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Israel asked to stop its abuse of Christianity, Judaism and Islam

We all need to face the stark truth: We must choose for humanity, or against it.

In a strongly worded article, Rev Edwin Arrison, general secretary of Kairos Southern Africa and also Chair of South Africa’s National Coalition for Palestine (NC4P) asks Israel to not abuse religion in their colonial project of oppressing the Palestinians. Accept the Palestinians as your equals, he asks, for we are all human.

He also says that we should not count on politicians to bring about positive change.

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Rev Arrison is pictured here (on the left) with Nobel Laureate, retired Archbishop of Cape Town, Desmond Tutu and others #March4Gaza on 9 August 2014.

Here is Arrison’s article as published in the Sunday Tribune, 15 November 2015:

Since 2009, when Christians gathered in Bethlehem to launch the Palestine Kairos document, there has been a great deal of reflection going on in the Church, from small congregations to global Church bodies, to consider what the best way is to respond to the injustices meted out by the State of Israel to all our Palestinian sisters and brothers – including those in refugee camps and in the Diaspora. A great injustice has been, and continues to be perpetrated against them, making them effectively stateless, and Christians can never be silent about injustice, even if we take our time to reflect and make decisions.

There was a time when Israel could depend on support from most Christians across the world, but that time has passed. The Vatican – representing more than a billion Christians – has taken the small step to recognize the State of Palestine. The recent proclamation of two Arab Palestinians as saints is also a profound way of expressing respect for the dignity and humanity of the Palestinian people.

Many Christians within the Evangelical and Pentecostal arms of the Church, have begun to express grave doubt about their support for the Zionist project called Israel. They are beginning to distinguish between Biblical Israel and Zionist Israel.

Even German Christians, who have lived with the guilt of the Holocaust over them, are even beginning to rethink their support for the Zionist State of Israel and for Zionist Christianity. Christians everywhere are thinking very carefully about whether they will continue to buy into a narrative of some exceptional tribe of God or whether they will continue to stand firm in their faith, rooted in the Hebrew Scriptures, that ALL human beings have been created in the image of God and that God is not a tribal God, but God of ALL people. These are quite fundamental choices against the abuse of faith that, once made, can never be reversed, not even by millions of dollars of Israeli propaganda.

We know that there is much injustice in all parts of the world today, but there is only one that gets justified from a misuse of the Bible, and that is the current State of Israel. Serious students and teachers of the Bible have begun to say that the Zionist State of Israel cannot possibly justify its occupation of Palestinian land, leading to oppression of Palestinian people, from the Biblical text.

This old apartheid myth that one group is apparently more important in the eyes of God than another group is today again playing itself out in Palestine and the Zionist State of Israel. Only this time it is worse. In the 1980s the “Communist Threat” was used as justification, this time the “Muslim” is used as a substitute for “terrorist’ and thereby a whole religion and its adherents are being demonized and abused. If parts of the Christian Church were drawn to this for a while, it has now begun to see this tactic for what it is – an evil wedge that is being used to create permanent war to feed a military industrial complex.

Unfortunately for the Zionists, the truth is like the Holy Spirit: it finds a way of seeping through and setting people free from all evil and deception.

The Christian and Muslim faith should not be abused for Zionist colonial propaganda, and neither should the Jewish faith be abused in this way. Many Jews are saying that Judaism and Zionism should not be equated. By equating these two things, anti-Semitism gets fed and for the sake of all humanity, this link must be broken. This can only happen if today we declare Zionist Israel to be a pariah and use every non-violent means to call on Israeli’s to come to their senses. They will not, of course, do this without economic and social pressure from the outside world.

We should not believe that politicians will bring change as we will either be forgetting our own history, or we are being completely naïve or use this belief as a way to either do nothing or to delay things as long as possible. In the 1980s, when South Africans realised that Thatcher, Reagan and Kohl and also some church bodies were not prepared to take a clear stand against apartheid, we appealed to the humanity of citizens worldwide. German church women then took a stand to boycott South African goods despite the fact that their Bishops cut their budget. Across the world, men, women and children not only affirmed the humanity of black South Africans but also gave the Dutch Reformed Church an ultimatum: either you accept that all people are created in the image of God or we will no longer accept you at the Communion Table.

