (Lk. 12,56) nennen würde.  Dies in aller Genauigkeit durchzuführen, ist in diesem Dokument nicht möglich, doch müssen wir zumindest mit den groben Umrissen einer Analyse des Konflikts einen Anfang machen.


Es wäre verfehlt, die gegenwärtigen Auseinandersetzungen einfach als Rassenkonflikt darzustellen.  Die Rassenkomponente ist zwar vorhanden, doch haben wir es nicht mit zwei ebenbürtigen Rassen oder Nationen mit eigenen egoi8stischen Gruppeninteressen zu tun.  Vielmehr müssen wir uns mit einer Situation der Unterdrückung auseinandersetzen. Der Konflikt spielt sich zwischen Unterdrückern und Unterdrückten ab und wird zwischen zwei nicht zu vereinbarenden Zielen oder Interessen ausgetragen.  Beim einen handelt es sich um eine gerechte Sache, beim anderen um eine ungerechte.


Auf der einen Seite stehen die Interessen jener, die vom status quo profitieren und die entschlossen sind, ihn um jeden Preis aufrechtzuerhalten, selbst zum Preis von Millionen von Menschenleben.  In ihrem Interesse liegt es, eine Anzahl von Reformen durchzuführen, die sicherstellen, dass keine radikale Systemveränderung stattfindet.  Sie müssen weiterhin, so wie auch in der Vergangenheit, vom System profitieren.  Sie  ziehen ihrem Nutzen aus dem System, das sie begünstigt und es ihnen ermöglicht, sich beachtlichen Reichtum anzueignen und einen außergewöhnlich hohen Lebensstandard aufrechtzuerhalten.  Es ist ihnen daran gelegen, dass dieser Zustand weiterhin erhalten bleibt, auch wenn einige Veränderungen notwendig zu werden scheinen.


Auf der anderen Seite finden sich jene, die in keinerlei Weise vom jetzigen System profitieren.  Sie werden lediglich als Arbeitseinheiten behandelt, erhalten Hungerlöhne, sind durch Wanderarbeit von ihren Familien getrennt, werden wie Vieh verladen und zum Verhungern in Homelands gesperrt – und alles zum Nutzen einer privilegierten Minderheit.  Sie haben keine Stimme im Regierungssystem und sollen auch noch für die Zugeständnisse dankbar sein, die man ihnen wie Brosamen anbietet.  Es liegt keineswegs in ihrem Interesse, den Fortbestand dieses Systems zuzulassen, selbst nicht in irgendeiner „reformierten“ oder „revidierten“ Form.  Sie sind nicht länger bereit, zertreten, unterdrückt und ausgebeutet zu werden.  Sie sind entschlossen, das System radikal zu verändern, so dass nicht mehr und die Privilegierten begünstigt werden.  Und sie sind bereit, dieses sogar unter Einsatz ihres eigenen Lebens zu tun.  Was sie wollen, ist Gerechtigkeit für alle.


So stellt sich unsere Lage dar – man kann sie als Bürgerkrieg oder als Revolution bezeichnen.  Die eine Seit ist entschlossen, das System um jeden Preis aufrechtzuerhalten, und die andere Seite ist ebenso entschlossen, es um jeden Preis zu verändern.  Wir haben es hier mit zwei entgegengesetzten Interessen zu tun.  Ein Kompromiss ist ausgeschlossen. Entweder gibt es für alle volle und gleiche Gerechtigkeit oder nicht.


Die Bibel hat zu einer solchen Auseinandersetzung sehr viel zu sagen, zu einer Welt, die sich in Unterdrücker und Unterdrückte aufteilt.


4.2         Unterdrückung in der Bibel


Suchen wir in der Bibel nach Aussagen zum Thema Unterdrückung, so entdecken wir – wie auch viele mit uns in der ganzen Welt diese Entdeckung machen – das Unterdrückung im Alten wie im Neuen Testament ein zentrales Thema ist.  Exegeten, die sich die Mühe gemacht haben, das Thema Unterdrückung in der Bibel zu untersuchen, haben erkannt, das es im Hebräischen nicht weniger als 20 Stammwörter gibt, um Unterdrückung zu beschreiben.    Wie ein Autor gesagt hat: Unterdrückung ist „eine grundlegende strukturelle Kategorie biblischer Theologie“ (T.D. Hanks, `God So Loved the Third World´, Orbis 1983, S.4):


Überdies ist die Beschrei bung von Unterdrückung in der Bibel konkret und anschaulich.  Die Bibel beschriebt Unterdrückung als Erfahrung des Menschen, in der er zertreten, entwürdigt, gedemütigt, ausgebeutet, verarmt, betrogen, irregeführt und versklavt wird.  Die Unterdrücker werden als grausam, rücksichtslos, arrogant, habgierig, gewalttätig, tyrannisch und als Feind dargestellt.  Derartige Beschreibungen können ursprünglich nur von Menschen verfasst worden sein, die lange und schmerzhafte Unterdrückung erfahren haben.  Und tatsächlich ist fast 90% der in der Bibel aufgezeichneten Geschichte des jüdischen Volkes und später der Christen die Geschichte nationaler oder internationaler Unterdrückung.  Die Nation Israel entstand auf dem Hintergrund der schmerzhaften Erfahrung von Unterdrückung und Repression als Sklaven in Ägypten.  Doch das Entscheidende für diese Gruppe unterdrückter Menschen war, dass Jahwe sich ihnen offenbarte.  Gott offenbarte sich als Jahwe, als der Eine, der sich der Leidenden erbarmt und der sie von ihren Unterdrückern befreit.


„Ich habe das Elend meines Volkes in Ägypten gesehen und ihr Geschrei über ihre Bedränger gehört; ich habe ihre Leiden erkannt.  Und ich bin hernieder gefahren, das ich sie errette aus der Ägypter Hand.  … Wie denn nun das Geschrei der Kinder Israel vor mich gekommen ist und ich dazu ihre Not gesehen habe, wie die Ägypter sie bedrängen, so geh nun hin …“ (2. Mose 3,7-9).


Überall in der Bibel zeigt sich Gott als der Befreier der Unterdrückten.  Er ist nicht neutral.  Er versucht nicht, Mose und Pharao miteinander zu versöhnen, die hebräischen Sklaven mit ihren ägyptischen Unterdrückern oder das jüdische Volk mit irgendeinem seiner späteren Unterdrücker zu versöhnen.  Unterdrückung ist Sünde, mit der kein Kompromiss eingegangen werden kann; sie muss beseitigt werden.  Gott stellt sich auf die Seite der Unterdrückten. Wie wir in Psalm 103,6 lesen:


„Der Herr schafft Gerechtigkeit und Recht allen, die Unrecht leiden“  („God, who does what ist right, is always on the side of the oppressed“)


Auch beschränkt sich diese Identifizierung mit den Unterdrückten nicht nur auf das Alte Testament.  Als Jesus in der Synagoge von Nazareth seinen Auftrag verkündete, benutzt er die Worte des Propheten Jesaja:


„Der Geist des Herrn ist bei mir, darum weil er mich gesalbt hat, zu verkündigen das Evangelium den Armen;  Er hat mich gesandt, zu predigen den Gefangenen, dass sie los sein sollen, und den Blinden, dass sie sehend werden und den Zerschlagenen, dass sie frei und ledig sein sollen, zu verkündigen das Gnadenjahr des Herrn.“ (Lukas 4, 18-19)


Es kann kein Zweifel darüber bestehen, dass sich Jesus hier der Sache der Armen und Unterdrückten annimmt.  Er hat sich mit ihren Anliegen identifiziert.  Nicht dass er sich nicht um die Reichen und die  Unterdrücker gekümmert hätte.  Sie ruft er zur Buße auf.  Die unterdrückten Christen Südafrikas wissen seit langem, dass sie eins sind mit Christus in ihrem Leiden  Durch sein eigenes Leiden und seinen Tod am  Kreuz wurde er ein Opfer von Unterdrückung und Gewalt.  Er ist bei uns in unserer Unterdrückung.


4.3         Gewaltherrschaft in der christlichen Tradition


Die Auseinandersetzung mit Situationen der Unterdrückung hat eine lange christliche Tradition.  Das Wort, mit dem am häufigsten diese besondere Form der Sünde umschrieben wird, ist das Wort „Tyrannei“ – Gewaltherrschaft.  Ist es ohne jeden Zweifel erwiesen, dass eine Herrscher zum Tyrann geworden ist oder ein Regime Gewaltherrschaft ausübt – so besagt diese Tradition – hat er bzw.  das Regime das moralische Recht zu regieren verwirkt; dem Volk° fällt somit das Recht zum Widerstand zu und auch das Recht, Mittel zu finden, seine eigenen Interessen vor Ungerechtigkeit und Unerdrückung zu schützen.  In anderen Worten: Ein Gewalt ausübendes Regime ist moralisch nicht legitim.  Dieses Regime mag eine de facto Regierung sein, es mag sogar von anderen Regierungen anerkannt und deshalb eine de jure oder rechtmäß9ge Regierung sein.  Doch handelt es sich um ein Gewalt ausübendes, tyrannisches Regime, ist es vom moralischen und theologischen Standpunkt aus gesehen unrechtmäßig.  In der christlichen Tradition gibt es in der Tat Meinungsverschiedenheiten über die Mittel, von denen Gebrauch gemacht werden kann, um einen Tyrannen zu entmachten. Noch nie wurde jedoch unsere christliche Pflicht angezweifelt, Kooperation mit der Tyrannei zu verweigern und alles in unseren Kräften Stehende zu tun, um sie abzuschaffen.


Es versteht sich von selbst, dass alles von der Definition abhängt, was ei Tyrann ist.  Z welchem Zeitpunkt wird eine Regierung zur Gewaltherrschaft?


Die traditionelle Definition eines Tyrannen lautet hostis bonis communis – ein Fein des Gemeinwohls.  Das Ziel einer jeden Regierung muss  die Förderung des sogenannten Gemeinwohls aller Regierteen sein.  Das Gemeinwohl fördern heißt, im Interesse und zum Nutzen aller Mensche zu regieren.  Manc einer Regierung gelingt es zeitweise nicht, diesem Anspruch gerecht zu werden. Einigen Menschen werden diese oder jene Ungerechtigkeiten zugefügt.  An solchen Verfehlungen muss in der Tat Kritik geübt werden. Doch gelegentliche Ungerechtigkeit macht aus einer Regierung noch  keinen Feind des Volkes – einen Tyrannen.


Um zum Feind des Volkes zu werden, muss die Regierung prinzipiell im Widerspruch zum Gemeinwohlstehen.  Eine solche Regierung würde fortwährend gegen die Interessen des Volkes als Ganzem handeln.  Dies würde am eindeutigsten in Fällen zutage treten, in denen die Regierungspolitik als solche dem Gemeinwohl feindlich gesinnt ist und in denen die Regierung ein Mandat hat, nur im Interesse eines Teils der Bevölkerung und nicht im Interesse des ganzen Volkes zu regieren.  Eine solche Regierung wäre im Prinzip nicht reformierbar.  Alle Reformversuche seitens der Regierung würden als nicht das Gemeinwohl fördernde beurteilt werden, sondern als den Interessen der Minorität dienend, von der die Regierung ihr Mandat hat.


Ein tyrannisches Regime kann nicht sehr lange regieren, ohne ständig mehr Gewalt anzuwenden.  In dem Maße, wie die Mehrheit des Volkes ihre Rechte fordert und den Tyrannen unter Druck setzt, wird der Tyrann mehr und mehr auf verzweifelte, grausame, rohe und rücksichtslose Formen der Gewaltherrschaft und Repression zurückgreifen.  Die Herrschaft eines Tyrannen enden immer mit der Herrschaft des Terrors.  Es ist unvermeidlich, weil der Tyrann von Anbeginn der Feind des Gemeinwohls ist.


Diese Beschreibung dessen was wir unter einem Tyrannen oder einer Gewaltherrschaft verstehen, lässt sich am besten mit den Worten eines bekannten Moraltheologen zusammenfassen: „… ein Regime, das sich in aller Offenheit als Feind des Volkes darstellt und das ständig und in gröbster Weise das Gemeinwohl verletzt.“ (B. Häring, The Law of Christ, Band 3, S. 150)


Dies hinterlässt nun die Frage, ob die gegenwärtige Regierung Südafrikas als Gewaltherrschaft bezeichnet werden kann oder nicht. Es kann keinen Zweifel darüber geben, was die Mehrheit der Menschen Südafrikas denkt.  Für sie ist das Apartheidregime in der Tat der Feind des Volkes, und genau so wird die Regierung auch genannt: der Feind.  Mehr als je zuvor hat das Regime in der gegenwärtigen Krise jede Legitimität, die es vielleicht einmal in den Augen des Volkes gehabt haben mag, verloren.  Hat das Volk recht oder ist es im Unrecht?


Apartheid ist ein System, in dem einem, von einem kleinen Teil der Bevölkerung gewählten Minderheitenregime, ein ausdrückliches Mandat verliehen wird, im Interesse und zum Nutzen des weißen Bevölkerungsteils zu regieren. Ein solches Mandat bzw. eine solche Politik ist per definitionem gegen das Gemeinwohl des Volkes gerichtet.  Und weil diese Regime im ausschließlichen Interesse der Weißen und nicht im Interesse aller zu regieren versucht, ist es in der Tat so weit gekommen, das es nicht einmal mehr im Interesse ebenjener Weißen regiert.  Es wird zum feind des ganzen Volkes,  zum Tyrannen, zum totalitären Regime, zum Terrorregime.


Dies bedeutet außerdem, dass das Minderheitsregime der Apartheid nicht reformierbar ist.  Wir können nicht erwarten, dass das Apartheidregime eine Bekehrung oder Änderung des Herzens erfährt und die Politik der Apartheid völlig aufgibt.  Dafür hat es kein Mandat von seinen Wählern.  Jegliche Reformen oder Berichtigungen, die das Regime durchführen wollte, müssten im Interesse seiner Wähler liegen.  Einzelne Regierungsmitglieder könnten eine echte Bekehrung erfahren du Buße tun.  Doch gesetzt den Fall, dies würde geschehen, so müssten sie die Konsequenzen ziehen und eine Regierung verlassen, die eben wegen ihrer Politik de Apartheid gewählt und eingesetzt wurde.


Deshalb sind wir in die gegenwärtige Sackgasse geraten.  In dem Maße, wie die unterdrückte Mehrheit immer mehr Widerstand leistet und den Tyrannen durch Maßnahmen wie Boykott, Streik, Aufstand, Brandstiftung und sogar bewaffneter Kampfmehr und mehr unter Druck setzt, in dem Maße wird diese Regime gewalttätiger werden. Einerseits wird es repressive Maßnamen ergreifen: Festnahmen, Verurteilungen, Hinrichtungen, Folter, Bannung, Propaganda, Ausnahmezustand und andere verzweifelte und gewalttätige Methoden.  Andererseits wird es Reformen einführen, die für die Mehrheit immer unannehmbar bleiben werden, weil alle Reformen die Gewähr bieten müssen, das die weiße Minderheit an der Spitze bleibt.


Ein Regime, das vom Prinzip her der Feind des Volkes ist, kann nicht plötzlich im Interesse des ganzen Volkes zu regieren beginnen.  Es kann nur durch eine andere Regierung ersetzt werden – durch eine Regierung, die von der Mehrheit des Volkes mit dem ausdrücklichen Mandat gewählt wurde, im Interesse des ganzen Volkes zu regieren.


