Twenty-plus years after the formal end of apartheid and the election of government that reflects the majority of citizens in South Africa, the nation continues to struggle with the legacies of racism and colonialism. In an editorial in the Journalist Ace Moloi calls into question both the Church’s complicity and its paucity of meaningful action.
From the editorial
“Christian values and principles leave the Christian church with no option but to join the masses of students and workers in their fight for these noble objectives in their lifetime. I learnt with astonishment that following everything else that has been happening at the University of the Free State – whites beating up black protesting students and workers at a rugby match, rising racial tensions and continued #EndOutsourcing protests – the Christian Revival Church (CRC) held a prayer service dedicated to “peace”, “love” and “unity”. Of course, viewed independently, there is nothing shocking about a prayer service aimed at the attainment of “peace”, “love” and “unity”. However, given the context, the CRC and the Church at large has a far more meaningful role in combating racism and social injustices than idealistic symbolism and opportunistic PR stunting.
To begin with, the Church was nowhere to be found when students and workers began their protests. It was only when black students stood up for themselves after the Shimla Park incident that the Church returned to its colonial imperative to “bless the arms of the oppressor and to damn the oppressed for bearing arms in the struggle for liberation” as O.R. Tambo stated in his speech. Such is the ubiquitous nature of white supremacy, which rears its arrogant head in programmes of the Church.
Considering the size of the Christian community on campus and in surrounding areas, Christians should actively participate in the struggle against outsourcing, not organise a self-serving parallel public display of holiness. Believing, without a doubt in their collective anointing, the so-called “prayer warriors” should have joined the protesters with full confidence that their very participation in the protest would result in peaceful proceedings and unity of anti-slavery purpose. Christians betrayed their faith when they failed to give it a practical assignment, especially since such an assignment would lead to human fulfilment, social justice, love and human dignity.”
Moloi’s strong words bring to mind Martin Luther King’s condemnation of church leaders in Birmingham when in his famous letter from a Birmingham jail he wrote; “In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched while white churchmen stand on the sideline and mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities.”
As we are about to enter into Holy Week where we re-encounter the powers of religion and government to oppress and deny the dignity of every human in the execution of Jesus, the church which bears His name still has far to go.