The time has now come for a similar message to go directly to the citizens of the State of Israel and all its supporters across the world: either you stop your abuse of the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths, and accept that Palestinians are your equals or you will no longer be welcome at the table of humanity.

The choice has to be as simple and stark as that.

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“We won this one together” says Desai on Virgin Active gym debacle

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After being kicked out of a Johannesburg gym on 12 August 2015 when pro-Israel supporters did not like his T-shirt, BDS South Africa’s National Coordinator said:

I am humbled by the outpouring of revolutionary love, support, advice and guidance from so many….I also humbly realise that it wasn’t necessarily done for me (nor BDS South Africa). For most people, it was simply about a principled commitment to defending our hard fought for freedoms and not giving-in to power and privilege.


Virgin Active Zapiro

Following a nationwide outcry, Virgin Active eventually took responsibility for its wrong-doing and apologised for initially denying access to BDS South Africa’s National Coordinator, Muhammed Desai to the Old Eds Virgin Active gym. Desai and BDS South Africa welcomed the company’s apology and backtrack. Says Desai:

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I’m humbled by the outpouring of revolutionary love, support, advice and guidance from friends, comrades and members of the public as well as the various media commentators, freedom of expression experts, lawyers and, of course, fellow members of the organisations that I belong to (YCL, BDS SA etc.)

However, I also humbly realise that it wasn’t necessarily done for me (nor BDS South Africa). For most people, it was simply about a principled commitment to defending our hard fought for freedoms and not giving-in to power and privilege.

No matter how horrible Howard Page and other pro-Israeli gym patrons were, this was not an issue about a “disagreement” between gym patrons over a tshirt. It was about a company unfairly siding with (or succumbing to) pressure by those who support Israel and then taking an unfair decision – as a company – in favour of one group over another. A decision that violated several constitutional rights.

This was about how power and privilege is used to suppress voices that challenge injustices, and in particular, voices that are critical of Israel’s injustices against the Palestinian people.

Finally, I take serious offence at comments by some that they were shocked to learn that I actually go to gym. But, I guess, that’s their constitutional right 🙂

———-
For the record: I never called the ENCA journalist to the gym (in fact, I never knew him nor had his details until after this issue). It was by (a very fortunate) chance that he was also there that evening (he was on his way out as he had forgotten his towel). Secondly, I did not go to the OId Eds gym because it is frequented by pro-Israeli supporters. I go to Old Eds simply because it is the closest to where I live. In fact, I have never visited another Virgin Active Gym in the whole of Johannesburg. Thirdly, I was never, as claimed, at any point on Wednesday evening aggressive or forceful. Virgin Active surveillance cameras can attest to that.

BDS

This is a victory for freedom of expression. It is also a victory against those South Africans who think their support of Israel’s human rights crimes gives them the right to bully and harass businesses, academics, journalists, students and members of the public who voice (or even simply allow) support for BDS, the Palestinian people, or criticism of Israel.

In this instance, the pro-Israeli pressure (which Virgin Active was wrong to succumb to) back-fired with thousands taking to social media and other platforms and eventually leading the company to back-track and apologise.

Many more supporters now, more than before, wear BDS T-shirts to gym. I too did some yoga in the Old Eds Virgin Active gym earlier this week when I was in Johannesburg for the #Kairos30 Conference. Wearing a suitable T-shirt, of course, 🙂

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Thousands more now know, more than before, about the non-violent boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel movement.

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Who says Israel is guilty of Apartheid?

People often argue that “this and that were so in South Africa” and because “this and that are not so” in Israel, Israel is not an apartheid state. But such logic holds no water.

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What is apartheid?

An article in the newspaper Star (13 March 2014, by Solly Mapaila ) correctly argues that the Jewish democracy’s laws and practices fall squarely into the United Nations’ definition of apartheid. In other words, Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians is not defined in terms of the former South African situation, but in terms of international law which calls apartheid a crime against humanity (Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court 2002). The International Criminal Court’s definition of apartheid is

“the systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime” (2002:6).

Who says Israel is an apartheid state?

In 2012 the United Nations Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination found Israeli policies in the occupied Palestinian territories “tantamount to Apartheid” and that

“many state policies within Israel also violate the prohibition on Apartheid as enshrined in Article 3 of the Convention.” (Erakat & Madi 2012)

Prior to that, in November 2011, the Russell Tribunal in Cape Town articulated similar findings.