Ein Regime, das sich zum feind des Volkes gemacht hat, hat sich demnach auch zum Feind Gottes gemacht.  Die Menschen sind zum bilde Gottes geschaffen, und was immer wir den Geringsten antun, tun wir Gott an (Matthäus 25, 45).


Wird hier gesagt, der Staat oder das Regime habe sich zum  Feind Gottes gemacht, so bedeutet das nicht, dass alle, die das Systeme unterstützen, sich dessen bewusst sind.  Im Großen und Ganzen wissen sie überhaupt nicht, was sie tun.  Die Regierungspropaganda hat vielen Menschen Sand in die Augen gestreut. Häufig leben sie in völliger Unkenntnis der Konsequenzen, die ihre Haltung nach sich zieht.  Durch diese Blindheit wird der Staat jedoch nicht weniger gewalttätig und nicht weniger zum Feind des Volkes und zum Feind Gottes.


Andererseits ist die Tatsache, dass der Staat tyrannisch und ein Feind Gottes it, keine Entschuldigung für Hass.  Als Christen sind wir dazu gerufen, unsere Feinde zu lieben (Matthäus 5,44).  Dort steht nicht , dass wir keine Feine haben werden oder haben sollen oder dass wir Gewaltherrschaften nicht als unsere tatsächlichen Feinde bezeichnen sollten.  Doch haben wir einmal unsere Feinde identifiziert, so müssen wir uns bemühen, sie zuleiben.  Das ist nicht immerleicht.  Doch dann dürfen wir nicht vergessen, dass die größte Liebe, die wir beiden – den Unterdrückten und unseren Feienden, den Unterdrückern – entgegenbringen, sich darin erweist, dass wir die Unterdrückung beseitigen, die Gewaltherrscher entmachten und eine gerechte Regierung zum Wohle aller  einsetzen.


4.4         Botschaft der Hoffnung


Im Zentrum des Evangeliums Jesu Christi und im Zentrum jedes wahren prophetischen Glaubens steht die Botschaft der Hoffnung.  In diesem Augenblick der Krise in Südafrika gibt es nichts, das notweniger und wichtiger wäre als die christliche Botschaft der Hoffnung.


Jesus hat uns gelehrt, von dieser Hoffnung als dem Kommen des Reiches Gottes zu sprechen.  Wir glauben, dass Gott in unserer Welt am Werk ist und  hoffnungslose und vom Bösen gezeichnete Situationen zum Guten werden kann, damit „Sein Reich komme“ und“ Sein Wille geschehe wie im Himmel, so auf Erden“.  Wir Glauben, dass Gutes und Gerechtigkeit und Liebe am Ende triumphieren werden und dass Unerdrückung und Gewaltherrschaft nicht von ewiger Dauer sein können. Eines Tages wird Gott „abwischen alle Tränen von ihren Augen“ (Offenbarung 7,17; 21,4) und „da werden die Wölfe bei den Lämmern wohnen“ (Jesaja 11,6). Wahren Frieden und wahre Versöhnung wünschen wir uns nicht nur – sie sind uns gewiss und versprochen.  Das ist unser Glaube und unsere Hoffnung.


Warum hat die „Kirchentheologie“ in ihren Erklärungen und Verlautbarungen diese vollmächtige Botschaft der Hoffnung nicht herausgestellt?  Vielleicht weil sich die Kirchenführer an die Unterdrücker und nicht an die Unterdrückten gewandt haben?  Vielleicht um die Unterdrückten nicht zu ermutigen, sich allzu viele und zu große Hoffnungen zu machen?


In dem Maße, wie sich die Krise tagtäglich zuspritzt, haben beide – Unterdrücker wie Unterdrückte – das Recht, von den Kirchen eine Botschaft der Hoffnung zu fordern. Die meisten der unterdrückten Menschen in Südafrika sind nicht ohne Hoffnung;  das gilt ganz besonders für die Jugend. Sie handeln mutig und ohne Furcht, weil sie die Gewissheit haben, dass die Befreiung kommen wird. Oft genug wird ihr Körper getötet, doch es gibt jetzt nichts mehr, das ihren Geist und ihre Hoffnung töten kann.  Doch Hoffnung braucht Bestätigung. Hoffnung muss genährt und gestärkt werden.  Hoffnung muss verbreitet werden.  Den Menschen muss immer und immer wieder gesagt werden, dass Gott auf ihrer Seite ist.


Andererseits sind die Unterdrücker und jene, die ihrer Propaganda Glauben schenken, voll verzweifelter Angst.  Man muss ihnen das teuflisch Böse des gegenwärtigen Systems klarmachen, und sie müssen zur Buße gerufen werden, doch m an muss ihnen auch etwas geben, worauf sie ihre Hoffnung setzen können.  Im Augenblick hegen sie falsche Hoffnungen.  Sie hoffen, den status quo und ihre Sonderrechte – mit einigen Einschränkungen vielleicht – aufrechtzuerhalten, und sie fürchten jede echte Alternative.  Doch sie können auf weit mehr als das Hoffen und haben nichts zu fürchten. Kann ihnen da die christliche Botschaft der Hoffnung nicht Hilfe geben?


Es gibt Hoffnung.  Es gibt Hoffnung für uns alle. Doch der Weg auf diese Hoffnung hin wird ehr schwer und sehr schmerzhaft sein.  Auseinandersetzung und Kampf werden sich in den vor uns liegenden Monaten und Jahren verstärken, denn es gibt keine andere Möglichkeit, Ungerechtigkeit und Unerdrückung zu beseitigen.  Doch Gott ist mit uns.  Wir können nur lernen, Werkzeuge seines Friedens zu werden, selbst bis in den Tod.  Wir müssen am Kreuzestod Christi teilhaben, wenn wir die Hoffnung auf die Teilhabe an seiner Auferstehung unser eigen nennen wollen.






5.1         Gott steht auf der Seite der Unterdrückten


Sagt man heute, die Kirche müsse sich nun eindeutig und konsequent auf die Seite der Armen und Unterdrückten stellen, so überseiht man die Tatsache, dass die Mehrzahl aller Christen in Südafrika dies bereits getan hat. Der bei weitem größte Teil der Kirch ein Südafrika ist arm und unterdrückt.  Natürlich kann nicht selbstverständlich angenommen werden, dass jeder, der unterdrückt ist, den Kampf aufgenommen hat und  für seine Befeiung kämpft.  Noch kann angenommen werden, dass sich alle unerdrückten Christen der Tatsache voll bewusst sind, dass ihre  Sache Gottes Sache ist.  Trotzdem ist es wahr, dass die Kirch bereits auf Seiten der Unterdrückten steht, denn dort findet sich die Mehrheit ihrer Mitglieder. Dieser Tatbestand muss von der ganzen Kirche anerkannt und bestätigt werden.


Am Anfang dieses Dokumentes wurde aufgezeigt, dass die gegenwärtige Krise die Spaltungen in der Kirche zutage gebracht hat.  Wir sind aus genau dem Grund eine gespaltene Kirche, weil nicht alle Mitglieder unserer Kirchen Stellung gegen die Unterdrückung bezogen haben.  In anderen Worten: Nicht alle Christen sind eins mit dem Gott, von dem es heißt: „Der Herr schafft Gerechtigkeit und Recht allen, die Unrecht leiden“ (Psalm 103,6).


Was die gegenwärtige Krise anlangt, gibt es nur einen Weg zur Einheit der Kirche, nämlich den Weg, auf dem jene Christen, die auf der Seite des Unterdrückers oder zwischen den Fronten stehen, auf die andere Seite hinüberwechseln, um mit den Unterdrückten im Glauben und im Handeln vereint zu sein.  Einigkeit und Versöhnung innerhalb der Kirche selbst ist nur im Einssein mit Gott und Jesus Christus möglich, und sie sind auf der Seite der Armen und Unterdrückten.


Wenn die Kirche sich dahingehend verändern und dies zu ihrem erklärten Ziel machen soll – wie müssen dann diese neuen Erkenntnisse in konkretes und wirksames Handeln umgesetzt werden?


5.2         Teilnahme am Kampf


Tun sie es nicht bereits, so müssen sich Christen ganz einfach an dem Kampf für Befreiung und für eine gerechte Gesellschaft beteiligen. Die Aktionen der Bevölkerung – vom Verbraucherboykott bis zum Niederlegen der Arbeit – müssen von der Kirche ermutigt und unterstützt werden.  Manchmal wird Kritik notwendig sein, doch Ermutigung und Unterstützung werden ebenso notwendig sein. Anders ausgedrückt:  Die gegenwärtige Krise fordert die ganze Kirche dazu heraus, ihr geistliches Amt nicht mehr lediglich als „Ambulanz-Dienst“ zu verstehen, sondern als Engagement und Teilnahme am Kampf.


5.3         Veränderung kirchlicher Aktivitäten


Die Kirche hat ihre eigene besondere Veranstaltungen: Sonntagsgottesdienste, Abendmahlsgottesdienst, Taufen, Kindergottesdienste, Beerdingungen usw. Außerdem hat die Kirche ihre eigene Sprache, mit der sie ihren Glauben und ihre Verpflichtungen ausdrückt, zum Beispiel in de form von Glaubensbekenntnissen.  Diese kirchlichen Handlungen müssen neue Formen finden, um eine noch größere Übereinstimmung mit einem prophetischen Glauben zu erzielen, der auf den KAIROS, den Gott uns heute anbietet, bezogen ist.  Die bösen Kräfte, von denen wir in der Taufe sprechen, müssen beim Namen genannt werden.  Wir wissen, was diese bösen Kräfte im heutigen Südafrika sind.  Auch das Einssein und Miteinanderteilen, zu dem wir uns in unseren Abendmahlsgottesdiensten oder Messen bekennen, muss beim Namen genannt werden.  Es bedeutet die Solidarität der Menschen untereinander, die alle zum Kampf um Gottes Frieden für Südafrika einlädt.  Die Buße, die wir predigen, muss beim Namen genannt werden.  Es ist Buße für unser Schuldigwerden an Leid und Unterdrückung im Land.


Vieles, was wir in unseren Gottesdiensten tun, hat für  die unterdrückten seine Bedeutung verloren.  Unser Gottesdienste haben sich den Bedürfnissen des Einzelnen nach Trost und Sicherheit angepasst.  Nun müssen eben diese kirchlichen Handlungen neue formen erhalten, um den echten religiösen Bedürfnissen aller Menschen z dienen und um den befreienden Auftrag  Gottes und de Kirche in dieser Welt zu verbreiten.


5.4         Besondere Aktionen


Über ihre normalen Aktivitäten hinaus müsste die Kirche Sonderprogramme, Aktionen und Kampagnen entwickeln, bezogen auf die besonderen Erfordernisse des Befeiungskampfes in Südafrika. Doch hier ist besondere Vorsicht geboten.  Die Kirche muss es vermeiden, zur „Dritten Kraft“ zu werden, die zwischen den Unterdrückern und den Unerdrückten steht.  Die Programme und Kampagnen der Kirche dürfen kein Duplikat dessen sein, was die bestehenden Organisationen bereits unternehmen, und – was noch ernster genommen werden muss: Die Kirche darf keine Verwirrung bringen, indem sie Programme entwickelt, die dem Kampf der politischen Organisationen, die die echten Anwälte der Klagen und Forderungen der Bevölkerung sind, entgegenlaufen.  Gegenseitige Konsultationen, Koordination und Kooperation werden vonnöten sein. Wir streben alle dasselbe Ziel an, auch wenn wir unterschiedlicher Auffassung über die endgültige Bedeutung dessen sind, wofür wir uns einsetzen.



5.5         Ziviler Ungehorsam


Steht die Tatsache fest, dass das gegenwärtige Regime keine moralische Legitimität hat und in der Tat ei tyrannisches System ist, hat dies gewisse Folgen für die Kirche und ihre Handlungsweisen.


Erstens: Die Kirche dar mit einem System der Gewaltherrschaft nicht kooperieren.  Sie darf oder sollte nichts tun, das einem moralisch nicht legitimen Regime den Anschein der Legitimität gibt.


Zweitens: Die Kirche sollte nicht nur für einen Regierungswechsel beten, sondern sollte in jeder Gemeinde ihre Mitglieder mobilisieren, darüber nachzudenken und dafür zu arbeiten und zu planen, wie ein Regierungswechsel in Südafrika zu erreichen ist.  Wir müssen vorwärts blicken und uns jetzt mit fester Hoffnung und zuversichtlichem Glauben für eine bessere Zukunft einsetzen.


Und schließlich bedeutet die moralische Unrechtmäßigkeit des Apartheidregimes, dass sich die Kirche zu gewissen Zeiten in Akitonen des zivilen Ungehorsams engagieren muss.  Eine Kirche, die ihre Verantwortung in dieser Lage ernst nimmt, wird sich manchmal dem Staat widersetzen und ihm den Gehorsam verweigern müssen, weil sie Gott gehorcht.



5.6         Geistige Führerschaft


Besonders inmitten unserer gegenwärtigen Krise erwarten die Menschen von der Kirche geistige Führerschaft.  Um dieser Erwartung gerecht zu werden, muss die Kirche zuerst ihren Standpunkt eindeutig festlegen und niemals müde werden, den Menschen ihren Standpunkt zu erklären und mit ihnen darüber im Dialog zu bleiben.  Dann  muss sie den Menschen helfen, ihre Rechte und Pflichten zu verstehen.  Es darf kein Missverständnis darüber bestehen, dass es die moralische Pflicht aller Unterdrückten ist, der Unterdrückung Widerstand zu leisten und für Befreiung und  Gerechtigkeit zu kämpfen. Ebenso wird die Kirche auch einsehen, dass sie manchmal Exzesse eindämmen und an das Gewissen jener appellieren muss, die gedankenlos und unkontrolliert handeln.


Doch die Kirche Jesu Christi ist nicht dazu gerufen, eine Bastion der Vorsicht und Mäßigung zu sein.  Die Kirche muss die Menschen herausfordern, inspirieren und motivieren.  Sie hat eine Botschaft vom Kreuz, die uns dazu inspiriert, für Gerechtigkeit und Befreiung Opfer zu bringen.  Sie hat eine Botschaft der Hoffnung, die uns dazu herausfordert, wach zu werden und mit Hoffnung und Vertrauen zu handeln.  Die Kirche muss diese Botschaft nicht nur in Worten, Predigten und Erklärungen verkünden, sondern auch durch ihre Aktionen, Programme, Kampagnen und Gottesdienste.




Wie wir bereits gesagt haben ist diese Dokument nicht endgültig.  Es ist unser Hoffnung, dass es Diskussion, Gespräch, Reflexion und Gebet anregen, aber vor allem zum Handeln führen wird.  Wir fordern alle verpflichteten Christen auf, diese Sache weiter zu verfolgen, mehr nachzuforschen, die Themen die wir hier angesprochen haben, weiterzuentwickeln oder Kritik an ihnen zu üben und mit den Fragen unserer Zeit zur Bibel zurückzukehren, so wie wir es versucht haben.


Obwohl dieses Dokument verschiedene Arten des Engagements andeutet, schreibt es dem Einzelnen eine bestimmte Handlungsweise nicht vor.  Wir rufen alle, die sich dieser prophetischen Theologie verpflichtet wissen, dazu auf, das Dokument großen und kleinen Gruppen zur Diskussion vorzulegen, um ihrer jeweiligen Situation entsprechend das richtige Vorgehen festzulegen und sich mit anderen Gruppen und Organisationen zusammenzutun.


