Monday, December 14, 2009
Perhaps, we will never be able to fathom the mysteries of life, death, love, evil, ect. Perhaps we are created to often stand at the edge of non-sense, to be able to find meaning beyond our own logical systems, and intellectual abilities.
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Many would say that we are entering the season of suicides. This popular perception however hides the deeper reality, which need to be faced head on if we want to make a change. Carolyn Friedman posted a highly relevant and lucid article on her blog, which can help us dealing with this epidemic. Her information comes from pshychological research and even though it is written from in a US, it has relevance for other communities, as well
You can read the whole article under the title, 10 Common Myths About Suicide, which says it all; this great article says even more.
Monday, November 16, 2009
Interesting post, today from the desk of the World Council of churches, written by Walter Altman. As I sat in on some oral examinations on 'Third World Theologies', it struck me how fascinated theology students are with the basic tennets of liberation theology. They've done well, so congrats to their teachers, but of course, the key question remain: is Liberation Theology still relevant today. In particular the writings of Nestor Paz, seems to have struck a cord of sorts, amongst these young people.
It is therefore significant that I recieved this little writing, today, by Brazilian, Walter Altman. He writes,
Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, twenty years ago, many critics have been quick to sign liberation theology's death certificate. Most of them did so because they understood it to be an apology of bygone Soviet-style socialism. It seems, though, that this death certificate has been issued prematurely.
It is true that liberation theologians – some more than others – used Marxist categories for socioeconomic analysis and for a critique of capitalism's evils. However, the core of liberation theology has never been Marxism.
It is rather the compassionate identification with the poor and their struggle for justice, inspired by the life and teachings of Jesus himself, which is at its heart. Instead of on social analysis, which was seen as a methodological tool, from the outset liberation theology placed greater emphasis on the crucial role of God's people committed praxis – or, in other words, the Christian communities' action inspired by faith and informed by theological reflection.
Liberation theology is spiritually grounded on – and gets its motivation from – the life changing encounter with Christ as liberator and with our neighbours in need. Their suffering is not a result of fate but of systemic injustices and oppression, which can be overcome by transformative action.
If we look at our reality today, we are reminded that poverty has by no means been overcome in the world yet. On the contrary, the recent international financial crisis, produced by unrestrained capitalist forces governed by greed and private and corporate interests, has increased the number of the poor – or rather, the impoverished – in the world by hundreds of millions.
Liberation theology emerged in the late 1960s in Latin America. The ground had been prepared in the 1950s by Christian base community movements aiming for social, political and economic reforms in society, and for the active participation of laypeople in pastoral activities within the church.
Latin America being predominantly a "Catholic" continent, the new theological approach was widely linked with pastoral and theological developments within the Roman Catholic Church, although it was from the very beginning an ecumenical endeavour. The very term "liberation theology" was proposed almost simultaneously by the Roman Catholic priest Gustavo Gutiérrez, from Peru, and the Presbyterian theologian Rubem Alves, from Brazil.
It is then no surprise that in the seventies and eighties liberation theology had a strong influence on the ecumenical movement, including the World Council of Churches (WCC). The relevancy of its actions in supporting struggles for human rights under military dictatorships in Latin America, in developing effective methods of overcoming illiteracy (as did the exiled Brazilian pedagogue and WCC education adviser Paulo Freire), and in combating racism, mainly in Southern Africa, has been widely recognized.
As a contextual approach, aimed at critically reflecting on the praxis of God's people, liberation theology was never intended to become a static, dogmatic theoretical construction. Its intention was not to highlight a neglected theological theme, but rather to propose a new way of doing theology. It naturally underwent changes over the decades. At the outset it focused on the living conditions of the poor, later on it incorporated other issues, like indigenous peoples, racism, gender inequalities and ecology.
Nowadays liberation theology deals as well with the interpretation of cultures and with anthropological questions, for example the temptation of power. The goal of striving towards a more just society where there is "room for all" persists, yet the way of achieving it has shifted towards civil society action.
The influence of liberation theology goes way beyond the realm of the churches. Its contribution towards overcoming military dictatorships in Latin America and apartheid in Southern Africa has already been hinted at. Today it helps shape Latin American political efforts towards a model of democracy that overcomes poverty and social injustices. Several Latin American presidents – Lula da Silva in Brazil, Morales in Bolivia, Correa in Ecuador, Ortega in Nicaragua and Lugo in Paraguay - have all in different ways had close contact with Christian base communities and liberation theologians.
But, above all, liberation theology continues to be very much alive and well within civil society movements and Christian base communities.
The Rev. Dr Walter Altmann is the president of the Evangelical Church of the Lutheran Confession in Brazil and the moderator of the World Council of Churches Central Committee.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Een die skerpste temas wat deur die profete optredes weerklink, is die gedagte dat God erns maak met al ons gewone, daaglikse optredes. God maak erns met die industrie, die landbou, ons skoolwerk.. God maak erns met ons daaglikse lewe by die huis of waar ons beweeg..Daarom is die profete gewone mense, soos ons baie keer hoor ‘ die gewone person in die straat’
Nehemia, sou nie deur baie as ‘n klassieke profeet beskou word nie. Sy optrede en omgang met die volk Israel het egter die trekke van iemand wat die onder God se leiding staan en wat as sodanig optree. In sy openingsgebed, (kom ons noem dit sy roepingsstorie), sien ons hoedat hy, soos die ander profete, geen skeiding maak tussen geestelike en daaglike ( sekulere sake) nie. Tydens sy broers se besoek aan hom in Persie, vra hy uit na die welstand van die bekendes. Hulle vertel hom toe van die benarde toestand van die mure van die Jerusalem. Hy beskryf, in sy dagboek, sy reaksie in Neh 1:4:
By die aanhoor van hierdie woorde het ek gaan sit en gehuil en dae lank getreur. Ek het gevas en tot die God van die hemel gebid…”Ag Here, God van die hemel groot en ontsagwekkende God wat u verbond en u troue liefde handhaaf teenoor die wat vir u liefhet en u gebooie gehoorsaam, luister tog, gee tog ag die gebed wat ek u dienaar, sonder ophou tot U bid.
Nehemia is duidelik besig om die situasie van die stad, die dinge soos mure en hekke, paaie en ander bouwerk en, kom ons sê maar infrastruktuur.. harde dinge en toestande te lees in die lig van sy geloof in God. Sy geloof in God werp lig op die toestande in die land, sy land en sy gebed is ineengeweef met sy analise van die situasie. In die res van die boek beskryf hy hoedat hy beplanning doen, onderhandelings voer, veiligheidsmaatreels instel, en terselfdertyd, biddend is, die Heillige Skrifte ondersoek en die volk nader na God bring. Vir hom is daar nie onderskeid nie.
Dit herinner aan ‘n legende wat Ferdinant Deist vertel van die bekende skrywer Tolstoi oor die twee monikke in ‘n eensame kloosterwat gehoor het dat daar iewers op aarde ‘n toring is met ‘n groot deur wat reguit na die hemel lei. Albei het toe besluit om na die wonderlike toring en die deur te gaan soek sodat hulle reguit na die hemel toe kon gaan. Hulle het geloop en geloop en geen moeite ontsien nie; hulle het hitte en koue verdra.
Na baie jare bereik hulle die toring. Hulle was baie bly en toe hulle na die deur toe stap, en dit oopmaak…het hulle in hul eie kloostersel gestaan (waar hulle begin het)
Deist sluit af met die woorde:
Wie hemel of aarde, geloof en lewe, Sondag en werksdag van mekaar skei: doen albei skade aan, want hulle hoort by mekaar.
Here, gee ons die genade om rondom ons te kyk, na ons dorp, ons huise, ons werksplekke, ons land, deur u oë. Gee genade dat ons, in alles, vir u sal sien.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
As dit so is dat God sy stem laat hoor, in ons normale, menslike situasies, in normale mense se stemtoon; as dit so is dat God se profete gewone mense is, soos ek en jy… dan was hulle heel waarskynlik daar, tussen hierdie stemme en gebeure. Hulle is daar, maar meer nog, God is daar. Maar waar is God se stem hoorbaar…is dit in die wat oenskynlik wen, wat die meeste praat, wat kan groot praat ?
Elia, was ‘n interresante profeet in die Bybel. Hy het die magtiges van sy tyd striemend gelooi met die tong, selfs valse godsdienstiges terreggestel… maar in 1 Konings 19 lees ons hoedat hy in die hitte van die stryd, God se stem gehoor het. God verduidelik vooraf dat hy daar by die berg waar Elia skuil, aan hom sou verskyn. Die storie gaan verder,
‘Skielik was daar ‘n sterk wind wat die berg stukkend geruk en die rotse gebreek het vir die Here. Maar in die wind was die Here nie. Na die wind was daar ‘n aardbewing. Maar in die aardbewing was die here nie. Na die aarbewing was daar ‘n vuur. Maar in die vuur was die Here nie. En na die vuur was daar ‘n fluistering in die windstilte. Toe Elia dit hoor het hy sy gesig met sy mantel toegemaak en by die bek van die grot gaan staan. Toe hoor hy ‘n stem wat vir hom se: ‘wat maak jy hier Elia’?
