welcome to the warehouse!
The Warehouse was established in 2003 through the parish of St John's, and exists to serve the South African church network in its response to poverty, injustice and division. We work with local churches in all communities, helping them to implement sound, effective and practical acts and renewed attitudes, to see transformation in our communities.
On a trip through the USA I was asked whether The Warehouse is able to receive donations that qualify for tax deductions within the USA. In partnership with the National Christian Foundation we are able to do so and we’d like to make sure that you know this is possible as you consider your year-end giving.
Twenty years prior to the end of apartheid we could scarcely conceive of a different South Africa, but in 1994 we experienced the miracle of apartheid falling away and the birth of the rainbow nation. The role of the church and God’s intervention in this is well documented, however, twenty years later we are living both with the disappointment of the failed potential of our nation and the apparent lack of capacity within the church to truly impact society over this time. The law of apartheid died in 1994 yet its spirit is still well and truly alive.
It doesn’t have to be this way! The Warehouse believes that the next twenty years could see a new, more sustainable miracle happen as the church lives up to its calling from Jesus to transform society as part of declaring the good news of His Kingdom.
Please would you consider investing in this for your year end giving. Your gift goes a long way in South Africa as the exchange rate is very favourable at the moment. Over 70% of our funding is locally sourced which ensures that we can use gifts from the USA for catalyse new programs and initiatives. Just to give you an idea of what it costs to do some of our work:
- $30 a month helps us accompany a church leader who is leading their church in being a transformative presence.
- $300 covers the cost of a customized workshop or training event for a church leadership team helping them discern and plan how to be a transforming presence in their community
- $3000 funds a 3 day retreat and capacity building conference for 20 church leaders
If you are from the United States and would like to donate as part of your Year-end Giving, please do so through our NCF partnership here:
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself.” (Luke 10:27 NRSV)
Cape Town has a sanitation problem, we cannot hide from this fact, one home has 10 toilets, yet in some informal settlements, 10 people have access to one toilet. We need to begin to ask ourselves, serious questions, around our theology, ethics and our ecology. Steve De Gruchy said at a conference in 2009: “that sewage is the place where economics and ecology collide … Outside of our ability to deal with our s**t, there can be no real talk of sustainability.” We have to start asking, what is preventing the roll out of more toilets? What can we do as the church to facilitate this situation? It starts with awareness and education.
The South African Human Rights Commission released a report on water and sanitation in 2014 which included the following findings:
• Approximately 11% (1.4 million) of households (formal and informal) still have to be provided with sanitation services (these households have never had a government supported sanitation intervention);
• At least 26% (3.8 million) of households within formal areas have sanitation services which do not meet the required standards due to the deterioration of infrastructure caused by lack of technical capacity to ensure effective operation, timeous maintenance, refurbishment and/or upgrading, pit emptying services and/or insufficient water resources.
• Although the un-served population is 11% of the national total, their predominance is in the widely dispersed rural settlements of KwaZulu-Natal, North West and the Eastern Cape. The areas with high levels of infrastructure maintenance needs are located within Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal, Free State, Mpumalanga, Northern Cape and the Eastern Cape.
• Based on an assessment of the provision of water services, 23 municipalities (9% of the total) were in a crisis state, with an acute risk of disease outbreak.
• A further 38% were at high risk, with the potential to deteriorate into a state of crisis.
• See link below for the full report.
We need to begin to answer the question of who is my neighbour, and how and why this matters in how we live our lives daily. This is why we do our sanitation campaigns, we believe in the power of the Gospel, to transform communities, to be the agents of change, and in the Church to be the hands and feet of Jesus. We invite you to walk with us, to ask questions with us, to challenge the idea of what a just Cape Town looks like. Leading up to World Toilet Day we will be running a number of events, to raise awareness of the issues facing a great many of our brothers and sisters, sign up, together we can learn, teach others and make a lasting difference across the City and beyond.
Do you know…
• That the Children’s Act applies to churches too?
• What the law says about bullying?
• Who at your church needs to be checked against the Child Protection Register, how to do this, and who is responsible?
• What to do if a child is injured or dies while in the care of the church?
• What to do if you suspect a child of being abused or neglected?
• What rights must be protected when displaying photographs of children?
• That your church has the potential to significantly impact the protection and well-being of the children in your community and in the nation?