Die hier vorgestellte Herausforderung zur Erneuerung und zur Tat ist an die Kirche gerichtet. Doch das soll nicht heißen, dass sie n ur für die Kirchenführer gedacht ist.  Die Herausforderung des Glaubens und des KAIROS unserer Zeit ist an alle gerichtet, die sich Christen nennen.  Keiner von uns darf es sich bequem machen und darauf warten, was unsere Kirchenführer oder sonst jemand uns zu tun heißen.


Wir alle müssen Verantwortung zum Handeln und zur Verwirklichung unseres christlichen Glaubens in dieser Lage übernehmen.  Wir bitten darum, dass Gott uns allen helfen möge, die Herausforderungen unserer Zeit in die Tat umzusetzen.


Wir als Theologen (Laien- und Berufstheologen) fühlten uns durch unser eigens Nachdenken äußerst herausgefordert; durch den gegenseitigen Gedankenaustausch und unsere Entdeckungen, die wir beim Treffen in kleineren und größeren Kreisen bei der Vorbereitung und Arbeit an diesem Dokument gemacht haben.  Wir sind überzeugt, dass diese Herausforderung von Gott kommt und an uns alle gerichtet ist.  Wir betrachten diese Krise oder KAIROS in der Tat als Heimsuchung Gottes.


Zum Schluss möchten wir unsere Brüder und Schwestern in der ganzen Welt bitten, uns in dieser Angelegenheit ihre notwendige Unterstützung zu geben, damit dem täglichen Verlust so vieler junger Menschenleben ein schnelles Ende gesetzt werden kann.



Unterzeichner des Dokumentes


1.  Dr. J.C. Adonis                        Belydendekring

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  25. Mrs M. Mabaso                  Lutheran
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  43. Mrs. Al Rathebe              Anglican
  44. Rev. W. Saayman              Dutch Reformed Church
  45. Rev. Nico Smith                 N.G. Kerk in Afrika
  46. Rev. E.T. Soeldner              Lutheran
  47. Rev. M.A. Stofile                Presbyterian Church
  48. Fr. F. Synnott          Roman Catholic Church
  49. Rev. E. Tema                    N.G. Kerk in Afrika
  50. Rev. B. Tshipa                   Lutheran
  51. Rev. Stemphen Warnes       Anglican
  52. Fr. X. Keteyi            Roman Catholic Church


We realise that many others would probably have wanted to add their names to this list.  Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons including time, distance and availability, we were not able to reach everyone who might have been interested.





Dr. Ben  Khumalo-Seegelken,

KwaMachanca, Alte Ziegelei 4,  D-26197 HUNTLOSEN,  eJalimane/Deutschland

Tel/Fax 0(9 49)4487-750285 


  • · Das KAIROS-Dokument ist ein christlicher, biblischer und theologischer Kommentar besorgter Christinnen und Christen in Südafrika zur tiefen Krise in ihrem Land 1985. 


Als das Apartheidregime Mitte 1985 den „Ausnahmezustand“ erklärte und infolge dessen immer mehr Menschen getötet, verstümmelt und ins Gefängnis geworfen wurden, als eine schwarze Township nach der anderen sich gegen Gesetze und Verordnungen der Apartheid auflehnte, als immer mehr Menschen sich – täglich den Tod vor Augen -, gegen die Unterdrückung wehrten und sich weigerten, Unrecht und Erniedrigung tatenlos hinzunehmen, und als die Armee der Apartheid in die Townships einrückte, um mit Gewehren ihre Herrschaft aufrecht zu erhalten, trafen sich über diese Situation besorgte Theologinnen und Theologen mit dem dringenden Bedürfnis, sich eingehend mit den aktuellen Entwicklungen zu befassen und darüber nachzudenken, welches die richtige und angemessene Reaktion der Kirchen und aller Christinnen und Christen in Südafrika sein müsste.


Das Dokument in der hier vorgelegten Form wurde im September 1985 veröffentlicht.  Es beschreibt den bis dahin geführten Diskussionsprozess, der fortgesetzt wird und zu dem nun auch die Partnerinnen und Partner aus der weltweiten Ökumene mit ihren Beiträgen gebeten sind. (Redaktion: Evangelische Pressestelle für Weltmission, Hamburg. EMW-Informationen Nr. 64/1985. ISSN 0175-7695).  Abschrift: Dr. Ben Khumalo-Seegelken, KwaMachanca, Alte Ziegelei 4, D-26197 HUNTLOSEN, eJalimane/Deutschland, Tel/Fax 0(9 49)4487-750285 , 30.04.2004.

* „cassspirs“ und „hippos“ sind beides gepanzerte Militärfharzeuge im Einsatz in den Townships.  Vom Turm der „casspirs“ wird Tränengas verschossen.  (Anm. d. Übers.)


° Wir halten an dem Begriff „Volk“ als Übersetzung von „the people“ fest, auch wenn dieser Begriff in der deutschen Sprache unpräzise und geschichtlich belastet ist. (Anm.d.Übers.)

Full address: Kairos SA to Parliament subcommittee solidarity conference on Palestine, Western Sahara and Cuba

FULL ADDRESS: Kairos SA to Parliament

Parliament 2

PREPARED FOR: Solidarity Conference in support of the People of Cuba, Western Sahara and Palestine: South African Parliament, Cape Town, 6 February 2014.

TOPIC: Palestine: Intensifying the struggle for self-determination and efforts to bring about a lasting solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, by Marthie Momberg.


Honourable Mr Magama, Members of the Portfolio Committee on International Relations and Cooperation, Members of the Diplomatic Corps, Chair, Distinguished Guests: Thank you for this opportunity to present the views of Kairos Southern Africa.

Kairos Southern Africa is an ecumenical voice on local and international issues of justice from within the broader Christian community. We are connected to Kairos movements worldwide that are all inspired by the liberation theology tabled in the 1985 South African Kairos document.[1] This includes Kairos Palestine and its declaration of steadfast faith, hope and love from within the suffering of Palestinians.[2]

Our Christian message is that we need to love our enemy. In the spirit of this message we want to overcome the dualism that enables separatism. We recognise the humanity of both the oppressor and the oppressed, and our actions are informed by our vision for a reconciled, just peace between Israel and Palestine. This does not mean that we are prepared to compromise our message of vigorously opposing injustice.

Just over a year ago, Kairos Southern Africa accompanied a group of senior clergy from South Africa to Palestine and Israel. On their return, they declared that it “felt like walking into another apartheid ambush”. The group included the heads of the Methodist and the Uniting Presbyterian Churches, the Secretary General of the Evangelical Alliance of South Africa, the Deputy Moderator of the Dutch Reformed Church, and a representative of the South African youth. I read from their media statement:

We affirm the right to security, self-determination and dignity for both the Palestinians and the Israelis. Real security is only possible through the exercise of justice. We are conscious how a literal reading of the Bible, one where the Israel of the Old Testament is confused with the State of Israel, can result in the oppression of people. We confirm that the crisis in the Holy Land is in essence not a religious conflict, but a political crisis brought about by the violation of international law.  As South Africans we believe we have a moral obligation to speak up and to stand with the oppressed.  We do not want to side against the Israelis, but we do want to uphold international law and fight against any form of injustice.”[3]

Today you will hear central themes from this message in our argument to support our request to the South African government.

  1. Whom do we regard as the People of Palestine?
  • Before the declaration of the State of Israel in 1948, the land called Palestine was populated by several groups: descendants of Arab Muslims from the vast Arab/Islamic empire that dominated Palestine from the seventh century; Arab Christians who were the descendants of the world’s first Christians; and small indigenous Jewish communities that were remnants of Palestine’s ancient Jewish kingdom. These people were all Semites who lived together in harmony until the Western Jews began arriving in the late nineteenth century. Some of these Jews sought a safe haven, but some sought land to conquer.
  • After the wars of 1948[4] and 1967, we call the following people Palestinians: the 4.4 million people in the occupied Palestinian territories (i.e. the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and East Jerusalem), the more than 6 million people who became refugees as a result of these wars and who are prohibited by Israel to return,[5] and the 1.4 million people who reside in Israel,[6] where more than 50 laws regulate their status at every level of life, relegating them to second-class citizens, based on ethnic and religious identity. Approximately three-quarters of the entire Palestinian population worldwide are refugees. All of them, Muslims and Christians alike, are our concern. The over half a million Israeli settlers in the occupied territories are not Palestinians, but illegal inhabitants in breach of international law[7] who nevertheless receive preferential treatment from Israel as the occupying force.

                 2.   What do we mean by intensifying the struggle?

If showing solidarity with the oppressed means merely issuing declarations, we say it is not enough.  If we as South Africans embrace the concept of Ubuntu, which emeritus Archbishop Desmond Tutu describes as part of our essential humanity as we participate and share in a network of interdependence and togetherness,[8] then we cannot confine ourselves to mere talk. We have to be much more actively involved.

Moreover, South Africans have a moral obligation to act, given our history of apartheid. Did the world not actively help to demolish our apartheid through boycotts, divestment and sanctions? Now the Palestinian Christians have asked the South African Christian community directly to act against Israel’s unjust regime.

What would constitute an appropriate response? Let us consider the options of a small entity occupied by a regional military super-power backed by the USA:

  • ­Is violent resistance against the violence of occupation a viable option? In 1985, the Kairos Document of 1985 recognised the violence of apartheid as the primary violence which elicited violent resistance from the liberation movements. The Kairos Document then, as Kairos Southern Africa does now, does not advocate violence. Instead we strongly advocate vigorous non-violent resistance.[9] We agree with the views of the delegates at the Kairos for Global Justice conference[10] who declared that:

“[s]ilence is an opinion. Inaction is an action … failure to resist the Israeli government…makes us accomplices in crimes against humanity, such as the crimes of apartheid and persecution as described in international law”.

  • ­What about negotiations? Israel claims that it wants peace and does enter into negotiations, but insofar as it does enter into negotiations, Israel does so in bad faith, as Israel continues, at the same time, to expand its settlements. Is there currently enough pressure to ensure that both sides will bring all parties to the table and honour international law and the outcomes of an agreement? We do not think so. The USA can hardly be seen as an honest and impartial broker in the peace talks between Israel and Palestine. Israel receives 25 per cent of the entire US foreign aid budget. Since 1976, Israel has remained the highest recipient of US foreign aid in the world.[11] Phyllis Bennis from the Institute for Policy Studies in the USA said that if the USA were serious about peace, it would tell Israel: “Stop building your settlements on Palestinian land.” Granted, the USA has made this request many times. If Israel continues to respond by refusing (as Israel has been doing all along), and if the USA is serious, it should then stop (1) funding to the State of Israel, and (2) protecting Israel in the United Nations. But the USA says and does none of this. The current negotiations are not bringing Palestine and Israel and the world closer to a viable peace.
  • ­Finally what about the option of non-violent resistance in the form of boycotts, divestment and sanctions? This is indeed what the civil society of Palestine called for in 2005.[12]

As South Africans, we should understand the urgency and the importance of Palestine’s appeal in the light of our own history. During the darkest hours of South African apartheid, an ecumenical group of South African theologians called the deepening crisis a Kairos moment of truth. They highlighted the danger of using literal, fundamentalist Biblical interpretations to rationalise theologies of oppression and state power. Such a Kairos moment, one which is decisive in history, may pass us by if we do not act timeously.

We are now faced by yet another form of apartheid, this time by Israel. We should note that  it is not considered apartheid in terms of what happened in South Africa, but is classified as a crime against humanity as defined by the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and as described by, for example, the Russell Tribunal and South Africa’s HSRC.[13]  We do not carry the responsibility of all history. We are responsible for our times. In that sense this opportunity is unique, it is for us to see, understand, and act upon, through non-violent means.[14]

However, the non-violent option of boycotts, divestment and sanctions is not favoured by pro-Israeli supporters. They tell us the situation is “complex” and that a “balanced approach” is necessary, hoping to lock their opponents into endless discussions to paralyse them. Their arguments also suggest that the two sides of the story carry equal weight and should be treated accordingly. Nothing could be further from the truth. How can Israel say that it wants peace, and simultaneously declare the construction of more settlement units, continue to build its Wall on Palestinian land, and continue all its other atrocities? Zionists argue that the people of Israel are “God’s chosen people” and that the “Promised Land” (which includes Palestine) was given to the Jewish people by God. They do not distinguish between the Biblical entity and the modern nation-state. They choose to read religious texts in a literal, divisive way in their justification of Israel’s attempt to transform the transnational and extraterritorial Jewish identity into a national, ethnocratic identity where Jewish citizens have more rights than others to establish political and economic control over the land.[15]  Like the South African theologians in 1985 who found the principles of love, inclusivity and pluralism in the Bible, rather than division, we reject fundamentalism and exclusivist interpretations of religious scriptures.

When one argues from the perspective of international law, the situation is actually very, very clear. Both Palestine and Israel need to adhere to international law, UN resolutions and other applicable legal rulings. Admittedly, there are periodically some incidents of illegal violence targeted at civilians by Palestinians, but these cannot be compared to Israel’s dedicated, discriminatory, systematic, systemic, institutionalised oppression of the Palestinians, which violates international law every single day and on multiple levels.[16]

The Israeli regime is in breach of legal aspects such as those belonging to the special regime of occupation, international human rights law,[17] international humanitarian law as specified in the four Geneva Conventions,[18] as well as various rulings by the International Court of Justice and resolutions by the United Nations’ Security Council.[19]

When South African apartheid violated human rights, the world quite rightly did not call for a “balanced approach” to the differences between the apartheid regime and the oppressed – the world condemned such practices unequivocally, as it should when human rights are violated in Israel/Palestine today.

3.         Kairos Southern Africa’s views on self-determination

We also support the aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians for security and self-determination in line with what international law allows. With regard to Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, we want to highlight five points:

  • All violence against all civilians, Palestinian or Israeli, must end.
  • Israel, a country that calls itself a democracy, must stop its discrimination on the basis of race, religion or any other factor against its Arab citizens.  Israel must be held accountable for its violations of human rights.
  • The more than six million Palestinian refugees have a legal right to return. A resolution of this matter consistent with international law and equity is necessary.
  • The Israeli occupation of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem must end. Until such time as this occupation does end, Israel as the occupying power must protect the Palestinian civilian population, administer the territory for their benefit, as specified by international law, and stop confiscating Palestinian land and resources under the pretext of “security”, or for any other reason.
  • The USA should not be the only broker in the peace negotiations and deals. In this respect the UN needs to meet its responsibilities.