Dis juis in die ‘fluistering in die windstilte’ in die stiltes, of beter die stemme van die gestildes, waar ons God se stem hoor….onsigbares wat daar tussen ons is, en tog met ons praat. Joan Osborne het ‘n lied gesing, wat mens iets laat verstaan oor hoekom ons nie soms met die title: ‘what if God was one of us’. Die lied is ook die temamusiek vir ‘n TV reeks Joan of Arcadia, waar ‘n gewone skooldogter op verskeie wyses God se stem hoor en mense bystaan Osborne sing,
What if God was one of us?
Just a slob like one of us
Just a stranger on the bus
Trying to make his way home
If God had a face what would it look like?
And would you want to see
If seeing meant that
you would have to believe
in things like heaven and in Jesus and the saints
and all the prophets (*)
Die verassende is dat God wel tussen ons is...
Ons hoor u vele keer, in die stemme van die onsigbares. Ons sluit vele kere ons ore vir u fluistering in die windstiltes.. Vergewe ons Heer en dankie dat u nogsteeds daar is.
Thursday, November 05, 2009
How can we support actions to deal with the challenge of climate change. Here's a way to join the movement towards sustainable lifestyle, economicpolicy and social transformation. First read the Climate Change Document, released by SACC
Ernst Conradie, who is deeply involve in the process writes the following:
'I have told my children (aged 9 and 6) that their future may well be decided upon this December (in Copenhagen). The matter is that important and this is indeed a crucial moment in human history. As Christians in South Africa we need to discern how we should express a vision of Christian hope in such a context. The very purpose of this document is to invite discussion on this amongst churches in South Africa. The process of endorsing the document may serve as an opportunity to stimulate such discussion.'
ENDORSEMENT FOR CLIMATE CHANGE DOCUMENT
Please complete appropriate section (1 or 2)
Name of church structure:……………………………………………………………..
Denominational or ecumenical context (if applicable):……………………………….
Completed by (title and name and surname):
(to be completed by individuals)
Title, Name & Surname:………………………………………………………………,
Please mail completed form to SACC or Deon Snyman or fax to 011 492 1448/9 before 30 November 2009.
Thanks for your endorsement.
Wednesday, November 04, 2009
The Central Methodist Church (CMC) in the Johannesburg city centre received an unexpected and unannounced visit last Friday, not the first of this kind. Members of the Portfolio Committee on Health and Social Development from the Gauteng Legislature expressed moral outrage – understandable, yet rather late – at the living conditions of the refugees seeking shelter in the church.
The South African Council of Churches (SACC) wishes to add the following observations to a matter that has long been brewing and not been taken up satisfactorily by the structures responsible:
It is well known that the living conditions of the refugees at the CMC are poor and often appalling. No one wants to live in an over-crowded situation where there is no privacy, few sanitation facilities, etc. People are not living in these conditions out of choice. They are not living there because Bishop Paul Verryn and the staff at CMC have invited and encouraged them to live there. Nor is this the reason for Medicins Sans Frontier (MSF) camping at the CMC. The people have moved into CMC because it responded to a humanitarian crisis – to which few other people, including the local, provincial and national government responded. It is the calling of the church to provide care and refuge to the destitute and the vulnerable.
While it is easy to turn CMC into a villain in this scenario, SACC warns against jumping to that conclusion. The primary villain, if there is one, first and foremost are such governments as that of Zimbabwe and of those African countries whose nationals live at the church. Within South Africa the primary villain is government; and not the Central Methodist Church.
SACC acknowledges, that it is within the rights and competence of the health and social development portfolio committees, as part of their oversight functions, to engage in so-called oversight visits in order to carry out certain investigations. It needs to be noted that the Methodist Church of Southern Africa (MCSA) at its recent conference held in Pietermaritzburg, admitted in a statement that allegations relating to the abuse of women and children had been brought to its leadership. To this end the church constituted a Public Concern Committee which has been interacting quite voluntarily and openly with relevant government departments. Neither the MCSA, the CMC nor the SACC will condone the alleged abuse of women and children at the CMC – which is why the church has been cooperating with government departments and with the NPA.
SACC is concerned that:
* to conduct such a visit without consulting the local (and national) leadership of the church, given the already established communication channels.
* to bring a substantial number of police and visiting at the time that they did, gave the whole event the feel of a raid rather than a cordial oversight and investigative visit.
* surely the Province has known about the plight of the refugees for long – what concrete alternatives have they put forward that justify the moral outrage and sudden feelings of care for the people living in the church?
* some of the statements already attributed to members of the committee appear to prejudge the matter, threatening to turn the visit into a pretext for predetermined, premeditated and unilateral decisions. A few hours’ visit at the CMC is not enough of an investigation for members of the committee to be issuing authoritative statements to the media already. Proper investigations produce proper formal reports and only thereafter media statements.
* the ‘closure of the CMC’ as threatened may satisfy the interests of those who want the sight of poor and destitute people removed from the centre of their beloved city – especially now that the FIFA 2010 World Cup is coming. But unless a lasting and humanitarian solution is found, all that will happen is that the inhabitants of the CMC will be poured into the streets of Johannesburg to fend for themselves by any means necessary, day and night.
* The Department of Home Affairs fails to develop policies and processes dealing with the influx of refugees in a humane manner.
As SACC we do not see the need for the Portfolio Committee to resort to strong arm tactics. We do not see the need to criminalise the CMC. This church has tried to do what government should have done, what every South African should do, what every other church should do, i.e. welcome the destitute, provide care for the sick, provide shelter to the homeless, tend to the souls of the battered and the suffering. That is the calling of every Christian. That is the calling of every religious person. We do not see the need to issue a legal summons to the CMC and its leadership to appear before any court or committee. The leadership of the CMC are not on the run, they are not about to flee the country.
Instead, SACC calls for the Gauteng legislature to engage the national and local leadership of the MCSA. Above all, we call on the Portfolio Committee to put the interest of the destitute living at the CMC above political point scoring. We urge the committee to exercise its oversight role with diligence, courtesy and with compassion.
For further information please contact
Prof Tinyiko Maluleke, SACC President 082 925 5232
Mr Eddie Makue, SACC General Secretary 082 853 8781
Saturday, October 24, 2009
For me, I am reminded that we all read texts differently. By posing only one authorative reading, we might miss some of the richness of the messages, in and also behind the wonder-ful stories in the texts. Let me illustrate: for some the emphasis on the 'kingdom of God' (1:3 & 28:31), meant the letting go of our kingdoms, empires and power. This imply that we acknowledge that the church operate within a world where external authorities and powers claim absolute adherance and worship (idolatry). This new movement, within Judaism, following Jesus of Nasareth, however now claim that there is a new emperor, a new emerging, alternative authority, called the 'kingdom of God'. The heart of this new movement lies then in the cross and ressurection of Jesus Christ. It calls for a vulnerability and alternative lifestyle of affirming that God is the real authority and power, not the church.
I can live with that, but I also argued that the reality is that people want to experience the power of God. People want to experience the 'hidden powers' of the kingdom, otherwise they remain trapped and in bondage-they are raped again and again by the powerful of this world. For them verses of 1:8, 'you will recieve power, when the Holy Spirit...' becomes critical; they read of the miracles, driving out of demons, of how the apostles and leaders confronted the powers and overcame them. The kingdom of God means a literal liberation from bondage, from the shackles of poverty, injustice, racism, from sickness, which are defined as the curse. Here, the gospel of prosperity make sense and churches that preach this message are hailed as hopegiving, as successful. At least one has to affirm that they are more attractive then churches, that still calls for vulnerability and 'laying down our lives'.
This little conversation illustrates how we might read the same text diffently.
There are also other themes within the book namely essence of work of the Holy Spirit, Mission, the Unity of the church as she crossed cultural borders, the contest between Paul and the political and economic auhtorities
I wondered also about the question, why Luke only focussed on expansion of the church Westwards. This relates to a statement by RS Sugirtharajah, a biblical scholar, where he states, 'The story of the expansion of the Church as it is told through Paul's journeys in Acts is selective and partial...It celebrates and priviledges only the Hellinistic expansion of the church namely from Jerusalem to Rome, and the Jewish mission to Gentiles in the Roman Empire. What the author of Acts fails to record is that there was another history of the founding of the Church east of the Euphrates and throughout the Persian Empire, whose territorial control extended to the borders of India'(2003:25). For Sugirtharajah, these considerations has implications for the old idea (myth) that Christianity only grew westwards and the so-called closed lands and Africa only recieved the gospel, 'as a gift from a benevolent West to enlighten the heathen'. Anyway, I think this line of thinking is worth exploring, because the 'Spirit goes (blows) wherever it will'.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Our church had a dance festival, last weekend and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The children and young people had a real enjoyable time and hosted by Hosanna Dance Ministry, they succeeded in presenting an excellent demonstration of what is possible in terms of Dance Ministry in our churches, but more-so in developing our children young people.