Human Rights Watch in turn published a report titled “Israel/West Bank: Separate and Unequal” (2010) which details Israel’s discriminatory practices against the indigenous Palestinians.

And in 2009, the South African Human Sciences Research Council (2009:277) concluded their in-depth report as follows:

“Both colonialism and apartheid are prohibited by international law. This Report has found strong evidence to indicate that Israel has violated, and continues to violate, both prohibitions in the occupied Palestinian territories.”

An international team of scholars and practitioners of international public law from South Africa, the United Kingdom, Israel and Palestine conducted the study.

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Surely most South Africans recognise Israel’s crimes, right?

As we benefitted from the world’s active support in demolishing apartheid, one would imagine that South Africans would now keenly respond to a plea to the international community for  non-violent resistance against Israel’s discrimination, oppression and occupation of Palestinians.

What is so shocking, is that so many South Africans do not know, or are not willing to acknowledge Israel’s apartheid crimes. The very people who suffered under apartheid and those who used to support apartheid, but say they have since changed, are now focusing on their own lives, their own comfort and their own problems and they turn a blind eye to another people who also suffer under apartheid. They forget that Palestinians helped to campaign for justice in South Africa during the apartheid struggle.

Does it mean that our transition to a post-apartheid psyche has only been cosmetic? In other words, is the change in our society superficial and not principled? Are we settling for pragmatic changes? Or perhaps we are ignorant about Israel’s crimes against humanity? Are we too comfortable to rock the boat?

Why do we turn away and continue to romanticise Israel? Why do we confuse the modern state with the Biblical entity? Why do Christians travel to the Holy Land and then ignore the descendents of the first Christians in the old city of Jerusalem, in Bethlehem, Jericho, Nablus, Hebron and elsewhere in Palestine? For how long must these people suffer while we, post-apartheid South Africans, look away and/or support Israel as some hero?  Can we really be happy, content and fulfilled as a new nation if we ignore a repetition of apartheid?  Is it fair to hide behind our own national issues and forget the world’s (and the Palestinians’) support in demolishing apartheid here?

A chance to know more…

If you want to know more, make sure to attend and participate in this year’s Israeli Apartheid Week. Our national initiatives from part of a worldwide campaign.

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Find the schedule of activities in more than 45 cities and towns here.

REFERENCES:

Erakat, N. & Madi, R. 2012. UN Committee 2012 Session Concludes Israeli System Tantamount to Apartheid. [Online]. Jadaliyya. Available: http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/5588/un-committee-2012-session-concludes-israeli-system. [2014, 13 March].

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

Roadmap to Apartheid. 2012. Dir.: Ana Nogueira, Eron Davidson, Nathaniel Cunningham. Cinematography: Ana Nogueira. Narrator: Alice Walker. United States of America. ? ? min. English. Prod.: Ana Nogueira & Eron Davidson. Studio??

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

United Nations. 2002. Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. [Online]. Available: http://untreaty.un.org/cod/icc/statute/english/rome_statute%28e%29.pdf. [2012, 11 October].

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Edwin Arrison: Why I support #BoycottWoolworths

I feel as if I owe an explanation to many people about why I have decided to boycott Woolworths. This is a personal decision and is not something I can enforce on any other person, but I need to explain my decision and others can and must make their own decisions. If I have not convinced others through my arguments, then the responsibility lies with me and not with the other person.

What follows is a personal account from Rev Edwin Arrison who also serves as chairperson of South Africa’s National Coalition for Palestine (NC4P). He speaks from his heart and with the many years’ experience during the apartheid struggle years:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARev. Arrison featured with South Africa’s Muslim Judicial Council’s Secretary General Maulana Abdul Khaliq Allie (left) and the Ambassador of Palestine (right).

One thing that I hope all humanity wishes for AND works for, is to have a as-non-violent-as-possible resolution to the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians. I do not think wishing for it is enough, and neither do I believe that non-violence is something only to be talked about: no, it is something ordinary citizens must DO. If there is no non-violent ACTION, then I believe we are simply complicit in the violence happening.