Palestine has been under military occupation since 1967 – for 47 years. However the illegal confiscation of Palestinian land started through the actions of Jewish militia  before the State of Israel was declared in 1948. Since 1948 Israel’s land confiscation continues until this day as indicated by this map:

Israel’s confiscation of Palestinian Land: 1946 to 2014

The illegal ways by which Israel occupies the Palestinian territories effectively diminishes the possibility of self-determination. We are appalled that Israel uses its occupying power to take more and more land from the Palestinians whilst simultaneously destroying Palestinian infrastructure and making living conditions unbearable for Palestinians.[20]

In Gaza, the situation has reached an inhumane level. The living conditions, the depletion of livelihoods, and the decline in services and infrastructure for education, healthcare and water/sanitation are dire as a result of deliberate destruction. Miko Peled, a Jewish Israeli who served in the Israeli Defence Force, argues that Israel’s assaults on Gaza are part of a continuous campaign that started more than six decades ago with the infamous Unit 101, led by the late Ariel Sharon.[21] It is one of the most densely populated areas on earth, it now doubles up as an open air prison, since Israel controls the air space, the coastline and all land entrances to this area. There is no escape. A one-ton Israeli bomb can destroy an entire city block – on the first day of the Operation Cast Lead in December 2008, Israel dropped 100 tons of bombs on Gaza.[22]

In East Jerusalem and in the West Bank, Israel routinely demolishes houses, water wells and cisterns, roads, schools, animal shelters and other infrastructure; Israel displaces whole communities without offering them alternatives; the majority of Palestinians may not maintain or upgrade their own infrastructure; Israel confiscates valuable agricultural land in order to continue its building of the illegal Israeli Wall and settlements, and the movement of Palestinians is restricted by means of a series of checkpoints.[23]Amongst the many examples of double standards are the different roads for Israelis and Palestinians, and differences in the allocation of water resources and access to electricity. There is a military court for West Bank Palestinians and a civilian court for Israeli settlers. In these military courts, Palestinian children as young as 12 years old can be prosecuted. Each year 500 to 700 children are prosecuted, commonly for throwing stones. They are frequently arrested and detained at night, and more than half of them are held in prisons in Israel where they are tortured, abused and denied the right to have a parent present. The proceedings are held in Hebrew, although the children speak Arabic. Over 99% end in conviction.[24]

In the Jordan Valley, the Bedouin communities’ water consumption is about a fifth of the minimum recommended by the World Health Organisation. Nearby, the birds are singing in the lush green gardens of the settlements with their swimming pools and healthy crops. They are stealing our water,” a Palestinian community leader told me when I visited the region in 2011. “They plant flowers in the settlement and we don’t have water to drink.  The Israeli politics is to move us – should I then live in the air?”The Jordan Valley is the area furthest removed from the Green Line boundary with Israel, and it contains valuable agricultural resources. Israel controls 87% of this land.[25]

In a village where the Israeli Defence Force routinely uses so-called military practices to harass unarmed villagers who have no criminal records or charges against them, a child told me: “Our minds are not with our teachers when there is [military] training happening.”  Another said: “I started to cry when I arrived at my house after school and saw that it was demolished. We couldn’t remove anything from the house.”

“Our message to the world is to look at us as human beings” another community leader told me. “I am not a political person or a negotiator, but I need to feed my family. My message is for them to look at us as people who want our children to be educated.  I now need to drive a 35-40 km detour each day when I take my children to school because they closed my gate.  This means that our children are in the village while we are here and we cannot take care of them and their school work.”

Israel uses the pretext of “security” for its confiscation of land and its restrictions on where and when Palestinians may travel. Let me mention two examples that suggest another agenda:

  • When I monitored human rights violations in the World Council of Churches’ EAPPI programme,[26] we repeatedly reported that agricultural land which was allegedly confiscated by the Israeli Defence Force for military or security reasons was later used to plant settlement crops.
  • In September 2012, the Israeli Supreme Court rejected a petition challenging the Israeli authorities’ refusal to let five women from the Gaza Strip travel to the West Bank to complete their master’s degrees. The Israeli Supreme Court accepted the Israeli’s position that allowing the students to travel through Israeli territory would “undermine the ‘separation’ policy which is based on both security and political considerations.” In doing so, the court effectively approved restrictions on civilian travel between Gaza and the West Bank, even where no individual security concerns are raised.[27]

We need to ask ourselves whether the Israeli government’s and its supporters’ outrage at the escalation in BDS (boycotts, divestment and sanctions) actions against Israel is not perhaps hypocritical in view of Israel’s own restrictions on, and its oppression of, the Palestinians.

5.       A lasting solution

Kairos Southern Africa recognises that even ending the occupation and adherence to international law by both Israel and Palestine on its own will by no means solve all the problems.  The acts of an oppressor injure not only the oppressed, but the oppressor too, and the oppressor’s partners or allies. Some Christians in the United States, for example, recently confessed to the role their country played in both the Holocaust and in Israel-Palestine.[28] In South Africa we also have experience of how true this is.

At Kairos Southern Africa, we cooperate with South African, Palestinian and Israeli people who belong to the three Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Islam and Christianity) and who advocate for a just peace. These are people who share our values of inclusivity, pluralism and human dignity. We are not fighting people, we are fighting a system. We ask ourselves what will be necessary to ensure self-determination after occupation, and we want to be co-travellers with those who are willing to open themselves up to the Other, so that jointly we learn from one another, reconcile, and live a lasting peace.

6.         Kairos Southern Africa’s request

Any attempt to remain neutral in this kind of conflict is both futile and immoral. Neutrality enables the status quo of oppression to continue. It is a way of giving tacit support to the oppressor. We are not taking sides against the Israeli people, but we unequivocally reject the Israeli regime’s treatment of Palestinians. We want international law to be upheld, and join the struggle for justice by advocating non-violent resistance against any form of injustice.

In line with this endeavour, we ask you to actively accompany the Palestinian people in their quest for liberation and to be their voice in the international arena – as our late President, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, said, “we know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians” and others in oppressive situations.[29]

The role of the South African government is unique in the world, given our country’s history of apartheid and the ways in which we overcame the institutionalised injustices of this system. In 2014 we celebrate our twentieth year as a democracy, and the United Nations has declared 2014 a year of solidarity with the Palestinian people. By not responding when we know about the injustices and human rights violations suffered by the Palestinian people, we will be allowing and enabling an act of omission. By responding insufficiently, we will prolong the suffering and the damage. This is our Kairos moment.

Kairos Southern Africa expresses a moral standpoint. We are witnessing a worsening situation. We see Israel using negotiations to prolong the pain, to intensify the occupation and to confiscate more resources. All of this must now stop.  We want all the injustices to stop now, as we wanted for ourselves during our own struggle.

For this reason we request the following from our government:

  • We want complete military, diplomatic and financial sanctions against Israel until it complies with all applicable UN resolutions and international law, and ends the occupation.
  • In the global arena, we want our government to lobby for the financial and other support for the Palestinians for socio-economic development after the end of the occupation.
  • We want our government to implement the above two requests and to table these request at both the African Union and the United Nations.
  • We also call on all political parties in South Africa to clearly communicate their stance on the plight of the Palestinian people and to make their views known timeously in the build-up to the 2014 elections.

[1] The Kairos Document is a theological statement issued in 1985 by a group of black South African theologians based predominantly in the black township of Soweto, South Africa. The statement challenged the churches’ response to what the authors saw as the vicious policies of the Apartheid state under the State of Emergency declared on 21 July 1985. The Kairos Document evoked strong reaction both in South Africa, and world-wide. This example of contextual theology served as an example for critical writing at decisive moments in several other countries and contexts such as in Brazil, the USA, India, Palestine, etc.

[2] Kairos Palestine. 2009. A moment of truth: A word of faith, hope, and love from the heart of the Palestinian suffering. Jerusalem. [Online]. Available: [2011, 20 December].

[3] 8 December 2012, Jerusalem.

[4] With regard to 1948, there are two very different narratives: what Zionists call a War of Independence (“we fought bravely and won against all odds and by the grace of God”) is to Palestinians and supporters of human rights the Nakba (the Catastrophe).

[5] The total number of refugees is estimated at 9.8 million by the Badil Resource Center. [Online]. Available: [2014, 3 February].

[6]  The population of Palestinians around the world totalled 11.6 million in 2012, according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics. [Online]. Ma’an News Agency.  2012. PCBS: Palestinian population reaches 11.6 million in 2012. [Online]. Available: [2014, 3 February].

[7] In 2011, the settler population was estimated at over 520,000; the annual average rate of growth during the past decade was 5.3% (excluding East Jerusalem), compared to 1.8% for the Israeli population as a whole (ICBS), according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA). 2012a. The Humanitarian Impact to Israeli Settlement Policies. [Online]. Available: documents/ocha_opt_settlements_FactSheet_December_2012_english.pdf. [2014, 3 February]. All settlers in the occupied Palestinian territory “are illegal under international law as they violate Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits the transfer of the occupying power’s civilian population into occupied territory. This illegality has been confirmed by the International Court of Justice, the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention and the United Nations Security Council.” UNOCHA. 2012b. The Humanitarian Impact of Israeli Settlement Policies. January. [Online]. Available: [2012, 23 September].

[8]Tutu, D. 2000. No Future without Forgiveness. London: Rider Books. (pp. 31, 166, 196).

[9] Although the use of arms against military targets is recognised as lawful under international law, as Bennis argues, we believe that the law only manages the conditions of war, whilst we want the war to stop. Bennis, P. 2012. Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict. A primer. Northampton: Olive Branch Press.  (p..3).

[10] Kairos Palestine. 2011. The Bethlehem Call. [Online]. Available: default/Documents/The%20Bethlehem%20call.pdf. [2014, February 3]. .

[11] Kairos Palestine. 2011. The Bethlehem Call. (p.86).

[12]“Launched on 9 July 2005 by more than 170 Palestinian parties, trade unions, refugee networks, NGOs and grassroots associations, calling on international civil society organisations and people of conscience to “impose broad boycotts and implement divestment initiatives against Israel similar to those applied to South Africa in the apartheid era”.  Barghouti O. 2013. Is BDS’ campaign against Israel reaching a turning point?   Opinion piece in Aljazeera. [Online]. Available: [2014, 3 February].

[13] United Nations. 2002. Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. [Online]. Available: [2012, 11 October].

Russell Tribunal on Palestine. 2011. Executive summary of the findings of the third session of the RToP. A systematic and institutionalised regime. [Online]. Available: en/sessions/south-africa/south-africa-session-%E2%80%94-full-findings/cape-town-session-summary-of-findings. [2013, 21 September].

Human Sciences Research Council.  2009. Occupation, Colonialism, Apartheid? A re-assessment of Israel’s practices in the occupied Palestinian territories under international law.  Cape Town: HSRC.

Roadmap to Apartheid. 2012. [Documentary film] Directors: Ana Nogueira, Eron Davidson, Nathaniel Cunningham. Cinematography: Ana Nogueira. Narrator: Alice Walker. USA. English. Producers: Ana Nogueira & Eron Davidson.

[14]Boesak, A. 2011.  Kairos Consciousness.  [Online]. Available: 2011/05/03/kairos-consciousness. [2014, 18 January].

[15] Rabkin, Y. 2010. Zionism a ‘terrible enemy’ of Jewish people. Cape Times, 10 March.

14 Braverman, M. 2010. Fatal Embrace. Christians, Jews, and the Search for Peace in the Holy Land. Austin, TX: Synergy Books. (p. 348); Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI). 2010. An Unjust Settlement. A Tale of Illegal Israeli Settlements in the West Bank. Jerusalem: Emerezian Est.; Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI). 2009. Silently Displaced in the West Bank. Jerusalem: Emerezian Est.; Oxfam. 2012. On the Brink. Israeli settlements and their impact on Palestinians in the Jordan Valley. [Online]. Available: 160 Oxfam Briefing Paper. Available: [2012, 1 August].; Russell Tribunal on Palestine. 2011. Executive summary of the findings of the third session of the RToP. A systematic and institutionalised regime. [Online]. Available: sessions/south-africa/south-africa-session-%E2%80%94-full-findings/cape-town-session-summary-of-findings. [2013, 21 September].; United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. 2012a. Demolitions and Forced Displacement in the Occupied West Bank. January. [Online]. Available: ocha_opt_demolitions_factSheet_january_2012_english.pdf. [2012, 2 February].; United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. 2012b. The Humanitarian Impact of Israeli Settlement Policies. January. [Online]. Available: ocha_opt_settlements_FactSheet_January_2012_english.pdf. [2012, 23 September].; United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. 2011. Israeli Settler Violence in the West Bank. November. [Online]. Available: FactSheet_October_2011_english.pdf. [2012, 23 September].

[17] Protecting individuals in war and in peace.

[18] Covering civilians caught up in war and armed conflict areas.

[19] EAPPI. 2009:11.

[20] If Palestinians gain access to 50,000 dunums (12,500 acres or 3.5% of Area C) of uncultivated land, this could generate a billion dollars of revenue per year (The World Bank.)  UNOCHA. 2012c. Humanitarian Fact Sheet on the Jordan Valley and Dead Sea Area. [Online]. Available: ocha_opt_ jordan_valley_factSheet_february_2012_english.pdf.  [2014, 18 January].

[21] Peled, M. 2012. The General’s Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine. Charlottesville: Just World Books.

[22] Op.cit. 166

[23] Article 55 of the Hague Convention stipulates that “the occupying state shall be regarded only as administrator and usufructuary of public buildings, real estate, forests, and agricultural estates belonging to the hostile State, and situated in the occupied country. It must safeguard the capital of these properties, and administer them in accordance with the rules of usufruct” (EAPPI 2010:100). This stipulation is ignored, as is evident from Israel’s confiscation of land and water resources, the home demolitions and evictions, the harassment, violence, vandalism and incitement (EAPPI 2010:12-95), as well as from the illegal Israeli Wall and its associated regime, the many checkpoints and transport restrictions, and the discriminatory court system whereby illegal Israeli settlers have access to a civil court and indigenous Palestinians are put on trial in an Israeli  military court (EAPPI 2009:24-79). Further evidence can be found in recent statistics on demolitions and forced displacements in the West Bank (UNOCHA 2012a).

[24] Military Court Watch. [Online]. Available: 4755A52Y2mp3c4v. [2014, 18 January].

[25] The Jordan Valley and Dead Sea area covers around 30% of the West Bank, and is home to nearly 60,000   Palestinians. Of this land, 87% is designated as Area C, virtually all of which Palestinians are prohibited to use, It is earmarked instead for the use of the Israeli military or under the jurisdiction of Israeli settlements. The permitted water consumption is 20 litres/capita/day in most herding communities in the area, compared to the WHO recommendation of 100 l/c/d, and the average settlement consumption of 300 l/c/d. UNOCHA. 2012c. Humanitarian Fact Sheet on the Jordan Valley and Dead Sea Area. [Online]. Available: [2014, 18 January].

[26] I served in 2011 in the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI).

[27] UNOCHA. 2013. Fragmented Lives. Humanitarian Overview 2012. [Online]. Available: [2014, 4 February]. The petition was jointly filed in 2012 by an Israeli and a Palestinian human rights organization (Gisha and Al Mezan) on behalf of the affected women. Four of the women, who are now in their 40s, were forced to discontinue their studies in 2000, following the outbreak of the second Intifada and Israel’s subsequent revocation of travel permits for many Gazans between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. All four women hold various positions in civil society organizations promoting democracy and women’s rights.

[28] Kairos USA.2012. Call to Action. U.S. response to the Kairos Palestine Document. [Online]. Available: [2012, 11 August]. (pp1-2).

[29]Mandela, N. Address by President Nelson Mandela at the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. African National Congress website. [Online]. Available: [2014, 5 February].