I want to probe deeper into the possbilities that exists, for faith communities and youth organisations. A few comments would be enough for now:
1) Dance ministry, as we have seen this weekend, is not simply about entertainment, it is ministry. Ministry, relates to service, giving up of ourselves and relates to compassionate caring..its more then simply an 'item' in a concert.
2) Dance is rooted in holistic understanding of development or growth. Here the whole of a person is involved, i.e. the emotional, the body, the mind. We have come long way since the time where it was only the knowledge of people were valued. If I pass the exam, then I can become an adult, in the church, in the community, in the workplace. With the emergence of concepts like emotional intellegence, we slowly become aware of a bigger reality.. the appreciation of our integrated development, is demonstrated where children and young people dance and laugh, where they appreciate the power of music, beat and play.
3)If dance is about sexuality and an expression of the fact that we are also sexual, then we should explore this relationship. For too long our communities, espescially our faith communities did not want to ackowledge this reality. In the meantime, young people discovered their sexuality, explored it (on their own) and, in many cases hoped for some-one to guide them (or at least accompany) in making sense of these exiting discoveries. Dance provides a space for exploring this and for talking about it.
4) Dance ministries should be integrated in the centre of communities experiences, rituals and practices. In churches, we should seek to integrate it in our weekly worship events-not as a side show or (again) an item, but flowing out of and into what the community does and experience.
5) Lasly, I would hope that dance ministry should not only be about enacting the ancient forms of dance. These remain special and important. We also need to allow our newer generations, in terms of current youth cultures, to creatively explore new vistas, new styles and genres, to explore the contextualisation of the old cultural forms, with the new.
This is an exiting area for us all to explore, as it opens up new possibilities for, at a deeper level our 'spiritual'(?) development.
Tuesday, October 06, 2009
Hi there, I got this mail from a dear friend, Marilyn CamaClang, this morning. She was part of the Making a Difference Actionteam of WARC (MADIP), working in South Africa on the themes of the Accra document. Tyrone du Preez initiated a call for prayer and lets heed this call and see how we can make a differnce.
Marilyn (on the pic, in the makeshift boat) writes:
In spite of the alarming news from the Philippines, I still have much reason to greet you all with love and peace in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
First, my family and the rest of those in our province, which is only kilometers away from Manila, are spared from the recent flooding.
Second, we are now able to connect with you after a week of silence. Our office was also affected by flood and telecommunications and computer system were all down. (We are located in one of the finest residential areas in Pasig City and residents were shocked for experiencing this for the first time!)
Third, we have experienced how much love and compassion we can draw from each other to be able to surpass this trial. (We have already organized two relief operations in favor of our community center in Pinagbuhatan, Pasig City. Until now, the whole community is submerged with waist level of floodwaters. Christian Mission Service Philippines, Inc, my employer, has a community center here providing subsidized educational services to pre-schoolers, educational support from grade school to university and congregational ministries to the community. We have stopped operation since last week and our people are just waiting for our help. Please note that this community is at the heart of Pasig City, only few meters away from the city hall but is now accessible only by boat.
Lastly, for you and all concerned for remembering us in your prayers. It is indeed what we need in these times of great crises in our country.
Please continue praying, still many are suffering and need our helping hands. Pray for awakening, that we may now hear the cries of creation and the message of our Creator.
Let us continue to give thanks for we are at our best to extend help and to care.
Marilyn M. Camaclang
Technical Assistant/Admin Supervisor
“The best place on earth is at the center of God’s will”
Christian Mission Service Philippines, Inc. (CMSP)
Mailing Address: #188 Kaimitoville, Kaimito St. Valle Verde II
Pasig City, Philippines 1600
Tel/Fax: +632 631 1413; +632 637 2906
Personal Contact Info:
CP Nos.: + 639 17 351 3454
+ 639 22 880 4259
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Strong emphasis was laid on action by Christians to fight the injustices of the global economy and to seize the opportunity presented by the near-collapse of its financial system to change world institutions, in a message of an ecumenical conference at Willow Park in Johannesburg, South Africa.
"We are faced with a crisis that is far more than an economic or financial crisis. It is a spiritual crisis of a civilizational model that is economically unjust; ecologically unsustainable, structurally violent and socially degrading of human dignity," said the message from the Global Dialogue on the Accra Confession: Covenanting for Justice in the Economy and the Earth released on Friday, 10 September 2009.
The dialogue brought together nearly 60 high-profile theologians and church officials, mainly from the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, which represents 214 Congregational, Presbyterian, Reformed and United churches in 107 countries, and 75 million congregants. For four days from 3 to 7 September they unpacked the implications of the WARC's adoption of the Accra Confession at its 24th general council in 2004 in Accra, Ghana.
"We recognized that the present global economic crisis has exposed the inadequacy of the system to meet the needs of the people across the globe. The crisis has unmasked the failure of the global economic system to nurture sustainable Earth communities," said the message of 28 articles.
It highlights one of the strongest themes throughout the conference, that of empire, describing it as, among other things, "an all-encompassing global reality serving, protecting and defending the interests of powerful corporations, nations, elites and privileged people, while imperiously excluding even sacrificing humanity and exploiting creation".
"The call on the churches in the present context is therefore to resist the life defeating and death dealing blows of the economics of empire and to present alternative economies that have their basis in the promise of life in its fullness for all."
Discussion during the four-day consultation held at the Willow Park conference centre focused on response by WARC member churches to a declaration known as the Accra Confession which was adopted at the Alliance's global assembly in Accra, Ghana in 2004. The Confession urges WARC member churches to accept that seeking alternatives to the current global economic model is a matter of faith.
WARC's general secretary, Setri Nyomi, affirms the importance to the Alliance of church action on economic and environmental justice. Nyomi states that the commitment to justice will remain central to the work of the Reformed church movement following the merger of WARC and the Reformed Ecumenical Council in June 2010 to create the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC).
"We are putting in place a structure that ensures that our covenanting for justice in the economy and the earth becomes stronger," says Nyomi. "We cannot ignore the millions of victims of injustice and the consequences of human devastation upon the Earth. I am grateful to all the participants for the forward-looking vision that came out of the consultation as reflected in the statement".
The group said covenanting for justice had to be a continuous process and that the Accra Confession had proven to be highly prophetic, and that it should be the basis for communion between churches in both rich and poor countries. "On the one hand, we give thanks for the gift of reconciliation in Christ, and on the other, we understand that authentic faith cannot be divorced from actions for justice. We come together in unity for the sake of justice.
"At our best communion is experienced in the struggle as we covenant for justice in the economy and the earth."
Another conference theme was also captured, that of the complicity of Christians and churches themselves in economic injustice: "We were also brought into an acute awareness of the seduction of globalization and the role that it plays in co-opting even the most radical movements while at the same time insulating the privileged from the violence it is based on and generates."
The group said "the answer to the crisis cannot be only economic or financial. We are in need of a more holistic and integrated strategy, led by a renewed and deepened spirituality of life."
But it also came with practical suggestions to be pursued: "We should develop and agree on a set of specific principles of economic justice that are based on the biblical values of care, compassion, responsibility and accountability, taking into account the work done by the ecumenical family.
Patricia Sheerattan-Bisnauth, coordinator of the event and WARC's senior executive responsible for justice programmes, says: "The Global Dialogue has provided a way forward for the Accra Confession to be lived out in every place - from the streets to institutions; from communities to churches. It was made clear that today more than ever, it is vital that churches to connect with each other and with peoples' struggles, as we work together for justice and life sustaining communities."
A plan of action for churches is being developed for churches in preparation for the WARC/REC 2010 Uniting General Council.
The full statement follows.
Executive Secretary, Church Renewal, Justice and Partnership
tel. +41 (0)22 791 6156
MESSAGE FROM THE GLOBAL DIALOGUE ON THE ACCRA CONFESSION
Johannesburg, South Africa, 3 – 7 September
1. In response to the urgent call to the common witness of a faith commitment in the Accra Confession: Covenanting for Justice in the Economy and the Earth adopted at the WARC 24th General Council, and in the continuing recognition of the urgency of the economic crisis and ecological destruction of our time, we write to reaffirm that the struggle for global economic justice and sustainable Earth communities is essential to the integrity of our faith in God and our discipleship as Christians. [Psalms 24:1]
2. In our continuing journey as a people of faith with the God of life - toward the June 2010 Uniting General Council, under the theme Unity of the Spirit in the Bond of Peace [Ephesians 4:3], we are reminded of the reign of God who calls us into hope for justice, peace, wellness, harmony and unity [Titus 3:13-14]. Covenanting for justice in the economy and the earth is a testimony to just communion with God and God's creation.
3. From the 3rd to the 8th of September 2009, 58 church leaders, activists, pastors and theologians, who share a deep commitment to justice for the economy and the earth, representing churches of the Reformed tradition and global ecumenical institutions from Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, North America and the Middle East met in Johannesburg to reflect and dialogue on the Accra Confession.