The Warehouse has just launched the book Children, Church and the Law – a Practical Guide for Churches on the Children’s Act and Other Laws related to Children. Written by Erica Greathead, a member of Christ Church Kenilworth and former Warehouse staff member, the book describes the principles and provisions of the Children’s Act and its relevance to churches in their work with children.
The Church has always been involved in caring for, protecting and advocating for children. It’s what the Bible teaches, and what we have been doing throughout the ages. The church cares for children on its premises through Sunday School and other activities, as well as outside at camps, in the community and in child-and-youth-care centres. Yet many of us have little understanding of what the legal requirements are for caring for children, in this way compromising both the protection of children and of the church itself. The aim of this book, therefore, is to equip leaders in the church and all who work with children to better understand and adhere to the Children’s Act and related laws.
It’s a very practical book, written in simple English in a question-and-answer format. It includes a glossary of terms used, real life examples of application of the different principles, and snippets that illustrate what is being described. Colour coding is used so that the different sections are easily identifiable. The book describes the background to the Children’s Act and its aim and purpose; it outlines principles such as the best interest of the child, child-participation and cultural practices. It looks at who is suitable to work with children, what are the rights and responsibilitites of parents and of children, different types of care and support for children, issues such as child labour and trafficking, and much much more.
It is hoped that this book will enable churches to deal much more confidently with all issues surrounding children and their care, and that it will prove invaluable to churches and to all who work with children.
Where to get a copy
Our goal, beginning in January, is to host a sanitation event every Third Thursday of the month hence our Turd Thursday campaign. This is to assist, encourage and inspire churches and community based leaders to tackle the issue of sanitation. We will be holding workshops, hard discussions, sanitation pilgrimages and budget awareness programmes over the course of the next year.
We also seek to draw the conversation beyond the issue of sanitation as a human rights issue, to draw it into a stewardship issue. The need to talk sanitation beyond the political rhetoric of flush toilets is vital. Currently we are in the midst of stage 3 water restrictions, this could have serious long term implications, we must find ways to talk sanitation beyond this point.
The Warehouse will be seeking to do this over the course of our Turd Thursday program. Who and what is the church in the midst of a sanitation and ecological crisis? What does our theology look like outside of the sanctuary and into the streets, are we able to keep preaching messages of eternal streets of gold, while effluent flows in the streets.
Together we will unpack this, pilgrimage together beyond the crisis and into the space of hope.
Watch this for more:
If you would like notifications about this Sanitation Campaign, please sign up here.
In October 2015, more than 1200 people from a range of civil society organisations demanded that unauthorised, unlawful, fraudulent and immoral deductions from beneficiaries’ SASSA bank accounts be stopped. It is October 2016 and we are here again!
New regulations, published in May 2016, were meant to stop the flood of unauthorised, unlawful and fraudulent debit deductions from the SASSA bank accounts. Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) and Grindrod Bank were instructed to remove the debit order facility from the SASSA bank account.
But in June 2016 Net1 (which owns CPS), some of its subsidiaries, including Moneyline and Manje Mobile Services, as well as a few other companies took government to court in four cases challenging primarily SASSA and the Department of Social Development’s interpretation of the new regulations and secondarily the new regulations itself. The applicants are asking the High Court to interpret the functionality of the SASSA bank account to include debit orders. They question the authority of the Minister of Social Development to regulate electronic debits within the banking domain. They also asked that the new regulations be declared unconstitutional, if indeed the Department of Social Development (DSD) and SASSA’s interpretation of the regulations is correct.
The Black Sash and six co-applicants asked the court to order that the Minister publish regulations to protect social grants from exploitation if: (a) DSD and SASSA’s interpretation is correct; and (b) that the interpretation renders the new regulations unconstitutional. Government should be given the opportunity to fix the new regulations, if defective, to protect vulnerable beneficiaries from predatory and unscrupulous financial and other third party service providers.
For months we have gathered evidence and testimonies from affected persons about money deducted from the bank accounts into which their social grants are paid, without their approval or informed consent. Media reports also show that cases of suspicious deductions continue and are on the increase. The system that SASSA has put in place to solve deduction disputes is not working well, leaving many beneficiaries unable to resolve queries and/or claim back their money. THIS MUST STOP! This Campaign asserts the Constitutional right to social security.