UNISA Inaugural lecture 19/11/2013: Revival of Kairos Consciousness, by Prof Ignatius Swart

Revival of a kairos consciousness:

 Prolegomena to a research focus on religious and social change in post-apartheid South Africa


Ignatius Swart

Inaugural lecture

University of South Africa

19 November 2013




In post-apartheid South Africa new theological claims are being made about an apparent ‘rebirth’ of the kairos theological tradition – or ‘kairos consciousness’ – which had rendered decisive theological and political direction to the movement of ecumenical mainline churches in the country in their opposition to apartheid and the apartheid state.[1] In the first instance, these can be considered as claims that may be directly related to the launch in early 2011 of Kairos Southern Africa, an organisational initiative that resulted from a noticeably deepening concern amongst ecumenical leaders and theologians from mainline descent about the theological and church sector’s lack of contribution to the public good in post-apartheid South Africa.[2] Accordingly, Kairos Southern Africa eventually came into being as a direct result of this concern to serve as an ecumenical association and network of Christian individuals and groups, explicitly aiming to newly ‘carry forward the legacy of Kairos theology in Southern Africa’ and ‘to be in solidarity with others throughout the world’[3] by finding its direct orientation in The Kairos Document from the late apartheid years. In an elaboration of this organisational aim worth quoting, Kairos Southern Africa further states in the latest draft of its constitution:  

Kairos Southern Africa recognises the interrelatedness and interdependence of the struggle of peoples of Southern Africa, and the role that faith played and continues to play in the humanisation or dehumanisation process in our different countries and regions. The South African Kairos document of 1985 recognises that Church and State Theologies, while often dominant, need the corrective of Prophetic Theology in order for faith to be credible. The Zimbabwe Kairos document of 1988 builds upon this prophetic tradition. This organisation and network is now conceived and established to reconnect and nurture the prophetic voice that recognises God’s face in the face of the poor and most marginalised people in Southern Africa.[4]

In the second instance, it can be considered as appropriate to also relate the claims of a reviving kairos consciousness in post-apartheid South Africa to a broader movement of ecclesial organisations. According to this identification, glimpses of such a consciousness could firstly – and even prior to the establishment of Kairos Southern Africa – be recognised in a gradual new critical positioning of particular ecclesial institutions vis-à-vis the post-apartheid South African state. This new critical stance has conspicuously involved the strategic decision by the South African Council of Churches (SACC) in the early 2000s to shift from a position of ‘critical solidarity’ with the state to one of ‘critical engagement’,[5] which has since led to increasing instances of friction and tension between the SACC and the country’s ruling party.[6] At the same time, the new critical reorientation has also involved other prominent denominations from mainline descent such as the Catholic Church and Anglican Church following suit and criticising the government and the country’s political leadership at times for the nature of its particular involvement in addressing the HIV/Aids pandemic, the bad moral behaviour of political leaders (not least as reflected in the behaviour of Jacob Zuma, the country’s current president), the degree to which efforts have been made to fight poverty and corruption and address inequality, and the ANC’s inability to address failures in the education and health systems.[7]

In the third and final instance, it could well be postulated that the claims of a reviving kairos consciousness are today most boldly manifested by the way in which the leadership of a broad ecumenical representation from South Africa’s mainline churches has in recent times sought to critically engage with the African National Congress (ANC). More specifically, this identification of a critical engagement refers, firstly, to an initiative by Kairos Southern Africa, which led to an ecclesial letter that was presented to the ANC as theological and ethical reflections a few months before its centenary celebrations in April 2012.[8] Secondly, however, it also refers to another ecclesial letter that was issued almost exactly one year later under the title ‘The church speaks … for such a time as this…’ (hereafter referred to as ‘The church speaks’). In comparison to the first letter – also known as ‘Kairos 2012’ – this second letter could be distinguished by its even stronger kairos-like tone, through which it sought to address not only the ANC prior to its National Conference in Mangaung in December 2012 but importantly, also the economic leadership as well as the most poor and oppressed citizens of the country. Importantly, however, this second letter would not only be issued in the name of Kairos Southern Africa; it also carried with it the support and formal endorsement of the leadership of the SACC, the Church Leaders Consultation and The Evangelical Alliance of South Africa (TEASA).[9]

On the basis of this threefold observation up to this point, my point of departure in this inaugural lecture is one that duly wants to acknowledge what appear to be visible signs of a reviving kairos consciousness in the present-day post-apartheid socio-religious landscape. At the same time, however, this acknowledgement also leads me to go one step further by observing how this new development appeals strongly to my own interest in researching the nexus between religious change and social change in post-apartheid South African society. This research focus is as much concerned with how religion and religious traditions manifest themselves as dynamic, changing phenomena over time as with how religion and religious traditions also hold the potential to act as catalysts of social change (both negatively and positively) in broader society. Consequently, I will devote the rest of this lecture to a discussion that can at the most be regarded as a prolegomena to this research focus.

Given the limited time and space at my disposal to present this lecture, I will set out to outline two tasks as an introduction to what I foresee from a sociologically oriented point of view as a longer-term research focus of considerable complexity. My point of departure is a new interest in the socio-religious reality of a reviving kairos consciousness in present-day post-apartheid South Africa but indissolubly related to this is also an interest in the question of the potential and actual role of the country’s historic mainline churches as reviving change agents. Firstly, I will present an exploratory perspective on the discourse and appeals encountered in the aforementioned two ecclesial letters, which could be regarded as the boldest manifestation to date of the socio-religious reality of a reviving kairos consciousness. Secondly, I want to look forward to an envisaged longer-term research focus that would be steered by the research question about the prospects of a reviving kairos consciousness actually becoming a meaningful catalyst of positive social change that would affect both the quality of South Africa’s democracy and the socio-economic prospects of the masses of poor and excluded citizens in such an anticipated context. In other words, in this outline of the broad contours of such a research undertaking, I will attempt to identify other topical concerns that need to be taken into consideration and researched in relation to a concern with the post-apartheid kairos theme. This is necessary, more specifically, since these topical concerns pertain significantly to other pertinent realities that in their own right not only influence and shape a more complex contemporary post-apartheid socio-religious landscape, but also influence and challenge the contribution that the reviving kairos consciousness could make to social change.

Probing deeper into the reviving kairos consciousness: The case of the first ecclesial letter

In continuing a discussion of the two ecclesial letters, particularly as their contents reflect the most expressive indication to date of a reviving kairos consciousness in post-apartheid South Africa, I find it helpful to quote from a recent reflection by well-known Reformed liberation theologian, Allan Boesak, on what he considered to be the essential meaning of such a revitalised kairos consciousness. Boesak formulated his reflection in response to a request by Kairos Southern Africa and commented:

A Kairos consciousness is a critical consciousness. It discerns and critiques the situation in which we live. It understands that it is a situation of life and death. There is a conflict – between rich and poor, oppressor and oppressed, powerful and powerless, beneficiaries and victims, those who are included and those who are excluded. In that critique there is no room for sentiment and romanticism – people’s lives are at stake. The crisis we are facing is not just economic, social and political, it is a moral crisis.[10]

Indeed, if taken as our hermeneutical lens, Boesak’s description may well lead one to suggest that, as a public statement, the initial expression of a reviving kairos consciousness through the first of the two letters – ‘Kairos 2012’ – did not quite meet the critical standards that are required by such a consciousness. Thus, if viewed through the lens of Boesak’s description, a closer look into the contents of this first letter of 17 pages may well lead one to discover a text that appears too benign in the way in which it approached the ANC and that, as such, had given way to the kind of sentimentalism and romanticism that Boesak refers to: firstly, by beginning with a word of congratulations to the ANC on its achievements in the struggle against colonialism and apartheid and, secondly, by going to great lengths to appreciate the shared legacy of the ANC and the churches in the struggle for liberation during different periods of South Africa’s history.[11]

I want at this point to draw attention to the way in which some in the Kairos Southern Africa network have found it necessary to criticise the ‘Kairos 2012’ letter[12]  for falling short of the critical inclinations that characterised and defined the two kairos documents of the apartheid era: ‘Challenge to the Church’ and ‘The Road to Damascus’. According to this critique, whereas these two documents ‘were hard-hitting pulpit-bashing denouncements of the evils of the day’,[13] ‘Kairos 2012’ did not reflect the same boldness of character. In contrast, it did not denounce the crimes and injustices of the post-apartheid state – corruption, greed, theft and tender fraud, lack of accountability, lack of transparency, lack of services to the poor, and classism – in the same measure. Instead, as a public statement it could be seen as treading ‘softly around the ANC, gently offering a few “words”’ and lacking a ‘loud prophetic voice speaking the truth and demanding conversion’. In effect, this letter could be criticised for its fear of the state’s authority, for not daring to speak out sufficiently against the erstwhile ‘liberator’s corruption’.[14]

Because of the limited space and time that this inaugural lecture allows me, I want to confine myself here to briefly acknowledging and appreciating this critique of ‘Kairos 2012’ for (a) introducing a very necessary debate about the mode of a revitalised kairos discourse in a post-apartheid, democratic South African dispensation; and (b) substantiating an argument about the limitations of the ‘Kairos 2012’ letter specifically in the light of Alan Boesak’s recent reflection. At the same time, however, it seems to me quite unfair to conclude a discussion of this letter by not at least expressing some appreciation for the way in which it made a founding contribution to a reviving kairos consciousness in post-apartheid South Africa. I want to make two points in this regard.

Firstly, as a letter addressed to the ruling party of the day, ‘Kairos 2012’ does grow in critical kairos-like tone and intention as the discussion progresses, both in its words of self-criticism and critical judgement.[15] In self-critical fashion the letter ultimately not only raises concerns about recurring tendencies of ‘state’ and ‘church theologies’ in post-apartheid South Africa, which it sees as being manifested respectively in the way in which church leaders are (again) ‘at the ‘service of the party’ in a ‘party political sense’ and in the way in which South African Christians are (again) adopting a ‘neutral’ stand on the social realities in the country.[16] In a further word of ‘caution and concern’ it also proceeds by presenting its own analyses of the current South African situation to the ANC as one of deep concern about the country, its people and its future. Accordingly, it warns that ‘things can go terribly wrong if not addressed properly and as a matter of urgency’,[17] after which it proceeds to elaborate on nine concerns in particular that it sees as manifestations of the current undesirable situation.[18]

Yet ‘Kairos 2012’ also deserves some appreciation for the way in which it closes with a new-found affirmation of how those within the Kairos Southern Africa network will continue to re-orientate their theology and action within a prophetic mode. To this extent, one could well observe how the letter shows some resemblance with the way in which The Kairos Document from the late apartheid years closed its own address[19] by likewise making a statement about a new-found commitment to action according to which the Kairos Southern Africa network would over the next ten years be focused on ‘closing the gap between the richest and the poorest in South Africa, by attempting to empower both’.[20] Not least, however, it is in the light of this commitment to action that one can appreciate the way in which the letter also deems it necessary to further strengthen the impact of its message by concluding with ‘a prophetic word to the ANC’; more specifically, it urges the ANC to begin to focus more proactively on the challenges of the current period as it foresees that ‘[a] time will come when the history of the struggle against colonialism and apartheid will become dim’ and young people especially ‘will look forward rather than backward’.[21]

Secondly, I also find good grounds for further appreciation in Kairos Southern Africa’s own explanation of why it wrote the ‘Kairos 2012’ letter to the ANC. Thus, even if it may be regarded as a text moderate in its kairos inclination, ‘Kairos 2012’ could in the light of Kairos Southern Africa’s explanation be appreciated for its contribution as an ongoing ‘confidence-building exercise’ assisting the South African Christian community towards regaining ‘its confidence after almost 20 years of almost complete silence and ineffective witness in the new democracy’.[22] Accordingly, even if more could be expected in terms of a critical voice and engagement, it could be argued that ‘Kairos 2012’ has contributed at least in some moderate but not insignificant way to a reviving public voice and mobilisation of the Christian community and its churches in present-day post-apartheid South Africa. This, one could argue, has manifested itself and continues to manifest itself in especially four ways: first, the way in which the printed and electronic media have given greater exposure than before to the Christian community and its churches by communicating the concerns expressed in the letter to the South African public; second, the way in which the ANC has itself found it necessary to meet and engage in discussion with a delegation of Kairos Southern Africa about the contents of the letter on more than one occasion; third, the way in which the letter has become a catalyst for discussion and dialogue in the electronic and social media and at public meetings; and fourth, the way in which the letter today forms the basis of a one million signature campaign showing the support of Christian individuals, groups and churches but also of members from the South African public at large.[23]     


Enhancing the critical tone: The case of the second ecclesial letter

If it is possible to criticise the ‘Kairos 2012’ letter for being too moderate in tone and even for succumbing to the temptation of being sentimental and romantic, the same critique could certainly not be delivered against the second of the two ecclesial letters under discussion: ‘The church speaks … for such a time as this’. In comparison to the first letter, this second letter not only appeared more strongly positioned from the outset because of its broader support base, as already mentioned, but this broader support base clearly also gave its authors the confidence to present a 10-page public statement with a conspicuously enhanced critical tone.

A closer look into the contents of the letter evinces an ecclesial text that, unlike ‘Kairos 2012’, clearly finds little scope for celebrating the historical path to liberation in South Africa. Instead, in a mould that very much resembles The Kairos Document from the late apartheid years, a similar claim is made right at the start of the letter that the current South African situation indeed has the qualities of a new ‘kairos moment’, ‘a special moment’ when God is speaking to South Africans ‘in particularly urgent tones’.[24] Accordingly, as far as the letter is concerned, this ought to be regarded as ‘a moment that requires transformational leadership and action’.[25] In its references to the biblical texts of Amos 5:13 and Psalm 37:7, it further suggests that these may even be considered as ‘evil times’, which require the South African Christian community to break its own silence and speak out.[26]

At this point I want to suggest that the second of our two letters under discussion here, ‘The church speaks’, could well be appreciated and interpreted precisely as an ecclesial text that wants to achieve this purpose: to break the silence of the South African Christian community on alarming social developments in the post-apartheid dispensation, but to do so with a reinvigorated kairos-like voice more urgently and critically than in ‘Kairos 2012’, the first of our two letters. From this perspective, I want to highlight several defining elements of this second letter.