4. The communication praxis of Jesus was to speak truth to power in word [Mark 7: 5, 6] and symbolic action [Mark 6: 30-44]. But Jesus not only spoke and acted, he also listened to the voices of those who were forced into silence by the violence of the system [John 4: 1- 26].
5. We, the participants of this Global Dialogue listened to the voices of people who struggle to come to terms with neo-liberal economic realities of post-apartheid South Africa. We heard from the people of Soweto about their collective action to resist the unjust system to find new ways of reclaiming their humanity. We learnt of ways in which people are reclaiming the economy to serve their interests - through political action directed against the state and its collusion with corporations. We also learnt of concrete action taken by people in making the state accountable to them as well as the church providing alternatives in places where the state has failed. Some of us also witnessed violence of the poor against the poor created by an economic system that pits them against each other in the struggle for life.
6. We were also brought into an acute awareness of the seduction of globalization and the role that it plays in co-opting even the most radical movements while at the same time insulating the privileged from the violence it is based on and generates.
7. We recognized that the present global economic crisis has exposed the inadequacy of the system to meet the needs of the people across the globe. The crisis has unmasked the failure of the global economic system to nurture sustainable Earth communities. The "idol" has been revealed as mammon. People are losing jobs, homes and access to public services. The growing awareness and acceptance of the ecological crisis and its rootedness in anti-people growth economies has further exacerbated the need for organized political action for global transformation. The need for churches and people's movements then is to use this crisis as an opportunity to initiate a paradigm shift in the economic system ensuring deeper democratic institutions enhances life giving economies. The call on the churches in the present context is therefore to resist the life defeating and death dealing blows of the economics of empire and to present alternative economies that have their basis in the promise of life in its fullness for all. (John 10.10)
Reading the Signs of the Times
8. The Accra Confession continues to be a prophetic response to the state of the world. This is due to the dramatic effects of the global financial crisis and the unprecedented level of ecological destruction and on-going climate change. We discerned a large consensus that the neoliberal economic paradigm, leading to a culture of greed, to unlimited growth and irresponsible consumption, is bankrupt.
9. Since Accra, we have deepened our understanding of empire, the system of death, contradicting God's will for life and justice for all. "We speak of empire, because we discern a coming together of economic, cultural, political and military power in our world today, that constitutes a reality and a spirit of lordless domination, created by humankind yet enslaving simultaneously; an all-encompassing global reality serving, protecting and defending the interests of powerful corporations, nations, elites and privileged people, while imperiously excluding even sacrificing humanity and exploiting creation; a pervasive spirit of destructive self-interest, even greed - the worship of money, goods and possessions; the gospel of consumerism, proclaimed through powerful propaganda and religiously justified, believed and followed; the colonization of consciousness, values and notions of human life by the imperial logic; a spirit lacking in compassionate justice and showing contemptuous disregard for the gifts of creation and the household of life." (Definition of empire from the Globalisation Project - Uniting Reformed Church in South Africa and Evangelical Reformed Church in Germany.)
10. Our churches, in different forms and to various extents, have not only struggled against empire through continuing reflection, dialogue and actions for justice and peace in the economy and the earth but we have also remained complicit to empire. This complicity remains the greatest threat to our communion, to our search for unity in Christ and is a betrayal of God's call for compassionate justice.
11. We see new opportunities in this moment of Kairos, in communion with other women and men at a grass-root, a national and an international level, to construct new economies of compassion, care and solidarity beyond empire.
Trinitarian Communion and Christian Justice
12. II Corinthian 13, verse 13 sees Trinitarian Communion as the love of God, the grace of Christ, and the community of the Holy Spirit. More particularly, Trinitarian Communion acknowledges God as the Creator-Sustainer, Jesus Christ as the reconciler between God and humanity, humanity and humanity and humanity and the earth, and the Holy Spirit as the ever-present power, inspiring the activity of the redeemed as doers of Christian Justice. On the one hand, we give thanks for the gift of reconciliation in Christ, and on the other, we understand that authentic faith cannot be divorced from actions for justice. We come together in unity for the sake of justice.
13. Because God is love we are confident in the assertion that God continues to love those who have been told repeatedly that they deserve no love. In obedience to the crucified Christ, we yield to the sovereign God our willing service. And with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit we carefully analyse and expose gross systemic subordination as well as microstructures of "naturalness" and patterns of inequality, supposedly sanctioned as the providence of God. In other words, we hold Trinitarian Communion and Christian Justice as indivisible entities in the providential unfolding of God's purpose for humankind. At our best communion is experienced in the struggle as we covenant for justice in the economy and the earth.
Signs of Hope and Energy
14. We have listened carefully to the experiences of how people are resisting the effects of empire on their communities. We saw how women and men in Soweto are engaged in organising for change and reclaiming their respect and dignity through struggle for clean water and electricity in a context where the political leadership has failed them. These stories of resistance are attested to in many other places as well.
15. We heard of stories of how churches, both in the North and South, are living out the Accra Confession in their contexts. For example Churches in Zambia are involved in engaging in studying and understanding what globalization is and its impact on their daily lives. Some churches in the North have and are developing policies that enable them to set aside resources for the promotion of the Accra Confession and education for justice.
16. We have been encouraged by an emerging dialogue between churches in the North and those in the South, especially on Empire and what it means for both perspectives. The dialogue on globalization between the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa (URCSA) and the Evangelical Reformed Church (ERK) in Germany has served as a signpost of what is possible for us all. This journey of conversations holds potential for South to South dialogue also [Isaiah 1:18]. The growing consensus on empire as a lens from which to read the Accra Confession and to seek after justice is a sign of hope.
17. We listened to the pain of communion in the light of the South African churches experience of apartheid. We search for community in Bible study, prayer, and hearing of the healing word of God in our world with an awareness of the agony of pain that can only be healed by truth, repentance and reconciliation.
18. We look to the future with hope, new energy and the commitment to walk in communion and struggle together seeking justice despite our different social locations.
The Way Forward
19. In John Calvin's theology, human life is set in relation to the life of God. Life for the honour of God is based on faith in God, who puts God's own life at stake for the benefit of humankind. Our common journey forward as a people of faith is accompanied by our life giving God [Matthew 1:23].
20. We are faced with a crisis that is far more than an economic or financial crisis. It is a spiritual crisis of a civilizational model that is economically unjust; ecologically unsustainable, structurally violent and socially degrading of human dignity. Therefore the answer to the crisis cannot be only economic or financial. We are in need of a more holistic and integrated strategy, led by a renewed and deepened spirituality of life [John 10:10].
21. We need to recognize that all power is accountable to God. If economic or political structures fail to serve life, they must be changed. Theology of life needs to guide us in our way. Christians cannot accept that humanly constructed structures and systems, as powerful as they might be, are unchangeable. We experience everywhere in the world the struggle of people against an "economy of death" rearing its ugly life threatening head on the poor and marginalized. We need to seek for cooperation and solidarity of the body of Christ with grass-root movements, international groups and civil-society groups. For example the networking for global water justice.
22. In the faces of women, children, people living with disabilities, people living with HIV and AIDS, those discriminated on the basis of gender, race, caste, sexual orientation and sexuality we see the suffering of those most affected by the consequences of neo-liberal globalism. We affirm that all of life, in all its diversity, together is the image of God. The broken body of Christ that is united in the bond of love and with the Spirit of Peace invites us to journey together for justice and peace in the economy and the earth.
23. We need the expertise of Reformed women and feminist theologians, ecumenical leaders, young people, laypersons in economics and international relations to go forward, reflecting on the gender, race, caste and the other implications of empire that the Accra Confession addresses.
24. We found that a change of paradigm needs transforming education. This needs to take place on different levels and in different ways. This requires a mutual learning by exposure, engagement and dialogue and needs to happen on the levels of church-leaders as well as on the level of the local congregations.
25. We should develop and agree on a set of specific principles of economic justice that are based on the biblical values of care, compassion, responsibility and accountability, taking into account the work done by the ecumenical family. It should lead to the following steps:
- To organize a global ecumenical conference (including the Roman Catholic church) to propose a new international financial architecture, that is: a) based on the principles of economic and climate justice, b) serves the real economy, c) accounts for social and environmental risks, and d) sets clear limits to greed;
- To support processes of strengthening regional and local economies in the different social and cultural contexts.
- To make use of the 10 to 15 year time window to reach and implement the necessary goals of climate justice.
- To engage in climate justice with a twofold strategy: a) mitigation in order to slow down global warming to the level agreed in the ecumenical family (WCC Statement on eco-justice and ecological debt and campaigns of churches and ecumenical agencies), and b) adaptation to climate change and support especially of the most affected and vulnerable people.
26. In the Global Dialogue we found the necessity of an increased and sustained dialogue bringing together Reformed sisters and brothers from all ends of the earth. We need to share our experiences from each of our contexts, on the basis of our communion in Christ. This should take place in consultations between churches of the North and South as well as between churches from the same hemisphere. We also recognize that many people in the North live in conditions of the South and that there are elites in every country in the South, who live as those in the North. With commitment to one another in partnership and solidarity we need to engage in an open trustful space for an ongoing discussion and common understanding. In the light of communion and participation we need awareness for the different contexts we are coming from.