Finally, we note the Constitutional Court order in April 2012 that SASSA must lodge a report within fourteen days of not awarding a new tender, “on whether and when it will be ready to assume the duty to pay the grants itself” (in-source). In November 2015, SASSA submitted a plan to ConCourt with clear deliverables and timeframes for taking over payment of grants by the end of the CPS/SASSA contract in March 2017. We are closely monitoring SASSA’s progress in this regard.
The Black Sash led Hands Off Our Grants (HOOG) Campaign calls for:
- SASSA to take over the payment of social grants (in-source) by 1 April 2017
- The creation of a special and protected SASSA bank account
- Improved implementation of SASSA’s recourse system
- Refund disputed deductions with bank charges and interest backdated to 2012
- The protection of personal and private information of all in the social grant system.
Black Sash, the Association for Community Advice Offices of South Africa (ACAOSA), supporting civil society organisations along with SASSA beneficiaries are asking for your support as follows:
1. Register your disputed debit deductions with your local SASSA office immediately or call SASSA’s Toll Free Number on 0800 60 10 11. If necessary, escalate your dispute to SASSA regional, provincial and national offices.
3. Mass action to be held in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban on 17 – 18 October 2016.
4. Sign up for the Amandla.mobi ‘Hands Off Our Grants’ petition. Visit http://www.awethu.amandla.mobi/p/grants If yo.u don’t have access to the internet, you can sign up for the petition by sending the word ‘grants’ in a SMS, Please Call me or Whatsapp to 074 357 6937. We refuse to remain silent about the hardship and struggles of poor and vulnerable people affected by these unauthorised and often fraudulent deductions.
As a result beneficiaries experience food shortages and are unable to take their medicines. Many, particularly in rural communities, struggle to find recourse, spending extra money on transport and airtime, often with little success.
I arrived in Cape Town in July 2015 from London to take up the role of Assistant Minister at Christ Church Kenilworth. In my interview in January 2015, I remember a deep conversation unfolding about a sense of ‘Kairos’ in South Africa at this time. Kairos used in the sense of time set by God for a particular occurrence. One biblical example often cited is Mark 1: 14 – 15.
After I arrived, between 17 - 20 August 2015, an international group of about 200 people gathered at the University of Johannesburg to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the 1985 Kairos document. The Kairos document was actually sub-titled “a challenge to the churches”. It challenged the Church to ask itself whether it is a faithful, prophetic witness to the person of Jesus and his manifest rule and reign of in our lives, communities and nation. God’s reign of love is not invisible it looks like something. It authors and nurtures the sanctity of every human-being and values each one as perfectly worthy of love - God’s and each other’s. It authors and promotes justice as the foundation for every aspect of creation, human relationships and social structures. It contends with injustice - the social systems and structures which oppress and dehumanise that which God calls sacred that without justice for all there can be no peace for all and that ‘He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps perpetrate it.’.
‘For Kairos theologians, Jesus is Lord, not Caesar. And if Caesar is particularly oppressive and not a servant of God (as the apartheid system proved to be in the 1980s), then it cannot be obeyed by Christians. This is why the Kairos document called on the churches to engage in non-violent civil disobedience against apartheid.’
When we forsake God and choose to serve Caesar, we willingly or passively comply with the values, social order and authority of Caesar’s political, economic, social and environmental manifesto.
The bible calls this prime allegiance to another god: idolatry and it is the main catalyst for God’s anger towards his people and reason for his discipline in scripture.
In Jeremiah: 2: 13, God denounces Israel’s idolatry saying:
“My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken me,
the spring of living water,
and have dug their own cisterns,
broken cisterns that cannot hold water.
Forsaking God and giving allegiance to Caesar results in a social order which is broken and which denies life to all who are subject to Caesar’s rule. One of the ways that Caesar maintains allegiance and power is through dividing and conquering people within a nation. Some are favoured over others - given the dominant position in society so that in day to day life, this privilege influences every human interaction between those Caesar’s social order favours and those it denies it to. This is one of the blindspots of the broken cisterns. The privileged become so well-adjusted to the broken cisterns because of the benefits they receive, that they will turn on those who challenge their inequality and seek to overturn them either by seeking to silence the protest by whatever means seems ‘proportional’ to restore law and order. Frighteningly, the beneficiaries of Caesar’s broken cisterns become his agents of oppressive force and power.