  • For ‘The church speaks’, breaking the silence and speaking out in a reinvigorated kairos-like voice entails first and foremost (not unlike ‘Kairos 2012’) that the South African Christian community and its churches need to look inward and confess their ‘own complicity’ and ‘relative prophetic silence’ on detrimental developments in contemporary South African society. This indeed becomes a noticeable feature close to the beginning of the letter, where confessional statements are made about various issues, not the least about the Christian community’s failure in the post-apartheid era to stand united against the problem of poverty, fulfil its role in helping to strengthen civil society, and cooperate with political and economic leaders to ensure abundant life for everyone in the country.[27]
  • For ‘The church speaks’, breaking the silence and speaking out in a reinvigorated kairos-like voice secondly means that the South African Christian community and its churches had to proclaim anew a message of hope in the faithfulness of God as the underlying and ultimate beacon. This theme of hope surfaces clearly in the section that directly follows the various confessional statements and that has as its subheading the question whether there is hope for South Africa’s democracy. Like The Kairos Document of old, the letter clearly wants to proclaim the message that there is hope for the country,[28] exactly because of the knowledge that God is faithful and the historical experience of how God made it possible to defeat colonialism and apartheid.[29] At the same, however, it is exactly because of such sustained hope that the letter finds it necessary to direct itself most pointedly to the reigning powers of political and economic leadership in the country. For the letter, this has become necessary because South Africa has become a place where ‘the dream of a just, non-racial and prospering democracy is temporarily in eclipse’, precisely because of a generation of leaders who are promoting ‘an increasingly corrupt political, business and societal culture’, who ‘have largely lost their moral compass’, and who are today contributing ‘to more and more racial alienation and growing cynicism’ among the country’s people.[30]
  • For ‘The church speaks’, breaking the silence and speaking out in a reinvigorated kairos-like voice therefore implies, thirdly, that the South African Christian community and its churches were compelled to address themselves as a matter of great urgency first to the political leaders and the government of the day. In the section that follows, with the subheading ‘We speak to you, political leaders’, one accordingly encounters a text of great intensity and frankness in which the theme of hope is significantly reintroduced to challenge the political leaders and government of the day to recognise how their words and actions are in actual fact ‘leading many South Africans towards cynicism and away from hope’.[31] Yet from this point on the letter pursues its interrogation of the current leadership by also posing the question to them whether they could understand how, as a most specific derailment of a spirit of hope in South African society, their waste of public resources has led to ‘a culture of impunity and immunity’ that has once again made the poorest sections of the population ‘the main victims of bad governance’.[32] Consequently, for the letter this interrogation in turn provides the sufficient grounds to finally make an extensive, seven-fold plea to the current political leadership to become newly awakened to current adverse developments and re-orientate their actions towards constructively addressing particular critical issues.[33]
  • For ‘The church speaks’, breaking the silence and speaking out in a reinvigorated kairos-like voice, fourthly, necessitated that the South African Christian community and its churches also had to broaden their address to include the economic leadership of the country. In what could be regarded as a significant broadening of scope in comparison to ‘Kairos 2012’ (which still sought to address the country’s political leadership exclusively), the letter acknowledges as a limitation on the part of the churches that they have not addressed the economic leadership of the country before.[34] Consequently, a significant defining element of the letter becomes the way in which it, in a subsequent section under the subheading ‘We now speak to you, economic leaders, trade unions, etc.’, seeks to remove this blind spot. Whilst this is done by also expressing appreciation of the economic players in South Africa society who have been acting with integrity and have been taking risks to grow the economy, a critical stance similar to that taken against the political leaders is ultimately adopted. Through a form of interrogation that comprises ten sets of critical questions, the main thrust of this questioning of the economic leaders is to indicate that they have made little contribution towards achieving a fairer, more equal and inclusive economic order in post-apartheid South Africa. Instead, as evident from one of the sets of questions, they are reproached for being more concerned about maximising the short- and medium-term profits of their companies through mechanisation, specialisation and optimisation than about the long-term future of the country through job creation, education of the youth and applying sustainable business practices.[35]      
    • For ‘The church speaks’, breaking the silence and speaking out in a reinvigorated kairos-like voice, fifthly, necessitated that the South African Christian community and its churches also had to speak to the most poor and oppressed in the country, in addition to the political and economic leaders. Accordingly, in the section that follows the address to the economic leaders, the letter distinguishes itself significantly from both The Kairos Document and ‘Kairos 2012’ by now not only speaking on behalf of or for the poor and oppressed, but directly to them.[36] More significantly still, in doing this the letter in effect recognises the agency role of the poor and oppressed in the current context. In what could be regarded as being effectively an allusion to the letter’s earlier reference to the events in the towns of Marikana and De Doorns during the second half of 2012,[37] this recognition is conveyed more specifically by expressing a word of gratitude for ‘the strong messages from the poorest on the mines and the farms’, who through their protest actions have brought South Africans to the realisation that the country is, in kairos-like terms, in fact facing ‘a crisis moment’.[38] For the letter, furthermore, this reality of the protest actions of the poor could be compared to the image of a cracking ‘house’,[39] which urgently calls for the institution of ‘a new social compact’[40] that should be put to the test by way of eight pertinent questions that the poor should put to government, business and society at large.[41] However, if the answers to these questions turn out to be negative, the letter concludes, the workers and youths of the country will ‘have no choice but to break down the foundations so that something completely new can emerge’.[42]
    • For ‘The church speaks’, breaking the silence and speaking out in a reinvigorated kairos-like voice, sixthly and finally, required that the South African Christian community and its churches had to reclaim their commitments to action in the current context in authentic kairos-like terms.[43] This is expressed in a list of seven commitments on their part, which mention such critical issues as corruption, education, employment, the ecology, and revitalising the voice of the church and the rest of civil society.[44] Not least, one may infer how this commitment takes on even more political overtones in the covering letter that accompanied the actual letter. Directed directly to President Jacob Zuma, it states:

[I]f political leaders do not take seriously what we are saying we will continue to strengthen and support the Church’s role within the civil society movements, especially those working amongst the poorest of our people to bring about a more healthy democracy. At this moment we believe that our democracy can be significantly improved.[45]

It is hardly surprising, then, given its enhanced critical tone, that ‘The church speaks’ would attract even more attention from the printed and electronic media than was the case with ‘Kairos 2012’.[46] In contrast to ‘Kairos 2012’, this second letter would not similarly become connected to a public signature campaign, and neither did it lead (for obvious reasons, one might say) to any meeting between the leadership that endorsed the letter and the ANC. At the same time, however, based on an exploration of the articles and reports that emanated from the media at the time when ‘The church speaks’ was released, it could be claimed that the message sent out to the South African public suggested that a decisive turn in the relationship between the country’s ecumenical movement of mainline churches and the post-apartheid state may have taken place as result of the letter; that is, a turn that is not only reflected by the message of these churches in the letter, but certainly also by how the ANC responded to this message.[47] In the words of one of the media reports that followed its release, through this letter public concern at the state of the nation was expressed that could be regarded as ‘almost unprecedented in South Africa’s recent history’. The report continued by comparing the letter to the way that the churches last came out as strongly ‘in the 1980s when late apartheid repression was at its worst and the Kairos Document movement started’.[48]

Prospects of a reviving kairos consciousness? Towards researching a more complex post-apartheid socio-religious landscape

This seems to be the right moment to more explicitly acknowledge the recent contribution of the South African public theologian Clint le Bruyns to my topic. In a paper delivered a few months after the release of the first of the two letters (‘Kairos 2012’) at a consultation of Brazilian and South African theologians at the University of South Africa,[49] Le Bruyns significantly raised the question of whether it was in fact possible to speak of ‘the rebirth of kairos theology’ at this point in South Africa’s post-apartheid history.[50] He responded positively to this question, based on his conviction that the establishment of Kairos Southern Africa and the release of the ‘Kairos 2012’ letter in particular could be taken as signs not so much of the rebirth of a kairos theology, ‘but of a kairos theological tradition with its kairos consciousness marked by contextuality, criticality and change’.[51] For Le Bruyns, this development therefore demanded from all those who are active role-players and thought leaders within various theological paradigms in present-day post-apartheid South Africa – such as black theology, liberation theology, womanist theology, feminist theology, confessing theology, African theology and public theology – to once again take cognisance of the apparent ‘rebirth’ of a kairos consciousness in the post-apartheid socio-religious landscape. Moreover, it required that they ‘seriously consider’ the implications and responsibilities of this development for public theologians in present-day South Africa, in one way or another.[52]

In offering this lecture as nothing more than a prolegomena to an anticipated larger and more complex research focus on religious and social change in present-day post-apartheid South Africa, I find important support in Le Bruyns’s injunction that we need to place the thesis of a reviving kairos consciousness at the centre of such a research focus. From the point of view of my own interest in researching religion’s potential and actual contribution to critical, positive social change, I want to go along with Le Bruyns by identifying the recent visible manifestations of a reviving kairos consciousness (with both letters being a visible manifestation of this) as undoubtedly the most serious sign to date in the post-apartheid dispensation of a new publicly expressed critical awakening within the religious sector about socio-political and socio-economic developments in South African society.

At the same time, however, it is at this point of identification with Le Bruyns that I want to steer my own research focus in a more cautious, sociologically inclined direction, guided by the question about the prospects of a reviving kairos consciousness to actually become a meaningful catalyst of social change in the present-day South African context. In what can be understood as an attempt to situate my own research over against a mere construction of theological ideas on the reality of an apparently reviving kairos consciousness, an all-important point of departure will be the hypothesis that the prospects of a reviving kairos consciousness actually contributing to meaningful, far-reaching social change in present-day post-apartheid South African society can by no means be taken as a foregone conclusion at this point in time. More specifically still, as the basis of this hypothesis, my own ongoing attempts at sense-making are taken into account, according to which I have identified at least four pertinent topical concerns that need to be taken into account and investigated in a research project focused on religious and social change specifically concerned with the prospect of a reviving kairos consciousness to contribute towards meaningful, far-reaching social change.[53] I now conclude this lecture with a brief exposition of these concerns.  

 First amongst my list of topical concerns, on the basis of a wider exploration of the scholarly literature on religion and society in post-apartheid South Africa I am indeed struck by the extent to which the claims of a reviving kairos consciousness – with which I have associated myself in this lecture – are in fact not shared by the majority of contributions to this corpus of literature. These contributions present an almost complete antithesis to the claims of a reviving kairos consciousness, claiming instead that as a collective South Africa’s mainline churches and their leadership in particular have become trapped in the post-apartheid post-colonial condition, relegated by the post-apartheid state but also by civil society and their own theological orientation to the margins of public discourse and engagement.[54]

This apparent divergence clearly calls for a first layer of supplementary research questions to be explored in relation to the main question of a reviving kairos consciousness. The important first question that arises from this engagement with the aforementioned corpus of critical literature is whether these recent expressions of a reviving kairos consciousness – in the form of the establishment of Kairos Southern Africa and the dynamics around the two ecclesial letters that followed – do not at least call for some kind of corrective to the outright critical perspectives from this corpus of literature. Since the proponents of those critical perspectives have not taken account of these most recent developments in their own reflections, are they not challenged to at least start rethinking their own position, in so far as these developments may point to a prevailing ability in South African mainline Christianity to transform at least sections within its ranks into new ‘project identities’[55] that exert themselves in the cause of positive transformation? As such, are we not here in fact witnessing the beginnings of a meaningful transformation in the identity politics of a particular religious representation in post-apartheid South African society that will continue to escalate in terms of its impact both on its own constituency and on the wider society? Or will ongoing research over time rather show the opposite: that the initiatives to revive a kairos consciousness was from the start the undertaking of a few concerned leaders and individuals; that it ultimately by and large remained pitched at the leadership level, not even meeting the target of its one million signature campaign; that on an even more profound level it did not succeed in influencing and transforming the popular consciousness and theological orientation of a substantial section of post-apartheid mainline Christianity, so much so that this religious representation has remained statically stuck in its dominant post-apartheid identities of legitimisation[56] (of the reigning powers of political, economic and social hegemony)[57] and resistance[58] (characterised by withdrawal to the private sphere and denominationalism);[59] and lastly, that it did not deliver or was not able to deliver on its promises and commitments towards mobilisation, empowerment, social change and creation of socio-economic opportunities to which I referred in my discussion of the two ecclesial letters earlier in this lecture?

I take as the clue to the second of my topical concerns the way in which the country’s ruling party, the ANC, has responded to the message of those actors at the centre of the new kairos awakening. The media reports that followed the release of the second letter well support the thesis that the country’s ruling party has done nothing through its response to contradict the existing social theory that ‘the postcolonial state does not tolerate the development of religion as a critical voice’.[60] This is captured by the rather fretful statements from the ruling party that the bishops should ‘back off’, that their outcry was seen as a ‘mischievous warning … directed to the ANC’, that the letter formed part of a broader sectoral effort to ‘manipulate’ the outcome of the ANC’s Mangaung conference of December 2012, that ‘the bishops needed to engage the ANC, showing respect, instead of engaging in mudslinging’, and that it was a matter of principle that ‘the ruling party would not allow any sector to write the ANC’s policy’.[61] It is in these statements that I find the necessary grounds to start formulating a second layer of supplementary research questions to be explored in relation to the main question of a reviving kairos consciousness.

If it could be said that the above-mentioned first layer of questions more specifically pertains to an exploration of the actual ability of a reviving kairos consciousness to contribute over time to meaningful, far-reaching social change in South African society, it could also be said that the second layer of questions would more pertinently deal with the power of the post-apartheid state, as a most important force of the post-apartheid post-colonial condition, to impede on such ability over time. Accordingly, some of the important questions that come to mind here are: How will the post-apartheid state react in the longer term to a reviving kairos movement that may prove itself over time to grow in popular appeal, intensity, criticality and ability to deliver on its promises of mobilisation? Whilst the actors of a reviving consciousness may at present still be allowed to publicly speak out as critically as they wish, in terms of the rules of post-apartheid South Africa’s formal democracy, will this still be allowed by the state in a potential context of growing criticality and mobilisation? Given the immense powers at its disposal, what will the longer-term impact be of the state’s already evident actions to marginalise actors from the reviving kairos ranks – most noticeably amongst them to date the South African Council of Churches[62] – in terms of public representation, dialogue and access to resources? How will a reviving kairos movement overcome this marginalisation and what measures and avenues will be necessary to empower and promote itself independently from the state? Not least, how will this movement relate to those more benign formations from the present-day post-apartheid religious sector – of which the recently established National Interfaith Council of South Africa (NICSA) serves as a particularly good case in point – that are today favoured by the state in consultations and partnership discussions?[63] And, in a situation in which the mantra of religion-state partnership can and will no longer represent the magic bullet[64] for what clearly remains an ambition also for the reviving kairos actors – to on the basis of the commitment they have made in the second of their ecclesial letters contribute towards meaningful economic development in the form of employment creation for all people in the country  – what will the development paradigm be but also the resource base on which they will rely to meet that ambition?[65]

I find it necessary to deal, as the third of my topical concerns, even more pointedly with the issue of the increasingly marginal position of the South African Council of Churches (SACC), hinted at in the second layer of questions above. However, here I should mention immediately that I have more in mind than merely a concern with the post-apartheid state’s deliberate attempts to side-line this ecclesial formation. Of even greater concern is the fact that, whilst the SACC and its leadership may at present still enjoy a prominent place in the ranks of the reviving kairos, recent media reports and observations from the scholarly literature reflect a pessimistic picture of an organisation that has not only lost its former appeal and influence, but also one that faces potential closure because of a lack of financial and institutional support.[66]

Faced with this reality, it therefore seems inevitable that a third layer of questions will also take more pertinent account of the implications of the SACC’s institutional decline not only for mainline ecumenism in post-apartheid South Africa in general but also for the prospects of a reviving kairos conscious to actually contribute to meaningful, far-reaching social change in the longer term. From a point of departure that would juxtapose the historical strength of the SACC as critical centre of mainline ecumenical solidarity in South Africa with its current position of ongoing decline,[67] leading the way towards a deeper exploration should certainly be the question of the extent to which post-apartheid mainline ecumenism has been weakened by this decline. In the current context in which South Africa’s mainline churches have by all accounts lost the critical central point of focus that the SACC provided and in the process have also shown their reluctance to sustain and reinvigorate this centre, does this in fact signal the overall decline of mainline ecumenism in South African society that will not easily be reversed? Do we in fact encounter here, as some scholars suggest, the reality of structures that have become obsolete not only in the South African context but indeed also globally?[68] Does this signal the historical end of a particular ecclesial dynamics in South Africa and elsewhere? Or will a new dynamics emerge from the current ecumenical crisis, characterised by the ability of particular established mainline traditions to reposition themselves as critical actors independently from, but also through the formation of, new creative and appropriate ecumenical formations? As such, whilst it at present still draws on the support of the SACC and its leadership, will the emerging critical ecumenism resolving around the reviving kairos consciousness set out in this lecture not reflect such possibility of repositioning and reinvigoration? Does the way in which a formation such as Kairos Southern Africa utilises the technology of the information age – most notably the Internet[69] – to function as an organisation and network, communicate its message, establish connections and dialogue, and meet its aims of mobilisation, not indicate the way forward for cost-effective ecumenical reinvigoration? And will it not be through the support rendered by prevailing strong structures such as the Anglican Church of Southern Africa and The Evangelical Alliance of South Africa – which others such as the Catholic Church may eventually join[70] – that one will see the reviving kairos consciousness grow in momentum and impact? Or will research ultimately show that South African mainline Christianity permanently lost the critical centre that the SACC once provided and, accordingly, that the endeavours to revive a kairos consciousness remained the concern of a critical few?         