27. As WARC/WCRC looks towards its future, it needs to ask questions about its vision, its membership and their commitment and how it best lives out that vision. This process needs continuing support in organization and administration.
28. This vision of a way forward needs the development of policy and strategy for support, resources and engagement of its member churches to prioritize the urgency of covenanting for justice in the economy and the earth. The new communion needs to pay attention to this reality.
1. Rev. Dr Prince Moiseraele Dibeela, United Congregational Church of South Africa
2. Dr Johan Botha, URCSA/ERK Globalisation Project, Uniting Reformed Church in South Africa
3. Ms Martina Wasserloos-Strunk, URCSA/ERK Globalisation Project, Reformed Alliance, Germany
4. Dr Johann Weusmann, URCSA/ERK Globalisation Project, Evangelical Reformed Church, Germany
5. Dr Puleng LenkaBula, URCSA/ERK Globalisation Project, Covenanting for Justice network
6. Prof. Dr Allan Boesak, URCSA/ERK Globalisation Project, Uniting Reformed Church of South Africa
7. Rev. Dr Ben Du Toit, Dutch Reformed Church, South Africa
8. Prof. Dr Nico N Koopman, URCSA/ERK Globalisation Project, Uniting Reformed Church in South Africa
9. Rev. Basil Manning, United Congregational Church of South Africa
10. Rev. Cheryl Dibeela, United Congregational Church of South Africa
11. Rev. Dr Festus A. Asana, Presbyterian Church in Cameroon
12. Prof. Dr Maake Masango, United Presbyterian Church of South Africa South Africa
13. Rev. Coutinho M. Moma, Evangelical Congregational Church Angola
14. Rt. Rev. Christopher Mkandawire, United Presbyterian Church of South Africa
15. Ms Josephine Muchelemba, United Church of Zambia
16. Rev. Peggy Mulambya Kabonde, WARC executive committee member
17. Prof. Nelus Niemandt, Dutch Reformed Church
18. Rev. Dr Jerry Pillay, Alliance of Reformed Churches in Africa
19. Rev. Hendrick Pillay, United Congregational Church of South Africa
20. Prof. Dr Thias Kgatla, United Reformed Church of South Africa
21. Rev. Jimmy de Wet, Uniting Reformed Church in South Africa
22. Dr Sri Adiningsih, Reformed Ecumenical Council, Indonesia
23. Ms Maritza Anie Boudjikanian, Union of the Armenian Evangelical Churches, Lebanon
24. Rev. Charles Norton Jansz, Christian Reformed Church of Sri Lanka
25. Ms Carmencita Karadag, Peace for Life, Philippines
26. Rev. Decky Kornelius Lolowang, Christian Evangelical Church in Minahasa, Indonesia
27. Mr. Philip Peacock, Church of North India
28. Prof. Dr Mammen Varkki, Church of South India
29. Dr Martin Engels, Reformed Alliance in Germany
30. Rev. Matthias Hui, Reformed Church Bern Jura Solothurn, Switzerland
31. Rev. Dr Ulrich Möller, Evangelical Church of Westphalia, Germany
32. Rev. Jane Rowell United Reformed Church, UK
33. Prof. Dr. Christoph Carl Stückelberger, Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches, Switzerland
34. Rev. Dr Sjaak van't Kruis, Protestantse Kerk in Nederland, Netherlands
35. Mr. Helis Barraza Díaz, Moderator, Covenanting for Justice Network, Colombia
36. Rev. Clayton Leal da Silva, AIPRAL, Brazil
37. Ms Omega Bula, United Church of Canada
38. Prof. Dr Katie Geneva Cannon, PC (USA)
39. Rev. Dr Susan Davies, Covenanting for Justice Network
40. Rev. Daniel James Meeter, Reformed Church in America
41. Prof. Dr Oliver Patterson, Covenanting for Justice Network
42. Ms. Sara Pottschmidt, Covenanting for Justice Network
43. Mr. Peter Vander Meulen Covenanting for Justice Network
44. Rev. Robina Winbush Presbyterian Church (USA)
45. Dr Peter Borgdorff, President, Reformed Ecumenical Council, USA
46. Rev. Dr Clifton Kirkpatrick, WARC President, USA
47. Dr. Edwin Makue, South Africa Council of Churches
48. Prof. Dr Tinyiko Maluleke, South Africa Council of Churches
49. Rev. Dr Samuel Ayete Nyampong, Presbyterian Church of Ghana
50. Ms. Athena Peralta, WCC, Philippines
51. Mr. Moatlundhi Mogera, Student, South Africa
52. Rev. Philip Woods Council of World Mission (CWM)
53. Rev. Dr Vuyani Vellem South Africa Council of Churches
54. Mrs. Irma Patterson, USA
55. Rev. Dr Setri Nyomi, WARC General Secretary, Ghana
56. Rev. Patricia Sheerattan-Bisnauth, WARC Executive Secretary, Covenanting for Justice, Guyana
57. Rev. Dr Douwe Visser, WARC executive secretary, Theology and Ecumenical Engagement, Netherlands
58. Hans Pienaar, Correspondent, Ecumenical News International, Johannesburg
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
The Mugabe empire is still in place and thriving, irrespective of democratic elections, which emphatically rejected Bob, a 'government of national unity' or any interventions by SADC or, what's that guy's name again, the small one in the big chair and his pipe(dreams). In the mean time, Bob is still milking the poor Zimbabweans. When some of them realize what is going on, he just utter a few insults to fictitious British colonizers, pounce on white farmers and MDC, and then, almost magically, everything returns to 'normal'.
What is it that keeps his type in power? It's certainly not his people. They trusted 'the revolution'. They trusted democracy, SADC-style. They trusted 'the West'. It all failed them. We still see our leaders walking hand in hand with him, showering him with lofty praise and generous gifts. (Apparantly the Mugabe-empire pride themselves with some camels, gifts from the self-appointed president of the United States of Africa and guardian of Africa's interests against the West, the other village lunatic, Colonel M Ghadaffi.)
This evil system that keeps his ilk in place, is much more pervasive, insidious and powerful. It's a system that proclaims, above all else, our greatest virtue is in ruthless, economic growth, the accumulation of money. Its a system where those in power reward themselves with the cream of the crop, at the expense of millions of their poor underlings.
The Nestlé's of this world knows this and Mugabe and his comrades, demonstrate that in this world, even the most hard-core of revolutionaries are not able to overcome the lure and attraction of money and economic power. (Let's not forget about cde Blade, and the tools of his trade, as minister of Higher Education).
It's critical for us to start to ask the deeper questions, and to expose these companies and countries that continue to exploit the poor and if need be, indeed, we should start anew campaigns to boycott their products. In the 1980s clerics like Beyers Naude, Allan Boesak and Desmond Tutu travelled the world, calling for economic sanctions against the illegitimate regime of the Nats. They maintained that the call for economic sanctions, is a call of conscience, where people of faiths need to put pressure on the economic interests that keep Botha in power. I think that we are at a point where Mugabe's friends and allies need to be exposed and called to account. If need be, stronger pressure need to be placed upon them join us to dismantle the Mugabe-empire. Let's keep our eyes on how Nestle will respond to this new scandal...till further notice.
Saturday, September 19, 2009
I was invited by a dynamic young organisation, called MAD (Mothers and Daughters) here in the South of Johannesburg to speak on suicide amongst teenagers. This multi-religious group aims to build positive young girls, through information and support networks. The event took place at the Bill Jardine stadium and various people spoke including rugby heroes, Laurence Sephaka and Aswin Willemse and head physio of Orlando Pirates soccer club, John Williams.
My input was small yet, I received a lot from this interaction. I stood as some-one who experienced suicide in my own family, but also, I shared that one of our church's leaders committed suicide last year. We were perplexed, gutted, broken. It however challenged us to look deeper, to realise that no-one is to blame, for this illness.
The World Health Organisation released a report, in this month, finding that between the ages 10-24 years, suicide is amongst the top three reasons for death, especially amongst boys. Amongst the guys the biggest killer remains.... car accidents. I'm not going to say anything about drags tonight. This kind of car accidents rather refers to the toxic mix between speed, booze and adrenaline. It's what happens on our roads in the 'normal' run of things.
All over the world, (England; Israel; Ireland; China) suicide is on the increase, or at least amongst the top killers of young people. But, I believe we can prevent it. I believe we can turn it around. The WHO states, "Most causes of death of young people are preventable and treatable."
Daisy Mafubelu, from the WHO, states,
It is clear from these findings that considerable investment is needed - not only from the health sector, but also from sectors including education, welfare, transport, and justice - to improve access to information and services, and help young people avoid risky behaviours that can lead to death."
But there is another reason why, I think, we can turn these statistics around. I am reminded of a clip in a movie, from the film School of Rock, where Dewy (Jack Black) is a stand–in teacher for his friend. He is ask some deep question about his philosophy of education, especially on testing and then he says that he doesn't believe in testing, because he "believe the children are our are future"
Some of the teachers, hear this and say, but... doesn't that comes from a song.. he just continues...