In 1994, when Apartheid was overturned, the rule of Caesar came to an end, but the people of South Africa inherited the broken cisterns that were created during its rule and many if not most of them continue to operate today leaving Caesar still in power.
When the student and service delivery protests erupted shortly after I arrived, I realised that this was a kairos moment for the church. How we responded would reveal to ourselves and to the world, who our ‘god’ really is. When Jesus is truly Lord of the Church, the Church works confidently, joyfully and tirelessly to dismantle and replace the political, economic, social and environmental cisterns of Caesar to provide life-giving cisterns for EVERYONE. These cisterns will include: housing, water and sanitation, health, education, land reform, employment to name just the essential ones.
Theologian and author Thomas Oden explains the damage that ensues when we forsake God and choose another to our relationships with each other and to our society:
‘Every self exists in relation to values perceived as making life worth living. A value is anything good in the created order - any idea, relation, object or person in which one has an interest, from which one derives significance… These values compete… In time one is prime to choose a centre of value by which other values are judged. When a finite value has been elevated to centrality and imagined as a final source of meaning, then one has chosen a god. One has a god when a finite value is viewed as that without which one cannot receive life joyfully.’
The protests are and continue to be deeply complex. As I write, the student protests have resumed and in my conversations with faculty staff, students, parents and church leaders, we are deeply divided in our responses.
What I am hearing is that students particularly are desperate to be heard. To be really listened to. Many are traumatised by the way SAPS and private security companies have treated them. In several cases already this week, police have fired rubber bullets at non-violent protesters.
South Africa has a history of protest and violence. It has yet to develop a nation-wide approach to conflict resolution which does not include violence. One of the key ways we can develop this is to invite and encourage trained mediators to come and facilitate open, honest dialogue so that all parties can be heard by one another. This process of facilitated deeper listening is absolutely crucial if those who have been disadvantaged by the broken cisterns of Apartheid, and they are the majority, will be heard by those who continue to be privileged by them. Surely this is something the Church should be encouraging, supporting and facilitating?
Few defend the governments lack of leadership and the ongoing corruption that prevents the delivery of a bold strategy to restitute the injustice of the past in tertiary education. But by remaining passive or silent and not holding government to account, the privileged ignore the cries of our younger learners and we continue to deny them the opportunity to become architects and builders of the new cisterns across this country.
So how can the church engage?
According to Paul, in his second letter to the Corinthians (5:18-20), God has made an appeal for reconciliation with the world through his Son, Jesus, and he wants those who’ve experienced this reconciliation to spread the word to others so that all might experience this reconciliation too.
So the church is called to follow Jesus’ example by making the first move to facilitate reconciliation.
Conversations with Christians and church leaders, have led to the realisation that the church is currently not equipped to handle the larger issues around these protests at present. There has been a corporate de-skilling since the 1980 and 1990’s when the church last played a crucial role in peace building in South Africa.
These are the uncomfortable spaces where we need to be placing ourselves, at the frontline of the change taking place in the nation, waging peace.
A growing team of passionate peace-builders, mediators and justice activists from across denominations and networks (SACLI, The Warehouse, St John’s Parish CPT, Mennonite Community, and SADRA) are proposing to build a peacemaking network that is able to meet peacemaking needs on various levels, serve protestors and the police as well as handle the mediation process acting both as presence and peacemaker in a Christlike manner. This work can act as a point of focus to open up discussions and work around the deeper work of both grassroots community development as well as the national space of nation building.
Our intention is to create highly trained teams, that are available to church leaders and civil society both pre, during and post conflict situations. Our prayer being that we are able to bring the light of Christ to prevent potentially violent protests taking place, and in some instances preventing the need for protest altogether.
Three particular ways that the Church can engage in peace-building are:
A team of fully trained peacemakers to attend conflict signs in and around the City, to act as both a calming presence for both protestors and law enforcement.
Mediation / Negotiation:
A team with basic training in mediation and then a core team trained to handle various scenarios from student negotiations to government and unions, also availing ourselves to churches and other faith based organisations to assist in mediation. Over the last two weeks, we have been able to connect trained mediators with faculties and students wanting to create spaces for facilitated dialogue. This is showing signs of hope and that there is a desire for dialogue.
Community based Christian activists will be mobilised in order to bring numbers and support to protests around key issues, whilst at the same time acting as a peace building presence in and amongst protestors. They will also be able to add a Christian dynamic to the narrative by walking and praying, singing, carrying the Shalom of Christ with them into potentially dangerous places.