Fourth and last on my list of topical concerns, I regard it as inevitable that a deeper exploration of my research focus will in the last resort take into consideration the factor of post-apartheid South Africa’s ever-changing religious demography. My interest in this regard lies more specifically with what a growing body of supporting literature suggests is the ever-diminishing position of mainline Christianity and its churches in the South African socio-religious landscape to the benefit of especially the charismatic and Pentecostal Christian faith traditions.[71] This process has led to a substantial diversification of the post-apartheid socio-religious landscape in which mainline Christianity and its churches no longer hold the centre but rather take their place amongst what one scholar of religion refers to as the proliferation of other phenomena that ‘shape the nature and character of Christianity in the post-apartheid era’.[72] This implies that a fourth layer of questions should necessarily be concerned with the implications of these demographic developments for a reviving kairos consciousness contributing to social change in the longer term.

As a modest attempt to develop better insight into phenomena as complex and vast as the charismatic and Pentecostal faith traditions from a South African perspective, I find it best to focus my exploration here on the question of what scope the charismatic and Pentecostal faith traditions in contemporary South African society may also offer after all in support of a kairos theological orientation. In other words, instead of merely opting for a negative outlook in which the related factors of mainline decline and charismatic and Pentecostal growth are seen as detrimental to the prospects of a reviving kairos consciousness, my emphasis will fall on exploring what I would like to refer to as the question of the ‘exception’ regarding the case of the charismatic and Pentecostal phenomena in present-day post-apartheid South Africa. Accordingly, whilst there may be much substance in a thesis that a particular dominant spiritual, theological and ecclesial orientation much different from the kairos theological orientation may be found in South African charismatic and Pentecostal Christianity,[73] the question that could be asked is whether this presents us with the complete picture? In particular, what might new comparative case study work reveal about the actual perceptions and attitudes of ordinary believers and their leadership towards the new kairos texts, that is, both in mainline as well as charismatic and Pentecostal settings? Based on such a comparative exploration, what differences but also similarities might emerge from these settings? Will it in fact be a case of mainline perceptions and attitudes proving to be more positive and receptive, or will a more blurred, mixed and complex picture in fact emerge in which the opposite also holds true between the different settings? In addition, what picture will emerge from those mainline settings that have themselves been markedly influenced by the charismatic and Pentecostal traditions? And how would this differ in those African indigenous (AIC) settings where the charismatic and Pentecostal traditions have likewise left their mark? In all, what picture of post-apartheid popular religiosity will emerge from such comparative case study work as a whole? Will it strengthen perceptions of a most important counterforce characterised by its aloofness, if not opposition, to the ideas of a reviving kairos consciousness, or will it offer surprisingly different results?


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[1]     Le Bruyns 2012; see also Boesak 2011.

[2]     Le Bruyns 2012:4-6; Ntlha & Arrison 2011.

[3]     Kairos Southern Africa n.d.:1; cf. Le Bruyns 2012:6; Nthla & Arrison 2011.

[4]     Kairos Southern Africa n.d.:1.

[5]     Bompani 2006:1146; see also Kuperus 2011:289-295.

[6]     See De Waal 2012; O’Grady 2011.

[7]     See Bompani 2006:1145-1147; Faul 2011; News24 2010.

[8]     Kairos Southern Africa 2011.

[9]     The leaders who signed the covering letter that accompanied the actual letter were Reverend Edwin Arrison, General Secretary of Kairos Southern Africa; Bishop Joe Seoka, President of the SACC; Anglican Archbishop Thabo Makgoba of the Church Leaders Consultation; and Reverend Moss Nthla of TEASA (see Makgoba, Seoka, Nthla & Arrison  2012).

[10]    Boesak 2011:2.

[11]    See Kairos Southern Africa 2011:1-10.

[12]    See Cormick 2012a; 2012b; Khumalo 2012a; Mbanjwa 2012.

[13]    Cormick 2012a:1; 2012b.

[14]    Cormick 2012a:1; 2012b.

[15]    Cf. Boesak 2011:2-3.

[16]    Kairos Southern Africa 2011:10-11, 15.

[17]    Kairos Southern Africa 2011:12.

[18]    The concerns listed and elaborated on are: 1. Factionalism within the ANC; 2. The need for economic justice and closing the gap between rich and poor; 3. Maintenance of a proper order and structure within the security and intelligent forces and the link between this (or the lack of this) and the increase of criminality. 4. Corruption (including in party political activities); 5. Maintaining a real social cohesion in the country; 6. The unsustainability of an opulent ‘America dream’ lifestyle; 7. The poor standards of education for the vast majority of the poor in the country; 8. Making solidarity with the oppressed across the world a key to South Africa’s international relations; and 9. Respecting the constitution of the country (Kairos Southern Africa 2011:13-14).

[19]    See The Kairos Document 1988:37-40.

[20]    Kairos Southern Africa 2011:16.

[21]    Kairos Southern Africa 2011:16.

[22]    Kairos Southern Africa 2012a.

[23]    See Arrison 2012; City Press 2012a; 2012b; Kairos Southern Africa 2011:18-32; 2012a; 2012b; 2012c; 2012d; Khumalo 2012a; 2012b; 2012c; Khumalo-Seegelken 2012; Le Bruyns 2012:7-8; Marthiemombergblog n.d.; Mbanjwa 2012; n.d.

[24]    SACC et al. 2012:1; cf. Boesak 2011:1, 3; The Kairos Document 1988:7-8.

[25]    SACC et al. 2012:1.

[26]    SACC et al. 2012:2.

[27]    SACC et al. 2012:2.

[28]    See The Kairos Document 1988:35.

[29]    SACC et al. 2012:3-4.

[30]    SACC et al. 2012:3.

[31]    SACC et al. 2012:4.

[32]    SACC et al. 2012:4.

[33]    The critical issues listed and elaborated on are:

  • The loss of hope and growth of cynicism and anger, with specific reference to the events in the towns of Marikana and De Doorns in 2012;
  • The abuse of power as well as the corruption and self-serving among politicians;
  • The prevalence of  ‘sickening double-talk’ whereby politicians speak out against corruption, but at the same time participate in various forms of corruption or turn a blind eye to it;
  • The prevailing mediocrity in political leadership and the accompanying tendency to put the interests of the party above those of society;
  • The voice and needs of the young people in the country;
  • The need to stop the decay of the education system;
  • The need to implement the National Development Plan (SACC et al. 2012:4-5).

[34]    SACC et al. 2012:6.

[35]    SACC et al. 2012:6-7.

[36]    See SACC et al. 2012:7-9.

[37]    See footnote 33.

[38]    SACC et al. 2012:7; cf. Swart 2013a; The Kairos Document 1988:7.

[39]    SACC et al. 2012:7-8.

[40]    SACC et al. 2012:9.

[41]    SACC et al. 2012:8-9.

[42]    SACC et al. 2012:9.

[43]    SACC et al. 2012:9-10; cf. Kairos Southern Africa 2011:16; The Kairos Document 1988:37-40.

[44]    SACC et al. 2012:10.

[45]    Makgoba, Seoka, Nthla & Arrison  2012:2.

[46]    See Cape Argus 2012; City Press 2012c; Cropley 2012; Devenish 2012; Ghosh 2012; Jones 2012; Mail & Guardian 2012; Mkokeli 2012; Rossouw 2012; The Presidency 2012; Times Live 2012. 

[47]    The following comprises a collection of articles and reports that reflects both these aspects: Cape Argus 2012; City Press 2012c; Cropley 2012; Ghosh 2012; Jones 2012; Mail & Guardian 2012; Mkokeli 2012; Rossouw 2012; Times Live 2012.

[48]    City Press 2012c.

[49]    Le Bruyns more precisely presented this paper at the Brazil-South Africa Consultation on citizenship and interculturality held at the University of South Africa on 23 March 2012.

[50]    See Le Bruyns 2012:4-8.

[51]    Le Bruyns 2012:6, 7-8.

[52]    Le Bruyns 2012:6.

[53]    I first identified these thematic or topical concerns in a paper presented at the conference on the ‘Impact of Religion: Challenges for Society, Law and Democracy’ held from 20-22 May 2013 in Uppsala, Sweden. I repeated the same insights in a public lecture presented at the Uppsala Centre for the Study of Religion and Society at Uppsala University. See Swart 2013b. 

[54]    I have identified the following contributions that reflect this claim in one way or another: Cochrane 2009; Kumalo & Dziva 2008; Maluleke 2010; Mkhatswa 2007; Rule & Mncwango 2010; Storey 2012; West 2009.

[55]    In seeking meaningful sociological categories to theorise about agency and the possibility of social change in present-day South African society, I am drawing on the three typologies of identity formation identified and conceptualised by eminent sociologist Manuel Castells in his recent work on the ‘Network Society’ (cf. also a similar reliance on Castells’s work from a South African perspective in Tayob 2004). Briefly, the first of the typologies, namely ‘project identities’, indicates those social actors of contemporary civil society who are able to ‘build a new identity that redefines their position in society and, by so doing, seek the transformation of overall social structure’ (Castells 2004:8, 10). In contrast, the second identity type, namely ‘legitimising identities’, refers to those actors or institutions of civil society that are instrumental in upholding and reinforcing the dominant institutions of society to extend and rationalise their structural domination vis-à-vis other social actors (Castells 2004:8, 9); the third, ‘resistance identities’, refers in turn to those social actors who, as a result of the devaluation and stigmatisation that they experience because of society’s dominant institutions and ideologies, build defensive identities whereby they reverse the value judgement forced on them and at the same time reinforce boundaries of separation (Castells 2004:8. 9; see also Castells 2004:419-428). 

[56]    See footnote 55.

[57]    This, noticeably, is a line of critique that surfaces strongly in the literature referred to in footnote 54 above.

[58]    See footnote 55.

[59]    These elements are likewise highlighted in the critical discussions of the authors referred to in footnote 54.

[60]    Tayob 2004:21; cf. Bompani 2006:1144-1145; Kumalo 2013:9-10. 

[61]    See Mail & Guardian 2012; Mkokeli 2012; Rossouw 2012.

[62]    See De Waal 2012; Kuperus 2011:289-295; IOL News 2009a; 2009b; Makoni 2009; Mataboge 2009; Sosibo 2012a.

[63]    The way in which this umbrella body and its predecessor, the National Interfaith Leadership Council (NILC) replaced the National Religious Leaders Forum (NRLF) in a series of events since 2009 as official forum through which a partnership relationship between the country’s religious sector and the state would be promoted has been covered quite extensively in the electronic media. See inter alia African National Congress Parliamentary Caucus 2010; Free Society Institute 2009; Howden 2010; Makoni 2009; Peyper 2010; Rhema Ministries n.d.; Rossouw 2009; South Africa Government Information 2009; Suderman 2011.    

[64]    Cf. Swart 2010:19.

[65]    See footnote 44 and the corresponding main text in this lecture.

[66]    See in addition to the references in footnote 62: Cochrane 2004:229; 2009:100-102; Khumalo-Seegelken n.d.; Maluleke 2010:154; Sosibo 2012b.

[67]    Cf. Khumalo-Seegelken n.d.; Kuperus 2011:289-296.

[68]    Tinyiko Maluleke equates the decline of the SACC with that of the World Council of Churches after the Cold War (Maluleke 2010:153-154). See also Cochrane 2009:100-102; Khumalo-Seegelken n.d.:3.

[69]    Cf. Castells 2000; 2004; Swart 2006:175-188, 215-222.

[70]    Cf. in this regard James Cochrane’s comparison between the SACC and the South African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) in which he portrays a picture of the SACBC as far more dynamic and able than the SACC in the post-apartheid dispensation (Cochrane 2009:100-102).

[71]    See Anderson 2005; City Press 2012d; Cochrane 2009; Comaroff & Comaroff 2004; Czeglédy 2008; Erasmus 2012; Hendriks & Erasmus 2001; 2005; Howden 2010; Pew Forum 2006:89-90.

[72]    Cochrane 2009:103-104.

[73] This different orientation is captured in some of the literature listed in footnote 71.

Why Kairos SA wrote the Centenary letter to the ANC

Why Kairos SA wrote the Centenary letter to the ANC in 2012

We were primarily responding to the “moment” (kairos) that we sensed in the ANC centenary celebrations, and to two questions we constantly heard:

a.       Where is the (prophetic) voice of the Church in society today?

b.      Are we facing a new Kairos?

(Using the letter C to frame our response to the question about why we wrote the letter) 

  1. We wrote it to clarify the role that the churches/ Christian community has played over the years, even in and prior to the establishment of the ANC, and the kind of choices the church made and need to think about now as we move forward.
  2. We wrote to communicate some of our concerns, particularly about corruption.
  3. We also wrote it as a confidence-building excercise, to assist the Christian community to regain its confidence after almost 20 years of almost complete silence and ineffective witness in the new democracy.
  4. In the process we also took co-responsibility for what is happening in South Africa. From our perspective, this is really the most honest and most responsible position for the faith community to take.
  5. We wrote because we wanted the ANC to see the need for change in direction and to focus not so much on the past, but on the present and the future.

Some results we have seen and possible future actions:

  1. We have now seen how the Kairos SA letter to the ANC is acting as a catalyst for discussion and action
  2. We are also hoping that the faith community will more and more see itself as part of progressive civil Society  and strengthen itself in order to link with and work more with the rest of civil society. But if the faith community does not, it must understand that “even the stones will begin to cry out”.

We now think there is another “moment” approaching, viz. the 20th anniversary of our democracy, and for this we aim to begin a process of listening to at least 50 focus groups throughout the country. We cannot wait until 2014 to start this process. But first we are “loosening the ground” with the above process and campaign.

The 20th Anniversary of the democracy will of course be preceded by intense discussions about land ownership in South Africa since we will commemorate the centenary of the 1913 Land Act in 2013.


2012 Steve de Gruchy Memorial lecture – Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu

Rondebosch 24 April 2012

Title:   God is God’s Worst Enemy

Preamble: It is a very great honour to have been invited to give this inaugural lecture in memory of this outstanding and brilliant young theological leader, Steve de Gruchy and as I extend yet again our deepest condolences to his dear parents John and Isobel, we all mourn a wonderful life cut short so tragically. I must straightaway apologise that this will not be an academic lecture as it should have been. No, it is going to be the rambling musings of a decrepit octogenarian fast approaching dotage. It was Steve’s death that prompted my musings and that provoked my title.

I was General Secretary of the SACC when I first visited Taize in France. I was attending one of their hauntingly beautiful services with their distinctive Taize chanting when as it were out of the blue I was struck by the imagery of Revelation 7 of the 144, 000, the perfect number of the blessed – and inspired to think of sending 144 South African youth of all races on what would be a Pilgrimage of Hope – 144 would represent a reconciled South Africa and that they would be an anticipation of a non racial, non sexist, democratic South Africa. When I returned home this group of young South Africans, the nucleus, the first fruits, this adumbration of a South Africa at peace with itself was assembled, led by the late Bishop Bruce Evans and then Father now Bishop Mervyn Castle. They visited Taize, Geneva and the Holy Land. Steve was one of those pilgrims.

His father recently told me that that pilgrimage had a profound effect on Steve in shaping his views about what sort of country he wanted. You know he had a brilliant career as a student. He went to work in Kuruman and saw what suffering forced removals and the Bantustan policy inflicted on its victims.