Teach them well and let them lead the way
Show them all the beauty they possess inside
Give them a sense of pride to make it easier
Let the children's laughter remind us how we used to be
The story of this song is fascinating. It was of course, sung by Whitney Houston, but released originally for Mohammed Ali's 1977 movie called The Greatest, sung, of course by jazz artist, George Benson. This song was written by Michael Masser and a young woman called Linda Creed. She was fighting breast cancer and these were her words.
Everybody searching for a hero
People need someone to look up to
I never found anyone who fulfill my needs
A lonely place to be
So I learned to depend on me
I decided long ago, never to walk in anyone's shadows
If I fail, if I succeed
At least I'll live as I believe
No matter what they take from me
They can't take away my dignity
Because the greatest love of all
Is happening to me
I found the greatest love of all
Inside of me
The greatest love of all
Is easy to achieve
Learning to love yourself
It is the greatest love of all
I believe the children are our future
Teach them well and let them lead the way
Show them all the beauty they possess inside
Give them a sense of pride to make it easier
Let the children's laughter remind us how we used to be
Greatest love of all
Linda Creed died in 10 April 1986, a few weeks before her hit made number one by Whitney Houston...and today this song lives on…This is the kind of spirit that will enable us to overcome teenage suicide today.
However, we need to do more. We can to do three things. This is taken from a campaign amongst high schools in Sydney Australia. It's called ACT
We need to acknowledge that there is a crisis of youth/teen mental health. Suicide is not a moral issue, it's a health issue. Let's take it out of the right and wrong, let's acknowledge when things are not well, let's allow young people to speak out when they feel they are not coping, when they have failed, in terms of expectations. Let's allow this, in order for us to grow. Many times we as parents need to set the example by asking for help, when we are not coping. Acknowledge when we struggle.
Further, we also need to say youth depression, one of the big causes of youth suicide, is a disease like any other, like flue, cold, diabetes, etc, and it can be treated. There is treatment and help available.
2) CARE: We need to build a community on a culture of care, instead of a culture of greed and materialism. What are our greatest assets, our greatest values- to win, to bling ? Sometimes, we as parents buy our children stuff, when they simply are looking for some-one who will be able to see the beauty that they already posses inside and to care. Let me say this: the greatest need of young people today... is to be some-one for some-one. Am I right here... the cell phone, the labels, the whack hairstyles, Mxit, Facebook, Twitter... is all about friendship... to be some-one for some- one. The greatest love of all is happening to me…learning to love yourself, is the greatest love of all (Linda Creed).
If you know its going down with your friend, some-one in class.. tell. In Israel, amongst young people it was found that they don't want to talk because they might be considered to squeal, they will be labelled a 'tell-tale'. We need to speak out. Speak to a teacher, to a counsellor, a doctors, nurse, pastor, imam, who-ever... just tell. I like the picture on one Suicide Prevention Facebook groups "Never let your buddy fight alone". Another Facebook group, Suicide Prevention gives guidelines on what to spot for and If you see these tell, because you might save lives.
Your friend might be
- Talking about dying (Or any form of harming oneself)
- Recent loss or losses
- Change in personality (Sad, irritable, anxious, withdrawn, apathetic)
- Change in behaviours
- Change in sleep patterns (Can't sleep, nightmares, etc)
- Change in appetite (Not eating enough or overeating)
- Fear of losing control (Going "crazy")
- Loss of interest in things once enjoyed
- Low self esteem (Feeling worthless, self-hatred, a burden, shame)
- No hope for future (Believes things will never get better, nothing will change)
Let me conclude with this: we are all vulnerable, our children even more, given the developmental challenges they face, but we need to continue to keep the spirit strong-because we can win this fight. It will not be easy all the time, in your own life, in the life of your friend: The song of Linda Creed ended off with these words.
And if by chance, that special place
That you've been dreaming of
Leads you to a lonely place
Find your strength in love
Top of Form
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Intersexed Society of South Africa, is an organisation who aim to 'spread knowledge about intersex, to provide the space for the development of an intersexed voice in Southern Africa, and to combat discrimination on grounds of intersex'
'Intersexed people are a natural variant and an important part of human diversity, the birth of an intersexed infant should be celebrated no less than the birth of any other infant and ALL diversity should be valued whether of race, culture, gender, sexual orientation, ability, geography and or socio-economic status.'I think it is critical for Christians to again affirm the dignity of all of God's people, and the inclusivity of the household of faith.
We have also just started a Facebook group, called, God Loves Intersexed People.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Whilst the international athletics body, the IAAF, has maintained, up to now, that no official findings has been released, that sensitive matters like these, will be dealt with confidentially and that any official findings will remain private, the current spate of media speculation by some newspapers, and the manner in which it is done, challenge one to speak out and raise a voice of concern and protest against these.
It should be noted that various church leaders have been requested to say something, to come out. None of the recognised churchleaders wanted to say anything. The URCSA presbytery of Tulbach, Tom Smith of Soulgardeners, however came back with a strong endorsement of this statement. It should be noted that bloggers like My contemplations and Emergen Bracken, also released Christian viewpoints on this critical matter.
1) We call all of us, including members of media, to respect the privacy and dignity of Caster Semenya and her family.
Let us remind ourselves that we all have been created in dignity and according to the image of God and have the right that this dignity are to be protected and respected.
2) Without pre-empting the findings of any investigation, we would remind all, that any reporting on the complex matters of sexual and gender identity, the personal dignity of the body of people, in particular women, need to be done with the utmost of care and sensitivity.
Within a particular historical context of abuse and the demonization of the female body and physicality, speaking on these matters is never innocent or objective. It either entrench the oppression of women or liberates.
3) We therefore call not simply for restraint, but also for reporting that upholds the dignity, challenge the frenzy and warped images and maintains the strong ethical code that distinguish fine journalism from newer forms of abuse and character assassination, in the quest for wider circulation and profits.
We denounce any speculation and crude reporting and call our members to consciously analyse, expose and boycott such reports.
We as faith communities want to hereby affirm our commitment towards an inclusive and humane society that upholds and protects the dignity of all people, in particular those who remain vulnerable.
We publically declare our full spiritual and pastoral support to Caster Semenya and her family. We will continue to pray for this young, outstanding Christian and her family and we thank God for her own church, who stand with a great cloud of witnesses alongside her.
We want to remind Caster of the words of God to his young prophet Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born, I consecrated you…”
Friday, September 11, 2009
We had such a wonderful evening last night attending the West Rand Dance festival. I had some personal interest, so my reflections will be biased. Even so, I am exited in what our various dance studios, are doing in our communities with our children.
Often we are overwhelmed my so much negativity, in the meantime, the simply continue to produce excellence year after year. What we enjoyed last night, are in a sense the wealth of the potential, but more importantly, the verve, sheer hard work and determination of our young people, in particular our daughters. This time the issue was not nagging about sore thumbs (in this case hands), or gender verification tests, it was celebration of our best.
The evening was well organised, the costumes and dance technique of high quality (I'm actually quoting the adjudicator) and evidently of international standard (again, the adjudicator), but that's not my focus here. Here, I simply want to rant against our media, who often (like in this case) fail to elevate and celebrate this good news story. They are seemingly not interested in this and would chase after the gory stories, which sells. Back in the days, we debated at length, ad nauseam, the theme: the pen is mightier than the sword. Do you remember those highschool debates (or shouting contests, actually)? It's only the last few weeks that I've understood the real significance of that debate, although, I think, usually the pen (laptop) and sword, usually fight alongside each other, on the side of the powerful.
I think, we should, continue to enjoy and celebrate the finest accomplishments of our young people; we should challenge them to work hard at fine-tuning their talents, at aiming to be the best at what they do. Sebastian Coe, Olympic medallist at middle distance of the 80, is clear, 'anyone who is serious about reaching the top of their profession will get there through a combination of hard work, focus, application and sheer talent….' This is happening in our communities, under the radar of the public media yet, it is there and as parents and educators we should continue to support it.
Wednesday, September 02, 2009
What does the ruling, on a white refugee desparately fleeing South Africa, of the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board, say about their own competencies or sense of reality? Is it possible that the members did not know about the complexities of the current South African transition? Is it possible that they are not aware of their own struggles, with their own racialised history and the genocide of the First peoples in North America?
I'm not sure about the answers to these questions. Its complex. I however would hope that the Canadian government will look into this affair, come out of their innocence and declare where they stand with regards to these matters. They need to re-affirm their support for the complex peaceful transition in South Africa, towards a non-racial, just society; they need to affirm their seriousness in addressing redress. All communities in South Africa, face the cruel reality of an inherent violent society. Our challenge is to change it all, to keep the dream alive of a just society, for all who live in it, and to make it a reality.
Last weekend, I was part of a church meeting in Soweto, where we wrestled at length, on the safety of our churches and members, all black. Members were shot at, robbed, brutalised, the last few months. On Monday afternoon, coloured members of our church were traumatised in the middle of the Southgate Mall robbery and had to run for their lives. We support them in this situation, of course, but this is not the issue for me here and now. We all know that violence affects us all, even for a highschool in Welkom, in the Freestate.