As a South African, I am the beneficiary of a sustained boycott campaign against Apartheid South Africa by ordinary citizens across the globe. The freedom I enjoy today is partly because women and men across the world refused to buy Apartheid South Africa’s goods, EVEN if their governments allowed those goods to be imported into their countries. Sometimes groups of people protested with placards in front of stores and Embassies – at other times a lone individual did that, and for all of them I am extremely grateful. I also know that boycotts and sanctions do have a positive effect even if it is experienced as negative.

Today, Israel practices Apartheid 2.0 : Supporters of Israel will vehemently try and argue and deny this, but the experience of Palestinians in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza and of many observers, is that Israel practices a very sophisticated form of apartheid. Besides these daily experiences and observations, there are research documents to prove that Israel practices Apartheid 2.0, one done by South Africa’s own Human Science Research Council (HSRC) and by the work of the Russell Tribunal. This information is widely available on the internet. Israel also continued to support Apartheid South Africa even after the USA decided to implement sanctions against South Africa.

There are also thousands of newspaper articles and videos that describe this. Supporters of Israel will want to argue that this happens in other countries as well, but in their case (and one of the key reasons why I feel so strongly about this) it is being done on the basis of some selected Biblical texts, the same Bible that I read every day. And I definitely do not agree that the current state of Israel complies to the basic tenets of the Biblical text, which is love, equality and justice.

My own view is that Israel makes life as difficult as possible for ordinary Palestinian people in order to force them out and get them to emigrate so that Israel can win a “demographic war”, in other words, for Israelis to be in the majority. This strategy has worked well with tens of thousands of Palestinian Christians who are economically strong: most of them have emigrated and now live in different parts of the world. The ones who remain are being steadfast, but I know how difficult it is for them there. I therefore find the “Christian” support for Israel completely weird and unacceptable: here is a country who has, through big and small actions, driven out Christians from the Holy Land and yet other Christians find reasons, most of it completely illogical, to support them. Right now, Israel is trying to make Jerusalem a Jewish-only city through various actions. It is time we all wake up to what Israel is doing and how it continues to steal more and more land.

Coming from a country that practiced apartheid in all sorts of ways (and using the Bible to justify it), I CANNOT condone the same situation happening in another part of the world and be quiet about it. President Mandela had a very deep intuition when he said that “South Africans will not be free until the people of Palestine are free”. He was completely right, and people such as Archbishop Tutu and many others support the struggle of the Palestinian people despite the worst kind of criticisms they face.

Woolworths chooses to trade with Apartheid Israel I described above : It must be said that Woolworths is not the only company that trades with Apartheid Israel, and that the South African government enables this trade to happen. For that reason, 200 000 people marched to Parliament on August 9 to call on our government to stop this but they have still not done so. But we will not leave it there and we will continue to expose our government’s double standards. That is a discussion for another article….

Woolworths has now been approached (through letters that I and others have written to their CEO) to stop trade with Israel and they have deliberately CHOSEN to ignore these calls. Having made this clear and deliberate choice against stopping trade with Israel, it places Woolworths in a category where they are now deliberately culpable in the continued oppression of the Palestinian people.

Woolworths’ claim to be ethical , if not THE most ethical company: Those who make claims about their high ethical standards must be challenged to live by it. This is part of the reason why I support the #Boycott Woolworths campaign

The need to focus on one retailer (from a strategic and practical point of view) : Sometimes people speak about other companies who also have ties with Israel, and of course this is true. If others feel they should boycott a few companies, they should go ahead and do that. But to be effective AS A CAMPAIGN, I strongly believe in the need to focus on one target and deal with that. You will simply dilute your energy, resources and capacities if you try to do too many things at the same time. At another time, when more people have joined and there are more resources, the campaign can be broadened to the other retailers who also have links with Israel, but I strongly believe in the need to focus on one…it is the only way that the campaign will succeed.

These are some of my most important reasons why I boycott Woolworths. People are free to challenge me but I hope that at the very least you will try to understand why I feel so strongly about this. The moment when Woolworths stop its trade with Israel, I will probably support it again. But not while it trades with a country that practices Apartheid 2.0 daily, and that on the basis of a few selected Biblical texts.

If you wish to join the boycott, here are some ways to participate :

1. The simplest way is obviously to just stop buying at Woolworths, and do nothing more than that, and that will be enough for some people.