In his book Subversive Jesus, Craig Greenfield writes:
‘Jesus did not come to get politicians elected into power… Instead he wants us to imagine a different kind of revolution - a gentle subversive revolution of love, courage, justice and kindness to the people least likely to be offered that kindness.’
Apartheid sought to quench all hope of that revolution, but if failed. It’s left a trail of brokenness which together with God’s love, strength and inspiration we can transform. A new kairos has dawned.
Rev Annie Kirke
Christ Church Kenilworth
- a devotional challenge to lament and repent as part of bringing shalom
In the last newsletter we looked at how we are to be bringers of Shalom as God’s people. In this edition, let’s focus on the lament and repentance that we have to go through as God’s people in order to be bringers of true shalom. Before we proceed, take time to read Leviticus 26 and 28 as a reminder of what God expected of God’s people. These scriptures relate a lot to the year of the Lord’s favour or Jubilee as found in Leviticus 25 and Isaiah 61, the passage we are going to engage with in part two of Seeking Shalom in the City.
1. The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; 2. to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favour, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; 3. to grant to those who mourn in Zion - to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified. 4. They shall build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations. Isaiah 61:1-4
The above passage is mostly used to justify our service to the poor. Perhaps we run too quickly to serve the poor without having taken time to reflect on what this passage was saying to the original people of God. Verse 4 makes it clear that it is about Jubilee (year of the Lord’s favor) Lev 25. It is a message of comfort to those who are imprisoned, who are captive and who are broken hearted. Who needs to be freed here? Is it the people of God? May I suggest that the ones who need to be freed first are the people of God?
Why am I saying that?
· They had have rebelled against God - Isaiah 1:2
· They had forsaken the LORD - Isaiah 1:4
This was the message God has been saying to God’s people over and over again through the message proclaimed by the prophets. What response was expected of those who heard it?
Let’s look at Isaiah 1:16-17. Verse 16 says, “Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil.” Repentance was what God was seeking. Verse 17 says, “Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.” Be all who God created and intended you to be.
God’s people in the age of the prophets consistently failed to be what God intended them to be. The good news therefore was to the afflicted people of God who were mourning their deplorable state. Notice that the comfort, favour and freedom is given only to those who mourn (v 2). What is mourning? What does it have to do with repentance? The Old Testament speaks a lot about ashes and sack cloth when people are aware and want to be repentant about their sin. It also speaks of oil after a person has repented. Remember the Story of David and Bathsheba when he was confronted by the prophet Nathan?
Notice the reference that is made to ashes and oil (v 3). In the Old Testament mourning is about repentance. When David was aware of his sin, he mourned by putting on sack cloth. God’s favour/Jubilee was for those who were going to turn away from their wickedness and embrace the identity and the character that God had always intended for them. Notice also that it is only then that the oil of gladness will come (v 3). It is only then that they will become oaks of righteousness/justice, the planting of the Lord. (v 3) What God wanted was for God’s people to recognise where they had failed Him. They needed to mourn, lament their failures before He could bring the oil of gladness. What was the fruit of repentance? To cease to do evil, to learn to do good, seek justice, correct oppression, bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. It took them being taken to Babylon before the message could sank in. Look Daniel’s reflection in chapter 9 recognising the reason they were in exile in Babylon.
May I conclude by saying that unless we, as the people of God, are willing to squarely look at ourselves and recognise where we have failed God in our ways of doing and being the Church, we will continue to be largely ignored by the world. Unless we are willing to face up with what we have failed to be, we will not play the role God has called us to play in the healing of our communities.
This is what we at The Warehouse call our focus on working with young people. We seek, in close partnership with like-minded organisations, to inspire, equip, connect and nurture young Christian leaders, whether they are taking up recognised leadership positions at churches or organisations or whether they are emerging thought leaders and community mobilisers.
Changemakers was innovated under the Micah Challenge (now known as Micah Global) banner at the start of 2014 with the aim to equip and inspire young Christian leaders to advocate and campaign effectively around the issues that their respective communities face.