The question is what lurks behind the ruling of the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board. What we have here, is a manifestation, a commentary on their own struggles. Canada, a highly diverse country, some would argue, a deep settler community, like Australia, New Zealand and the US, is still struggling to come to terms with the growing demands of their own indigenous communities for reparation, for justice. The ruling elite also have to deal with the fears and insecurities of their constituencies, who amassed their personal wealth, power and prosperity, at the expense of the colonised. Somebody asked me on Sunday, why Austrlia have never been challenged in the same way, as white Afrikaners on their institutional racism, by the world community. My thinking is simple: they had the military, culturalm political and economic power to virtually wipe-out the indigenous peoples, whilst in Africa, it was impossible, simply because of the sheer numbers. I also think the reason why Australia is sometimes called 'little South Africa', and Canada to a lesser degree, is simply because these emigrants feel a sense of déjà-vous there Anyway, my point is simply that we need to look deeper into the current decision and challenge the Canadians to acknowledge that their government cannot innocently wash their hands, parading as the paragon of open-ness and diversity…the chickens have come home to roost.
Monday, August 31, 2009
I recently, on the spur of the moment, was commanded by my youngest to go to school and listen to the guy speaking on drug-abuse. Well, actually my wife bought a ticket and couldn't go. So, I had to go and honestly speaking, it was one of those 'had-to-go' ones, because 'the ticket was bought', etc. It turned out to be quite an informative (if not sobering and thought-provoking) evening with other parents, who probably were there, also because they well…. 'had to go'.
The speaker walked, like an evangelist, up and down on the stage, had a cap drawn deep into his eyes, and opened with something like… 'I am an addict and I am currently committing a criminal offence'. It soon dawned on all of us that he had a cigarette in his hand. Later, he dramatically, (maybe not like the evangelist) lit it and took few puffs, illustrating a little story of how he got started. This was but one of the many funny, yet deeply moving stories he shared out of his own life. For most of us, it could have been just another moralistic diatribe making us, as parents feel guilty again. Having felt guilty enough to feel that this is a had-to-go meeting, at school, I did not need more guilt trips. Fortunately, (*sigh*)I don't smoke and do those kinds of stuff, but the story of Steve went deeper.
Steven, having worked in schools for many years, was telling us that our children are exposed to drugs, on a daily basis and that, up to 80% of high school kids here in Johannesburg are on one or the other kind of drug. Yes, I know. For me it also sounded a bit like a wild-eyed, doomsday preacher. Walking up and down, cap deep in the eyes, he however continued to share anecdotes of how children in 'our' primary school, in his morning session, were able to easily debate on which booze was the best; they knew the labels, the tastes and felt it cool to be into these. For him the fundamental problem was that we as parents deny these realities. For us, it is always those kids, that family and never our very own. We would conveniently 'other-fy' the druaddict and go on with business as usual. I could however see, over the crowd of parents, many heads going, 'wow', 'eish', etc. Here, we were confronted with a reality that we thought was only possible in the media and Hollywood (Beverley Hills 90210, to be exact), or 'on the other side'.
I work also in Riverlea, where on an annual basis, in our church community I am privileged to have a little group of 6-7 teenagers (15-17 years) in a little 'bible class.' Most of the time, at the face of the ire of parents and the churchboard, we stray too far from talking about the ten commandments and the teachings of the church, to simply talk about sex, drugs and hip-hop or (these days 'house'). They like that and they like to talk about that. I like to listen. They are clear: their schools are infested with 'corruption' (that's the words they use). Corruption is amongst others, where, on their school yards, now, drugs of all shapes and sizes, are available. Whether it be 'sugars' , coke, weed, 'rocks', 'gafief'… whateva, you want it, you can have it. Teachers, in their view, are impotent to deal with this, the police useless, because, according to them they are as corrupt as the 'merchands'. These young people tell me that they are clean, but it's a tough-tough world to go out of your house and attend school. The stuff that Steve, is sharing is for real!
I wondered, what lies at the heart of this? Why would young people, want to consciously become 'throw-away people'? Why would they want to collectively become the prey of highly efficient, highly connected criminal syndicates, bend on selling young bodies at the highest bidder. This, of course is an age-old question. To present drug abuse, and young people, today, as wild, urban folk devils will not adequately deal with the deeper roots of this collective suicide. It simply deny the fact that there might be deeper structural roots, i.e. community and cultural patterns that drive them towards depression, a loss of vision, but also a loss of internal reference points, to chart their way. I think that the current surge of consumerism, where one's identity is formed by the trappings of wealth, remain one of the key drivers of a loss of community and a morphing of our identities from communally (family) based towards consumer based. This is not an easy matter. In fact, having said this, I would concede that the encroachment of the current world system on families, on our children is much more pervasive and powerful then we think. Perhaps its more powerful that what parents or church communities currently can handle. Its not simply a medical condition to be sorted out by an institution… the roots goes deeper in the kind of system where, even church communities, or schools, have become efficient corporations, at the expense of deep community. We are faced with a culture, which prize boozing and where advertising campaigns have deaden our sensitivities to softer (legal)drugs, in the pursuit of profits, our ultimate human achievement. For those that fell through the cracks, who simply did not fit these categories, or who simply failed to make the system work, the only solution is to become the consumer… to doze off and eventually are consumed by this system.
This talk by Steven was sobering. It made, at least this parent to think again, to hope and pray again that his teenagers might not fall prey. It challenged me again to look deeper into our lifestyles and what we hold dear. Perhaps, we all need had-to go experiences, forced upon us, by our children, to challenge us, even as parents, to listen and to be changed.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Wat egter opval, is dat dié merkwaardige vrou by verskeie geleenthede ernstig gebots het met die owerheid. Sy het openlik gestry teen apartheid. Trouens, in haar huis is ’n besprekingsgroep van vroue begin. Dié groep het ’n rol gespeel in duisende vroue se opmars na die Uniegebou – destyds vir vroueregte. Die staaltjie word ook vertel hoedat sy in ’n stadium met geweld weggesleep is van die Johannesburgse stadsaal in haar stryd vir gelykheid en die reg.
Wat is die erfenis van “auntie Vicky” se stryd vir vandag? Op die oog af is daar is nie veel oor nie.
Luister maar na die manier waarop jong mans neerhalend praat oor vroue, of kyk maar na ons skokkende verkragtingsyfers. As ons egter dieper kyk, merk ons op dat dié onthutsende verskynsels simptome is. Dieper skuil daar ’n manier van dink en handel wat die waardigheid van mense skend en wat telkens op nuwe maniere kop uitsteek. Waarom kan ons dan nog nie ’n verskil sien nie?
Kom laat ons nou eerlik wees.
Die meeste van ons het gehoop dat bloot ’n meer verteenwoordigende regering, met die insluiting van swart mense, die land onherkenbaar sou verander na ’n wonderlike paradys vir almal: Vroue, kinders, swart, bruin, wit, gays en lesbiërs. ’n Hemel op aarde. Ons het gedink dat die dag toe almal geduldig in rye gestaan het vir ’n kans om ’n kruisie te trek, die demone van rassisme, geslagsdiskriminasie, maar ook die ongelyke verdeling van rykdom, uiteindelik uitgewis is. Mettertyd kom ons agter dinge lyk maar dieselfde; ons herken dieselfde gesigte, dieselfde gedragspatrone – met dieselfde wrang gevolge. Waar “auntie Vicky” en die vroue hand aan hand opgestaan het vir ’n beter toekoms vir hul kinders, waar hulle gehoop en gestry het vir ’n nuwe land, wonder ons al hoe meer of daar diep genoeg gekyk is, of daar diep genoeg gesny is, of daar werklik na hulle geluister is.
As ons kyk na die diep woede in gemeenskappe oor die ooglopende materialisme en magsmisbruik onder ons regeringslui, moet ons weer vra: Is ons regering ernstig genoeg oor die waardes van gelykheid en geregtigheid? Ons vra vrae waar besope geregsdienaars hul voertuie bestuur en probeer wegjaag wanneer hulle uitgevang word. Ons vra vrae vra as openbare instellings gebruik word om ons terug te neem na die ou verlede van knoeiery, verdrukking en geweld, waar mense op die kleur van hul vel getakseer word. Die verandering van gesigte in die sagte parlementsbanke was duidelik nie genoeg nie.
Wat moes ons gehoor het? Wat het hierdie onbekende vroue-profete aangevuur en ander profete, soos die vervolgde Birmese vryheidsleier Aung San Suu Kyi, om die dieper vrae te vra en ons verder te neem na die omverwerp van verdrukkende stelsels? Ek vermoed dat daar vele antwoorde op hierdie vraag is. Vir my staan daar twee uit. Eerstens is daar by hulle die onwrikbare begrip dat mense, wie ook, ten diepste gelyk is, dat hulle beelddraers van God is en daarom met ’n inherente waardigheid beklee is. Tweedens is daar die geloof dat God gewone mense gebruik om ’n verskil in die wêreld te maak.