My next encounter with him was when he wanted a foreword for a book in which he was collaborating about human sexuality where he was advocating as you would expect equity for gay men and lesbians. And then that young pilgrim gained a PhD at UWC and I capped him as the Chancellor. He was already establishing himself as a distinguished academic and leading scholar and activist. Knowing his parents one realized he had really chosen well to be endowed with the genes he had inherited. Lately he was becoming a leading environmentalist which explains this olive tree. I read a glowing tribute to him by the WCC. Now wouldn’t most normal people have said “Wow, this man is priceless – worth his weight in platinum. He is almost indispensable in an evolving South Africa that wants to be free, democratic, non racial, non sexist? This one who had experienced a Pilgrimage of Hope, had worked where we could see the devastation caused by policies obsessed with race instead of caring for people as human beings, with a brilliant intellect, who realized just how vulnerable our natural environment is – would you not want to draft him into your team?” But it seems God thinks quite differently. That, dear friends, is what provoked the title of this commemorative lecture. God is God’s Worst Enemy.

What would the Roman Catholic Church have looked like had Pope John 23 lived to see Vatican 2 to its logical conclusion? What would have been the state of ecumenical relations? We obviously don’t really know but could extrapolate and conjecture and say it is reasonable to think that they would have been other than they are today. But Pope John’s life was cut tragically short. We could multiply examples – John F Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr, Mahatma Gandhi, Chris Hani, Robert Sobukhwe, Steve Biko etc, etc. Do you understand the reason for my title?

Further Evidence

Let us start with the biblical evidence. Virtually all those who are the stars in God’s drama are flawed, some almost to the point of nullifying their good attributes. None of those playing in God’s team is without blemish. Joseph, his doting father’s pampered favourite must have been a pain in the neck as he revelled in telling the stories of his dreams predicting his future prominence when his older brothers would end up fulfilling his dream predictions by their obsequious fawning. His aging father, Jacob was no better having cheated his famished brother Esau of his birthright with the help of a colluding mother both willing to deceive an ailing old man virtually on his death bed. Even their ancestor Abraham who was God’s friend thought nothing of passing off his wife Sarah as his sister to save his own skin. Moses had a foul temper. He smashed the tablets on which God had inscribed the Decalogue because he saw the Israelites dancing around the golden calf which his brother Aaron said had emerged marvellously from the molten precious stones he had thrown into the fire. David had been almost immaculate until he espied Bathsheba bathing and committed adultery with her and arranged for the killing of her husband Uriah. Don’t you think Elijah remarkably courageous standing up as he did for Yahweh against Queen Jezebel and her conniving husband King Ahab insisting that Yahweh alone was Israel’s God? But would you not agree sadly that he blotted his copybook spectacularly when he presided over the slaughter of the prophets of Baal. Would you not feel much the same about Samuel and Saul? Saul seems a much nicer person for sparing Agag while Samuel speaking for God is so bloodthirsty as he hacks Agag ruthlessly to death with all his household.

It really is not much better in the New Testament. It is one of his own disciples who betrays Our Lord and another, who was to become the chief of the apostles denied his master not once but three times. And they all abandoned Him, leaving Him in the lurch. The one who was to become the leading evangelist and theologian of the new movement started out as a persecutor of the movement he was to promote and even after his conversion was forever engaging in self justification.

And just think of the Crusades, the Inquisition, the burning of heretics at the stake. Christians, Muslims and believers in some deity or other have been responsible for slavery, lynching, for the Holocaust, for apartheid etc.

Someone observed that God’s servants were programmed to fail. It is in the texture, the make up of this universe that there will be suffering and failure and distress, a feature of the nature of things that evokes the heartrending, anguished cries “But why” or “But why me/us Lord?” Could this universe not have been planned differently to work out in a way that did not inflict so much and so frequently seemingly gratuitous suffering? St Theresa of Avila is reported as observing to God “ No wonder your friends are so few considering how you treat them!” We learn too how Mother Teresa of Calcutta experienced agonizing desolation in her prayer life for most of her life.

Why, Why?

We have heard or even ourselves uttered the agonizing cry “But why….” In an ultimate sense I really don’t know. In the end for me as for most of us it is a mystery and I have to accept that I must have a reverent agnosticism. Why did God create precisely this sort of universe? I would have to be God to know the ultimate answer. But there are things that I have noted. Why would a good God permit such atrocities to happen when they happen? Most of us have our understanding of power. Most of us reckon it does mean not being frustrated in achieving your purpose. We have been socialized to understand that power enables you to get what you want when you want. We cannot really understand an omnipotence that can be frustrated in achieving its goal. It is one of the abiding mysteries that there can be the oxymoron of a weak omnipotence. But I think this is the wonder of the God we worship, that God says “I gave you a gift, the gift of free will and I will respect that gift”. God would not use God’s power to compel us to choose the right. We really are free to choose, to commit the horror of a genocide or whatever. And God will sit there weeping, making available God’s grace to enable us to choose the right. But it is grace, it is a gift which we are free to accept or refuse. It would be contrary to God’s nature to ram God’s gift down our throats. It would no longer be a gift. This God does behave oddly. God chooses not the powerful achieving ones, God chooses a motley group of slaves to be eventually God’s Chosen People to accomplish God’s purpose for the world. This is a God who sides with the poor, the downtrodden, the despised. That is not the way of the world. Those God chooses are not deserving. It is grace, it is a free, unearned, unearnable gift, for which no one can be worthy. The Christ died for us whilst we were yet sinners, not when we were die able for – no precisely when we did not deserve it was when God’s gift came. It is an extraordinary set up. The Good Shepherd goes not after the good sheep, not after the cuddly lamb as most of our pictures depict him. He leaves the perfectly well behaved sheep to go and find the obstreperous ram which, having found it, He carries joyfully on His shoulder home. And Jesus pronounces quite categorically that there is in this God’s heaven more joy over the one sinner who repents than over the ninety nine who needed no repentance.

There are other standards at work here. One might say “Couldn’t God have created a pain free universe?” I don’t know what it would have been like – how would we have learned to be compassionate, gentle and caring if there were none of those whose suffering evoked those attributes in us? Would a Nelson Mandela have evolved into the magnanimous moral giant he has become without the twenty seven years of anguish and imprisonment? He went to prison an angry Commander in Chief of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the ANC’s armed wing, believing in the efficacy of violence. The 27 years of imprisonment burned away the dross and he emerged to become the icon of forgiveness and reconciliation and is rightly feted by the entire globe. Would this metamorphosis have been possible without the anguish of 27 years imprisonment?

God has placed us in this universe and it is a universe precisely because it isn’t chaos and has laws that make it possible for those who live in it knowing to plan, to predict what to expect – that if a baby fell out of a window gravity would send it crashing to the ground and not miraculously to float upwards. Why did God not suspend that law to save the baby? If gravity was suspended we would have a chaos happening. The regularity of nature enables us to plan ahead knowing on the whole what is going to happen, but it comes at a cost, that generally miracles will not happen that see a suspension of the natural laws.

The Mystery of God

Looking at what has happened as we have made a mess of living in God’s world, God has not given good advice from a safe distance; God has staggered us by entering the fiery furnace because God is Immanuel, God with us. God with us in joy and in sorrow, in light and in darkness, in success and in failure, in life and in death, this God comes down and participates in our entire existence – this God is born and lives as one of us, the life of the poor and despised and dies, the immortal dies and we are called to share this eternal life. I don’t understand it. I just accept it. Julian of Norwich concerned about the fate of sin is assured that God will make all things well.

I want to end this by quoting a poem by Isobel who has written an anthology “Making all Well” inspired by her reading of Julian’s Revelations of divine love.

Poem 68 You will not be Overcome

In my deep distress, O Lord I turned to your promises:

I shouted them to you:

I flung them back at you:

“The Lord protects you;”

“The Lord will deliver you,”

“No evil will befall you, for his angels will bear you up so that you do not dash your foot against the stone.”

I clung to these, o Lord, but there was no protection;

no deliverance – no angels to lift our son up – only the stones dashing his head – the waters covering him, death claiming him.

What about your promises- O Lord, where were you?

Then I remembered those other promises:

Promises that Jesus made:

“The gate is narrow and the way hard.”

“You have a cross to carry daily.”

“The world will hate you.”

For he did not say, “You will not be tempted, You will not be troubled, You will not be distressed.”

But he did promise, “you will not be overcome.”

No easy ride,

no special privileges,

Cling only to his promise to love you:

Whether things are going well, or, everything is falling apart,

be strong in your faithful trust,

For you will not be overcome.

Kairos SA update no 8: November 2011

Dear Kairos Friends,

 As we move towards the end of the year, let me begin by wishing all those who will read this Kairos update a blessed Advent and Christmas. What a year this has been! We have wished the “Arch” well on his 80th Birthday and wrote a letter of support for him after he expressed his disappointment at the way he and the Dalai Lama were treated by the SA government. If you have not read our statement, it can be found at

One more Kairos event will happen from 4 – 10 December 2011. This will be a gathering in Bethlehem in Palestine to focus on a Global Kairos for justice. The Southern Africans who will be present at that gathering (representing Kairos Southern Africa) will be Zwanini Shabalala and Solomon Nxumalo from Swaziland and Stiaan vd Merwe, Luleka Nyhila, Emily Mnisi, Jenni Samdaan and Marthie Momberg from South Africa. This is a strong delegation and they will represent us well, and will come back to share with us what they have learnt from Kairos Palestine, Kairos USA, Kairos Europa, Kairos Netherlands, Kairos Sri Lanka, etc.

 Some of our members will also be at COP 17, and we wish them well as they attend this very important gathering.

Dr Boesak has mentioned to us that he will speaking at one of the COP 17 events. We still hope that, instead of working in silos, those focussing on the environment/ecology and those focussing on social and economic justice, will see that this is one kairos moment that we are all facing together, and that we will see this not only as a theoretical reality, but practically work together to deal with this kairos moment, even though from time to time some might prefer to focus on a particular aspect of this kairos. Hopefully in 2012 we can spend some time reflecting on the Kairos events and COP 17 and craft a joint strategy for the way forward.

 Over the past few months

  • We worked with the University of Johannesburg to host Dr Allan Boesak to speak about his forthcoming book on “New Frontiers in Liberation theology”.
  • We welcomed people from the Alternative Tourism group (ATG) to South Africa. They focus on alternative pilgrimages to the Holy Land and would like to work with us to ensure that as many South Africans as possible take part in these kinds of pilgrimages.
  • We addressed the Anglican Church’s Provincial Standing Committee and we also met with Dr Isak Burger as well as with Juan Minnie (who leads these kinds of pilgrimages) and then they visited the Free State before coming to Cape Town. A big thank you to Fr Mokesh Morar for an excellent programme for them in the Free State.
  • I was then asked to be the Event Manager for the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, where we listened to the testimonies of both Palestinians and South Africans about apartheid and also to some other expert witnesses. It found that “Israel subjects the Palestinian people to an institutionalized regime of domination amounting to apartheid as defined under international law.” The full report of this Tribunal is available at .
  • Together with Peace for Life and the Beyers Naude Centre, we hosted a “Christian-Muslim solidarity on Palestine” conference at Stellenbosch on 8 and 9 November. The full report on this will be available soon, but Prof Farid Esack has written a Muslim response to the Palestine Kairos document. He is busy working on it after receiving initial comments and we will distribute this as soon as it becomes more publicly available.
  • In the Western Cape, we have animated some discussions about the call by Arch-emeritus Tutu for a wealth tax. Braam Hanekom of PASSOP has led us in some excellent meetings to think through this matter and we will soon think of ways to ensure that this is a truly national conversation.
  • There is still a desire in some of our hearts to reflect on what the ANC’s centenary might mean for the Church in South Africa (since it was born from within the church) and, time and will permitting, we will see what can still be done before the end of this year about this matter.


Already there are so many possibilities for 2012 and while we cannot do everything, perhaps some of you want to be part of one or two of the events listed below. Please let me know:

 A group of 9 Palestinians and 9 Israelis from BADIL and      DOCHROT will be visiting Cape Town in late January to early February      2012 to reflect on the issues of refugees and displacement. Those who      would like to connect with them can contact me. I will ask those in the      Western Cape to play a role in welcoming them….

  1. March      5 – 9, 2012: “Christ at      the Checkpoint” conference in Bethlehem      : This conference is mainly for      Evangelicals. If you wish to participate in this, you can email Isaac      Munther at ,      but please copy me in. You can ask them about the financing for your      travels, etc.
  2. 17 – 20 April      2012, Assissi: Please see      Mark Braverman has arranged that there be a panel on Kairos Southern      Africa, Kairos Palestine and Kairos USA at this very important gathering.      John de Gruchy will also be addressing this conference, but on another      topic.
  3. We might, together with some friends from the      Netherlands, arrange a Southern African church delegation to Palestine in      the first part of 2012. We have not yet decided on the details for      this, but perhaps some of you can share your thoughts with us about this.      Given the in-roads that Israel is trying to make into the churches in Africa,      it might make sense for our delegation to be mainly from the rest of      Southern Africa (in other words, excluding South Africa, since there are      already similar initiatives in this regard from South Africa).
  4. September 2012:      The Russell Tribunal on Palestine in New York – This will happen in      September 2012: more information to follow.
  5. October 2012:      Liberation theology meeting in Brazil in October 2012: more information to      follow

God bless, as we continue to put our trust in the one who came to share in our humanity so that we all might share in God’s divinity.

Rev Edwin Arrison ( )


Historic Church leaders’ meeting – press statement

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Historic Church Leaders’ Meeting

The following Press Release was issued on 17 November 2011.An historic meeting of Church leaders took place Tuesday, 15th November, at Bishopscourt in Cape Town.  Its aim was to tackle divisions between historic and newer churches, where labels such as ‘ecumenical’ and ‘evangelical’ have undermined a broader shared Christian witness within society and nation.  Leaders made a renewed commitment to enhance working together for the good of all South Africans.

Anglican Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, chair of National Church Leaders Consultation, hosted the meeting which brought together leaders from three major Christian groupings:  Revd Mautji Pataki, General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches (SACC); Revd Moss Ntlha, General Secretary of the Evangelical Alliance of South Africa (TEASA); and Mr Miles Giljam, CEO of African Enterprise (AE).  Methodist Bishop Ivan Abrahams, out-going chair of the National Church Leaders’ Consultation also participated, and Dr. Renier Koegelenberg, Executive Director of Ecumenical Foundation of South Africa; and Dr Welile Mazamisa, EFSA board member, were also present.  Archbishop Stephen Brislin of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cape Town was invited but unable to attend.  He indicated his support of the meeting.

The meeting followed the January 2010 National Church Leaders’ Consultation which expressed the need for organic unity amongst Christian groupings, and strongly recommended that SACC,TEASA and AE leaders meet and explore common concerns as a way forward.

“Now is a kairos moment, “said Miles Giljam after Tuesday’s meeting.  “People want leadership and answers.  We also need to instil hope in people.”

“The year 1994 was the end and the beginning of history in South Africa,” commented Dr Welile Mazamisa.  “The churches stepped back and others have taken that space – we now need to reclaim it.”

“We need a space to analyse together and work on our commitment to one another and to the people of South Africa,’ said Dr. Moss Nthla.

“In our current context, where the dream of our being a rainbow nation is not being realised in certain quarters, it is important that as Christians, regardless of our differences, we should meet and hold to the vision that a united country is possible,” Archbishop Makgoba added.

The Christian leaders shared individual perspectives and identified common priorities.  They then considered the Overview of the National Development Programme 2030 and discussed the contribution Churches can make to the way forward.

Participants agreed on key issues in South African society needing urgent attention, including corruption, poor service delivery, and problematic health care and educational systems.  They also affirmed the desire of the broader Christian community to be a partner in addressing the problems which are facing our people and our communities.

The meeting concluded with an enthusiastic commitment to continue meeting for reflection, dialogue and common action.

Issued by the Office of the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town.  Inquiries:  Ms Wendy Tokata on 021-763-1320 (office hours)


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