Through our partnerships, networks and experience we come alongside young leaders to:
* help to shape their perspectives, build their capacity for effective advocacy, campaigning and development responses
* help them reflect theologically on the link between social justice, local and global sites of struggle and oppression and the biblical text
* help them understand the role of repentance and forgiveness in the work towards justice, reflecting on their own place in the historical and present story of injustice
* help them reflect on world views, historical context and the interpretive lenses they use when reading the bible
* equip them with the skills and theories they need to lead interventions and dialogues that will ultimately transform the country
* grow in their ability to discern the time in which the country finds itself, and to craft an appropriate, strategic response
* further develop their critical thinking skills
* create the space with them where they can test and shape their ideas and spark generative dialogues
* grow in their capacity to facilitate discussions, events and training workshops
* grow in their understanding of power, and how to influence those in power as well as use their own power
Some exciting activities so far this year have been:
- Changemakers workshops commenced in May with the youth leaders of St John’s parish churches and other youth leaders from Anglican churches that they are in relationship with (next session: 6 August- all welcome!)
- Plenary talk and Changemakers workshops run by The Warehouse at the Christian Community Development Conference in partnership with Micah Global, Germany in June (http://www.micahnetwork.org/christian-community-development-conference)
- Development of the Changemakers resource: this manual reflects the past decades worth of workshops, methodologies, tools, dialogues and one on one interactions we have had with young Christian leaders who are champions of justice in their churches, communities, campuses and other spheres of influence. This is in it’s pilot stage - you are welcome to contact us for a copy of the resource in the current form with the request that you provide us with feedback that we can integrate into our final edit. We will let you know when this is available to purchase for your own church or to purchase for a church that cannot afford a copy. We also hope to be translating it into Xhosa and Afrikaans - please let us know if you would like to sponsor this next step!
WHY SOUTH AFRICA
Forty years ago, the youth of South Africa rose up in protest against apartheid in a movement that changed the course of South African history and forged a generation of activists that ultimately caused the law of apartheid to crumble. Followers of Jesus were a key catalyst of this movement, giving it energy, ideas and hope.
Over the past 18 months, we have seen the emergence of a new generation of young South African activists rising up with a determination to finish what their elders started, to see the spirit of apartheid fall. Young Christian leaders have participated and engaged enthusiastically, and inspirationally, in this movement, speaking out boldly into the economic, educational, social and political realms. They have garnered national attention, have walked boldly in the public space, and have spoken truth to power at every turn.
These young leaders will frame the struggle for justice in South Africa over the next two decades. Over and again, we have heard South African’s young and old alike, struggle to find coherence between their faith and their pursuit of a just world. This disconnect between the theology we hear preached in church and the theology we’re walking into on the streets, has left some disillusioned and discouraged. Many students have struggled to find the language of justice they hear spoken by their peers echoed back to them by their churches, by their pastoral leadership, or in their scripture. We, like them, are thirsty for a faith that has something significant to say – in thought, in word, and in deed – to the fight for justice we’re finding ourselves engaged in day to day.
We stand at a critical juncture in our history: teetering between hope and desperation, restoration and destruction, faith and fear. It’s time for us to put Jesus and Justice back together – first in our theology and then in our lives.
Connecting with a global movement like the Justice Conference, with a vigorous commitment to local expression and context, has the potential to make a strong contribution to this journey. The work of following Jesus in the pursuit of justice is not simply a local one, it is global. Our hope is that the Justice Conference will:
* Help young leaders root their struggle for a just world in their faith and following of Jesus
* Build connections globally to people who share the same passion and struggle
* Build strong theological and practical foundations for the ongoing work of justice in South Africa
The Justice Conference South Africa seeks to:
Spark a conversation about the ways our faith influences our being just and our doing of justice
Fan the work of justice personally, locally, nationally and globally
Feed a robust theological and social justice dialogue in South Africa
The Justice Conference South Africa Team
“This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” Yes, this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have.”
As God’s people we are called to bring shalom to the cities/places we find ourselves living in. We have to face the fact that there is little peace and prosperity in our cities (and the world) today. We are going to take a journey looking at how to bring this peace to our cities over the next couple of newsletters by wrestling with some bible passages.
Let’s start with the one we love to use - Jeremiah 29:4-8. The context of this scripture is that God’s people have been taken into exile in Babylon. The reason for the exile is that they failed to listen to what God expected them to be as his people living under his rules in the land of milk and honey (signifying prosperity). God had made it clear to them what he expected of them (see Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28).
For a number of years God warned them through the prophets time and again, yet they would not listen to their messages! They wanted prophets who were going to say “peace, peace - when there is no peace.”