Die geloof wat aan sekere klasse in ons samelewing meer mag en eer toeken, word ontmasker.
Ook vandag is daar nuwe “auntie Vickys”. Hulle is deel van massas wat die strate vat en dié in magsposisies op hul tone hou. Hul stemme word gehoor wanneer hulle die stilte verbreek in die intieme ruimtes, maar ook by die werkplek. Hulle vra dieper vrae, ongemaklike vrae wanneer ons ons aandadigheid aan verknegtende stelsels probeer verdoesel in mooi, groot óf selfs godsdienstige woorde.
(Verskyn in Die Beeld 17 Aug 2009)
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Anyway, it's no dark secret that the sentiment that black Africans, suffered more and deserve more runs deep. Xolela Mangcu speaks of 'racial nativism', i.e. 'the idea the true custodians of Africans are the natives. The natives are often defined as black Africans because they are indigenous to the country, and within that group the true natives are those who participated in the resistance struggle' (2008:2) He continues to explain this thinking, 'by dint of their authenticity, these natives have the right to silence white interlopers or black sell-outs'.
Mangcu, who hails from the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM), however argues for what he calls 'racial syncretism', which, for him is congruent with the best traditions of Pan Africanist and Black Consciousness movements and which uphold the 'ideal of a non-racial democratic society in which all citizens are regarded as equal...'.
For Robert Sobukwe, Africans are 'those, of any colour, who accepts Africa as their home'. Benjamin Pogrund, writes of his experiences, as a white person, alongside Africanists. 'Amongst the Africanists there were certainly people who could be described as having intense animosity for whites.... But to dub all the Africanists or the movement (PAC) as anti-white was crude. Sobukwe, for example, was already a friend of mine, and our relationship was to grow a lot closer with the years. There was not a vestage of racial felling in him. he simply accepted people as people, both then and allways.'(2006: 101-102) In Sobukwe's response to an attack by liberal polititians that he was anti-white, he writes, 'We guarantee no minority rights because we are fighting precisely that group-exclusiveness which those who plead for minority rights would like to perpetuate...I have said it before, and I still say so now, that I see no reason why, in a free democratic Africa, a predominantly black electorate should not return a white man (sic) to parliament, for colour will count for nothing in a free Africa... (105-106)
I,think, for now, that settles it....(to be continued)
Xolela Mangcu. To the brink: The state of democracy in South Africa.
Benjamin Pogrund. How can a man die better: The life of Robert Sobukwe
Sunday, August 09, 2009
Let me tell you what I mean. Whilst, we all loathe those who drag our beloved country with her proud legacy of struggling for equality and justice, down the drain, let's not look too far in some dark corner of our communities. The enemy is closer. On Saturday night after some rugby and 'kuier', one of our close friends left our home in good spirits (and we did not have any 'spirits' al all). Young husband, wife and their beautiful baby daughter, our godchild. After 12 minutes we got a call, they were in an accident. We rushed to the scene, at about ten to ten to find them shocked, struggling to gain composure. Their car is wrecked, which they bought and kept on the road, with a modest income; the car with which they serve their community. This, I suppose one could describe as 'a normal accident' (this description is important), but there's more.
After we made sure our two-year old was okay, we saw the guy who drove in them, almost killing mother and child. He was drunk and tried to drive away, but was stopped by the damage to his own bakkie. Now, stil struggling to stay on his feet, he tried to convince my friend that he should not call the cops. He tried to explain, that we are all human and that he will make everything right for him. By this time my friend called our famous 10111 a few times, and gradually grew more and more frustrated and furious, as there were no signs of our SAPS, as yet. The usual suspects arrived, we call them the 'vultures', ready to tow the cars away, at exorbitant rates (which you only discover afterwards). So, we discovered that they 'overheard' the radio conversations, because one of them (tow truckers) is an off-duty cop. He confronted the drunk, corrupt offender, who also pulled out his police identification card, it turns out, he is an inspector at the Johannesburg police station, and displayed proudly on his cellphone wallpaper, a proud ANC supporter.
To make a long story short- we ended up in the Florida police station, after 12, at night, being told off by the inspector, in charge, that this drunk, corrupt inspector of SAPS, will be out the next day (today) and, most probably, be back on duty (read: on the road again), serving the community. He explained rather, annoyingly, that we need to understand that this rotten cop is actually like all of us. According to 'procedure' the blood tests usually takes from 6-8 weeks to a year to come back and that the court dates, most probably will only be next year June. In fact, the colleagues there, agreed amongst themselves that this is 'a normal accident', the subtext being, nothing will come of this.
I am outraged. I saw it last night at the scene how cynical members of our community remains of the integrity of SAPS. They openly declared that nothing will come of this; that the cops will protect each other and that what happened there is normal. The good people will come nowhere, maintaining their trust in the system. I tried to convince them otherwise, but how can I maintain the lie? How long will I be able to convince people of the integrity of our systems, when they know and have experienced that the powerful, the corrupt will allways win. It's is at this level that Cele, will have to make substantial inroads. If he fails to convince us that his cops are clean, competent professionals, driven by passion and integrity, then all his mafia-type bavado will remain simply that, empty bravado. But, that's not all. More and more people, like the community members on the scene, will start to protect their own, themselves, against the system. They will be left with few choices. This is a scary scenario and one that we certainly would want to prevent. The question is for how long will the people remain victims, for how long will people remain quiet, whilst those who we entrust the responsibility to safeguard our communities, maintain a charade whilst protecting the vile...Its seems there is no question:
Mr Cele, you've got your job cut out: clean up the SAPS !
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Ek sien die berig in Die Burger, dat plaaswerkers, oppad is na die parliament. Plaaswerkers, in die Boland, Stellenbosch, Paarl, Wellington, asook die Hexriviervallei, Weskus, Breërivier, Witzenberg, Overberg, Oostenberg, Breedevallei en Swartland is die onsigbare slawe wat die sagtevrugte en wynproduksie van die Weskaap, aan die gang hou. Meer nog: dis hulle wat die skatryk boere, in die Weskaap, se lewenstyl omhoog hou. Naweke, word hulle dan letterlik, in trokke aangery, soos diere en op die straat gegooi, met 'n skrapse hongerloon, en geen uitlaatkleppe nie. Wat is die gevolg: die mense, my mense, 'emerge' uit die landerye, uit die plantasies, gestroop van hul menswees, van hul waardigheid, en haas hulle na die eerste beste 'off-sales', of 'smokkelhuis'. Hulle is gekweek om te werk en leef vir die 'dop'.
Daar is ook diegene wat moedig tot sport en die kerk, hulle toevlug vind. Kerke, floreer in die gemeenskappe, veral die 'handjies-klappende'pinksterkerke. Met 'n hoogs emosionele aanbiddingstyl, vuurwarm en dramatiese predikers, vermaaklike kragtoere, word die diepste behoeftes van hierdie plaasgemeenskappe aanspreek. Die emosionele dwang en vlugtige bekerings, die wonderwerke en die 'kragtige werking van die Heilige Gees' oordeel sommige geleerdes, is maar net nog 'n uitwas van 'n 'pie in die sky' evangelie of 'n 'opium-gedrewe religie'. So is teologiese studente soos ek geleer, God is hier bloot 'n 'projeksie van die menslike psige' (Feuerbach), die produk van menslike begeertes' ens. Tog, maak dit vir die meeste plaaswerkers nie saak wat hierdie slim wit mense, van hulle sê nie. Hulle weet en ervaar wat hier op die plaas aangaan en die pastore, hier by ons, by die 'ope lug', verstaan hulle, meer nog vervul hulle behoeftes en gee hulle waardigheid. Hier, is daar mense wat hulle ernstig opneem en nie beskou as die 'dronk, lui en vuil' nie. Hier kan hulle hulself uitleef en hul eie leefruimte skep.
Daar is maar hier en daar, waar van die gevestigde kerke iets verstaan van die bedieningsbehoeftes van plaaswerkers en toepaslike style ontwikkel. Ek dink ook dat, ongeag die veranderinge in die land, die ANC nie 'n clue het oor die behoeftes van die sektor nie- en hulle daarom nogsteeds afgeskeep is. Waar hulle verstaan word, gebeur dinge en keer hulle, hul wereld om. Dit is egter raar. Die pinksterkerke verstaan baie beter en daarom, maak hulle so 'n groot indruk en verskil. Hulle gee krag aan die mense, krag om 'n verskil te maak, krag om waardig in die wêreld in te stap.
Dit is om hierdie rede dat die opmars (instap) van plaaswerkers, so belangrik is. Erens het hulle krag gekry om op te staan en op te ruk. Ek is hier in die Noorde, maar my hart is in Eikendal, Roulou, Uitkyk, Alto, Liquenda, Devonvalley, Spier, Vlottenburg, tussen die mense. Ek kom van die plaas af en staan met hulle teen hul verdukkers. Maar meer nog, ek is oortuig dat God saam met hulle 'march'.
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