How do we cope with the enormous shock and loss of someone so inspiring, so generous in spirit?
Dr. Clint le Bruyns, the widely loved and respected South African theologian, intellectual and activist was 48 years old on the morning of 7 January 2021 when his body succumbed to Covid-19 related complications.
What do we do?
In his tribute, Rev. Moss Nthla (Chair: Kairos South Africa and General Secretary: The Evangelical Alliance of South Africa) responded as follows:
What do you do when a brave soldier falls in the middle of a fierce battle?
When the foe is not merely another tribe from across the river, but an empire arrogantly straddling the globe?
Corrupting the mind with theologies of death.
Enslaving the soul with the values of darkness.
Subjecting the majority of the peoples of the world to the falsehood that evil can trump good.
You celebrate a life well lived, though painfully short.
Consumed in a struggle for justice, both at home and for people in lands beyond the seas.
You celebrate his passion and fierce conviction in the God who inspired him.
You celebrate his inspiration and invitation to many to join the struggle for the common good.
You ready yourself to pick up from where he left off.
To continue his noble charge.
To anticipate the future today.
To live as though another way to live exists.
A tribute by Kairos Palestine and Global Kairos for Justice confirmed that Clint’s gift to life went far beyond self-interest:
While Clint’s identity and work were firmly rooted in his own country’s ongoing struggles for justice, equality and human dignity, his vision and his scholar-activism transcended the barriers of religion, the academy, culture, continents and nationalities.
Known for his optimistic, inspiring, warm, creative and life-embracing energy, Clint embodied public and liberation theology. He loved milk shakes, pancakes, working late into night and he always created space for others to develop and thrive.
Seeking integration, healing and justice
His focus on ecumenical and public theology, prophetic solidarity and theological ethics gave birth to many contributions on tricky topics such as South Africa’s #Fees-must-fall campaign, political and state relations, economic and gender justice and land reform in peer-reviewed academic publications. He was an integral part of the South African Kairos movement and the broader movement, Global Kairos for Justice. For Prof. John de Gruchy, Clint Le Bruyns “will long be remembered for his tenacious witness to truth, especially in support of the Palestinian cause.”
I knew him best in the context of our shared passion for justice and dignity in the world through the lens of the Palestinian struggle. When I first walked into his office at Stellenbosch University’s Faculty of Theology in 2008 for an oral exam, I knew nothing about Clint other than that Prof. Dirk Smit spoke of him as “very talented”. Clint stood in for another lecturer who was out of town on that day. Piles of books covered most of the floor in his office. After my examination I enquired about the stacks of books and we continued to talk. That day was the start of a very special bond.
As a lecturer in theology Dr. Le Bruyns had a formative influence on how students who trained as theologians learned to understand contextual prophetic theology. We started to work together when he introduced me to the Palestinian cause. His photos following a visit to the West Bank showed people queuing up like cattle in the predawn hours in a cage-like corridor to cross an Israeli checkpoint on their way to work, to the hospital or to churches and mosques. The pictures and his account shocked me out of my nostalgic images of a town lit up by the Star of Bethlehem. Clint continued to hold several talks at the faculty and on other platforms and he kickstarted the initiative to educate Christians in and around Stellenbosch on the Palestinian struggle. Clint understood that Palestine has become the litmus test for the integrity of the Christian faith and for what it means to be a decent human being, remarked Rev. Dr. Allan Boesak.
In recent years Dr. Clint Le Bruyns served as Director of the postgraduate Theology & Development Programme, and Senior Lecturer in Theology & Development within the School of Religion, Philosophy & Classics at UKZN. He studied at Cornerstone Christian College, the University of South Africa, the University of the Western Cape, Fuller Theological Seminary and at Stellenbosch University. These positions followed on serving at institutions such as Pat Kelly Bible College, Cornerstone Christian College, Stellenbosch University and Eastern University. He was an active member within various professional theological and ethics societies and editorial boards, and with his creative flair he became also a radio presenter and initiator of the Underground Academy for Lifelong Learning.
How do we go forward?
Dr. Mark Braverman (Director of Kairos USA and research fellow at Stellenbosch University’s Beyers Naudé Centre for Public Theology) highlighted a line in Jewish liturgy that says, “‘May his soul be forever intertwined with the weave of life.’” “To me”, Mark noted, “this has always seemed not so much a prayer as a simple statement of the way things are. The liturgy continues: ‘May you be comforted in the midst of the community of all who mourn.’ Clint was part of a strong community of scholars and activists and he did not separate the two endeavours.”
There is no shortcut through the pain of letting go of a loved one. So many suffer from Covid-19 and other diseases. We offer our heartfelt condolences to his daughter, his mother, the rest of his family and all his friends, colleagues, students and fellow activists who will miss a human being who stood in service of humanity. We thank the medical staff for their compassionate care. Let us embrace this pain by celebrating his life and contribution. He left us an enormous legacy. It is now up to us.