As God’s people we are called to be bringers of God’s peace/shalom, but we have to face the fact that there’s so little of God’s peace in some of the spaces in which we find ourselves, especially in the places that claims adherence to the Lordship of Jesus. We have to take a hard look at the history of God’s people and see how we have also not listened to what God is saying to us and expecting of us.
We need to look at the logs in our own eyes before we blame society for its lack of order and maybe see that we are actually partly responsible for the lack of God’s peace and shalom in our cities. Let’s keep our ears open to what God is saying to us through the prophets in South Africa today.
We asked some of the participants for their feedback on the retreat hosted in January. The Warehouse partnered with Freedom Mantle in designing a process of listening, discerning, resting and wrestling with young students involved in activism on campuses around the country.
Hard: “The imbizo had a profound effect on me that has shaped the way I have entered the year. It was hard to go through 36 hours of listening to others’ pain, hurt and anger and then dealing with my own. At times I was confused, not knowing what I had to offer. I kept wrestling with my thoughts and with God, with my identity and where I had come from. It didn’t feel enough to just listen. Did I even have a place to be a voice? While I am still wrestling, I feel sure that this is where God is wanting me to be – in a place of discomfort, not knowing what to do, but to be prayerful, to engage and to discern and seek God at all times.”
Hope: “By the end of the time I was filled with hope – God is raising up a generation that is wanting to engage, that is not afraid to speak out the truth; that is not afraid to say it as it is. What encouraged me most was that here is a generation that is not staying in that place of anger, but is ready to engage with Scripture, to seek God’s face and listen to each other. I have been in many student spaces where we have not got to that place. I think what was different was that we created a safe space where we could be authentic, where we could look to Jesus and where God was very present. I am praying for more spaces like that.”
Hard: “What I found hard at the beginning was trying to figure out the intention of the retreat, and wondering how we, as strangers to each other, were going to find a common understanding. This difficulty came as a result of the complexity of how Christianity has been taught and received differently in our local churches and communities. Further, on the political side, what concerned me was the fact that both universities and the government were not pleased with the student movements and on various occasions have tried unsuccessfully to stop the movements. Now my fear was whether this retreat was another tool employed by these bodies to silence the students.”
Hope: “When I learnt that some leaders in the imbizo had been in other struggles before, and that they had done so believing that the Lord was calling them to participate in the ways they did, I trusted the God in them. Another aspect of hope was the genuine willingness of most people to learn and unlearn some things as they had previously been preserved. The last and most important hopeful experience was people sharing their personal experiences, and how these have influenced their position, passion and dedication to the struggle. This brought hope to me because to hear about something and to experience it is different, and thus such experiences often sustain the struggle, thus the assurance that Aluta Continua!!! What I am grateful for, is the confidence that the God of Israel is the God of our own struggle and this was confirmed in the Imbizo spiritually.”
Hard: “It was hard to hear students of today saying of the present government the exact things – and with the same animosity – that students of the 70s and 80s were saying of the apartheid government; painful to hear those whom we “oldies” regard as our heroes, being questioned, denigrated and almost dismissed. Harder was having to acknowledge the truth in what these students were saying, conceding that these young people have been born into the South Africa that we see today, and that our past struggle and its heroes are mere history – a history that doesn’t seem to have done anything for them or South Africa as a country. For the poverty, the disparity between black and white, the daily struggle of life in the townships is still the same. Painful too, was hearing their same-same struggles with the church that doesn’t seem to care for the suffering of people, a God who seems distant, a Bible that doesn’t seem to give them answers, and an understanding of prayer that sees no power, but instead a cop-out. Hardest of all, taking all this together, was acknowledging that our generation has failed our children, for we never really taught them what we know.”
Hope: “What brought me hope was the pure, passionate, tangible presence of God – the way he guided, answered, spoke and filled the listening spaces. It brought me joy when we listened to and heard each other, when we listened to and heard God. Themes that emerged through speakers and scripture, in prayers and in worship, were God’s love, his fatherhood and the chosen-ness of these particular students for this time in history. Hope settled deep when at the end participants shared having found this a safe space to freely be Christian and angry; found new faith in the Bible as “a revolutionary book”, in God being present in the struggle, in the possibilities that church presented, and in Jesus being with us all the time. In such things, hope finds wings.”