2. Some clients can also write to Woolworths to ask them to take them off their address lists.

3. Some clients can close their accounts if they feel this is what they are able to do.

4. Use Social media to mention that you support the #Boycott Woolworths campaign.

5. Write letters to the Editors of newspaper if they mischaracterise the campaign.

6. Some people can demonstrate in front of Woolworths stores from time to time.

7. Some people can demonstrate inside Woolworths stores by, for example, filling up trollies and refusing to pay until that particular branch manager of Woolworths gives an undertaking to not stock Israeli goods.

8. Some people can write to the PIC, that has almost 20% shares in Woolworths.

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The pig’s head debacle: A disgrace to Palestinians, to Jews, to South Africans and to all others

Placing pigs’ heads on top of the meat others want to buy serves neither the Palestinian cause nor the boycott campaign against Woolworths. It disrespects all Jews, all Muslims, all animals, and all who advocate for freedom and dignity.

pig's head

Tactics of intimidation and disrespect belongs to an ideology of oppression. It is disguised violence. To argue that the end goal justifies the means is part of an outdated, dualistic, hierarchical framework which ignores relationships. Isn’t this the very thing that we try to move away from? Does it not go against everything the broader South African solidarity movement stand for? Can such tactics ever win people over to hear the cries of the Palestinians?

mondoweiss, artist unknown

Calling the incident “completely offensive”, Sumayya Omar, of BDS South Africa, said the group “condemned” the action. “We are completely distancing ourselves from the incident. BDS is not involved or implicated at all,” she said. Likewise, South Africa’s National Coalition for Palestine made it clear that the incident is unacceptable.

The following letter in the Cape Town newspaper, Argus (6 November 2014), written by a Jewish colleague in the local Palestine solidarity movement, is crisp and clear:

Dear Editor of Argus,

The action at Woolworths last Thursday as well as today’s press release by COSAS that it has placed a further three pig’s heads in Woolworths stores and is so planning to place ten more, is unacceptable both for reasons of principle and strategy.

In principle it is conflating ‘ the Jewish religion’ with ‘the political state of Israel’. This is through linking a pig’s head to Jewish religious dietary laws that regard pork as impure and there are injunctions not to eat it. Their intention is anti-Jewish, and not simply anti-Israel. The action also demeans sentient life other than human, in this case about 14 pigs have been killed and beheaded to make a political point.

The action has brought pork into a store which also caters for Muslim consumers, whose dietary laws also forbid them to consume pork; this is an affront to them, and they are the main target of consumers whom this campaign is appealing to boycott Woolworths. Today’s press release confirms that it is COSAS’ explicit intention to deeply affront Jewish, Muslim and other consumers in order to shock them into realising the IDF’s carnage in Gaza (they refer specifically to the killing of schoolchildren through targeting artillery, tank and air bombardment on schools etc.), rather than engaging consumers with information about the attack on Gaza as well as the broader issue of Israel’s historical and ongoing violation of Palestinians’ human rights (including the right to self-determination) in order to raise their awareness and convince them to boycott Woolworths over the longer term. I think that the placing of the Pigs’ heads is already causing a backlash from the targeted consumers themselves.

This is a tactic of intimidating consumers into boycotting, for which there was a history in the anti-apartheid struggle in the 1980s where COSAS and other youth formations sometimes enforced consumer boycotts by punishing consumers who dared to break them – youths guarded the entrances to townships and searched people’s bags and containers as they came home, forcing those who had bought at forbidden shops to consume all that then and there; often this entailed forcing them to drink raw cooking oil, etc. They were able to do this because they had made the townships ungovernable. This is not the situation today where the ideas that legitimise or delegitimise opposing actions, is the terrain where this struggle is largely being fought outside of Israel/Palestine. In any event this is not a democratic but an authoritarian politics and I reject it both for its taunting of Jews and Muslims as well as for its undermining the growth of a movement that has legitimacy and mass support across the religious, ethnic/race and class spectrum.

COSAS thinks that the end justifies the means, but equally there is a greater risk that these means will start corrupting a noble end.

Yours truly,

Dr Paul Hendler
Stellenbosch

I am a Jewish South African against the demonisation of the Palestinian People and for a rational discussion of their circumstances.

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The Congress of South African Students (COSAS) has since expressed their disgust and distanced themselves from the incident. They said that only one person, Siphakamise Ngxowa, was involved and that he is suspended from the organisation. Ngxowa’s actions lacked the backing of COSAS even though he pretended otherwise.