Thank you so much to all who contributed by investing financially, praying, supporting, giving lifts—we so value every part you played.
René August explains how the story of the “Good Samaritan” is so richly applicable to how we think of restitution and, in far wider and deeper ways, how we think of ourselves as disciples of Jesus, whatever our background in South Africa.
When we read parables, the stories only make sense when we look at whom the story was being told to, and who was with Jesus at the time. All parables are stories about the Kingdom of God. They tell us about God’s dreams for the world.
In Luke’s account of this story (Luke 10:25-37), he gives us a clue about the “why” of this story. Verses 25 and 29 are very telling. A lawyer, who is an expert in The Law, wanted to trick Jesus by asking a question about laws. The geography in which Jesus locates this story is on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. This is the road for Priests, Levis and others who would frequent the temple for worship. (The story of John 4, the Samaritan woman, hints at the soci-political and religious dynamics within these relationships.)
The issue is that this man who is asking is an expert in the law, which means he understands the law. And the Levitical law says if you strike someone and cause them harm, it is your responsibility to make sure that they are cared for and to pay for any loss of income ... and to take care of the person and pay their medical bills until they are completely restored to be able to to live again. That’s the Law. Nothing about restitution. Nothing about injustice. If you beat someone up to the point that they can’t work, you must look after their family. That law is in Leviticus (or Deuteronomy), so this expert in the law knows this. Then Jesus says, “... you’ve answered correctly” ...and the man says: “BUT…I wonder who my neighbour is?” Remember: he’s the lawyer, he knows the law ... he is wanting to trick Jesus. And so he asks Jesus, “So, who’s my neighbour?” and Jesus says, “There was once a man who was going from Jerusalem to Jericho…”
Where’s Jericho? Remember the walls of Jericho? The Promised land. From Jerusalem: that’s where the temple is. The people of God travel on that road, the road from Jerusalem to Jericho all the time. So to find a priest on that road: no surprise. To find a Levite on that road: no surprise. These are also people who know the law. And there’s a man who has been badly beaten up, lying bleeding in the gutter. They’re not touching the person…“I might become unclean…because I’m on my way to the temple and then I must still wash and I can’t speak to people for seven days!” And the Levite: same story. There are demands on their lives and on their responsibility which makes it “impossible” for them to care at all about this guy.
Then, the Samaritan! You would spit that name if you were Jewish… use the word when you’re telling a bad story. They have no business on THIS road. (John 4) “They are half-breeds, they’ve got no religion, they’ve got no culture… no temple… who the hell cares what happens to them?”...he comes along and sees, “Oh no! A man!” and Jesus says about this Samaritan “This Samaritan is filled with compassion.” That’s what happens… God is filled with compassion. So Jesus attributes a God character to a ... Samaritan, a “kwerekwere” [A derogatory word for African Foreign Nationals in South Africa, with undertones of violence]. And this unclean, unreligious “filth”, stoops down and cares for the man who was beaten up.
Then Jesus asks this lawyer: “So who is the neighbour?”
He says, “The one who had compassion.”
And klaar [finished]…
That’s the answer! Who’s your neighbour? The one who is least like you, the one who is in need of your compassion ... whether you were responsible or not is not an issue.
To be a disciple of Jesus is to love your neighbour as you love yourself… and you can’t walk by someone in the gutter. You can’t! It doesn’t matter why they are there; that’s not the issue. It’s the wrong question. The question that we must answer is, “How can I love my neighbour as I love myself? How can I love my neighbour in South Africa today?” There are many of my brothers and sisters lying in the gutter. And I can’t walk past them, not if I claim to love my neighbour as I love myself. That would be heretical.
And the Samaritan begs the question: Are you willing to pay the price to restore the human dignity of your brother or sister, at your expense, even if it’s not your fault? Are you willing to do that? Because that is what it’s going to take for you to demonstrate that you love your neighbour as you love yourself.
What then does this story tell us about God’s dreams for the world?
Even outside of the realities of our Apartheid history, this question is critical. In light of the increasing inequalities and growing poverties that are caused by historical injustices of greed and hatred and white privileges - because the privileges were man(It’s not just white privilege; it’s white privileges. Past and present continuous tenses need to be used) - what is our response?
God’s dream, is that we will all act like this Samaritan, but this will require that some give more and some less. To some, much has been given, and much will be required.