COSAS STATEMENT ON WOOLWORTHS PIG HEAD INCIDENT
Official Statement of the Congress of South African Students (COSAS) on the Lamentable Woolworths “Pig Head” Incident:

The Congress of South African Students would first like to continue pledging its solidarity with the people of Palestine. COSAS has nationally supported the advocating for freeing people of Palestine from apartheid Israel, we have done that through releasing press statements, doing interviews, attending the campaigns, marches and
addressing various events on the particular matter.

The Congress of South African Students has committed itself in forming part of this struggle without any hesitation because it is a just course. Democracy, peace and stability are deserved by any living human being; this is why we continue to pledge our consistent solidarity with the people of Palestine.

With the above being said as an organization we must go on to mention that it comes as a disappointment to us that establishments such as Woolworths continue to import goods from Israel, whilst there is no peace in that country and people of Palestine including children are brutally killed and murdered every day.

As an organization we indeed believe that Woolworths should continue to be lobbied until they join the rest of the country in being in solidarity with the people of Palestine. As an organization we do understand the importance of boycotts and sanctions as they also assisted our very own country when it fought against apartheid governance.
We are however of the view that when we do not agree with certain methods being used to push the struggle of the Palestinians forward, we are not going to be censored to raise it in fear of being labelled sellouts. When as an organization we resolved on participating in this campaign we never requested advice from anyone therefore even
now we will not seek approval of anyone to continue to participate in it and we again will not be threatened not to critique where we see fit to do so. South Africa remains a country in itself, which has its own beliefs and values it also has a constitution which guides it.

The Congress of South African Students is again also an organization which has its own constitution which guides it will never compromise on. As we continue to push forward this struggle we can never lose identity of who we are and what our primary principles are.

The Congress of South African Students joins the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) SA and the African National Congress in condemning the placing of the pig heads in the meat section of Woolworths stores around the Western Cape Province as a method to lobby Woolworths to stop trading with Israel. This particular method is
surrounded by a number of controversies when it comes to religion.

As the Congress of South African Students we view this method as seeking to provoke certain religions in order to push the campaign forward which we believe weakens and further mobilizes against the boycott as some religions may find this offensive and further provocative. We find this method ill-advised and not well thought as it has now
brought a certain level of instability in our own country religiously, which is not something that we should allow to happen. We cannot compromise peace and religious rights of our own people in order to push forward this struggle.

As an organization we would like to place it on record that it was not COSAS which led this campaign. There is no structure of the organization which set and resolved on this Pig Head campaign, we do however acknowledge that an individual by the name of Siphakamise Ngxowa was part of that action.

Siphakamise Ngxowa is currently suspended from the organization, in a suspension which was in effect before the Woolworths incident happened, which gives the organization all rights to distance itself from the mishap and clear itself from participating in it, as Siphakamise Ngxowa participated on the campaign in his own personal capacity.

It is further important we point out that no other member of COSAS in good standing was found in this debacle. The organization has noted that the particular individual continues to release statements and address the media on behalf of the organization posing as the chairperson of COSAS Western Cape, despite being suspended from the organization. We view this act as unprincipled, misleading and further bringing the organization in disrepute, the act by the individual will further be engaged and added when the appropriate structures of the organization considers his suspension further.

Statement issued by COSAS President General Collen Malatji, November 4 2014

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SA Muslims on an Islamic State (IS): This is not Islam.

To South African Muslims the possibility of an Islamic State (IS) threatens not only non-Muslims, but also vigilant and conscious Muslims. All of us can live together in peace and in respect for one another they say.

I fully agree with their position whereby we as people from different faiths can share the same values.

Here is South Africa’s Islamic Unity Convention’s press statement:

image004PRESS RELEASE
September 2014

The core tenets of Islam include love, peace and unity and justice. These values however are not reserved for Muslims. It is therefore with abhorrence that the Islamic Unity Convention witnesses the crimes of the so-called ‘Islamic State’ (IS).

How can a group claiming to act in the name of Islam (the religion of peace) build a Caliphate on mass murders and human rights abuses?

The IUC condemns not only these actions but also the fundamentals of this so-called Islamic State.

While we are aware that some Muslim groups (including in South Africa) have at times supported, endorsed and even defended the actions of IS and other groupings which share its motives and methods; the IUC cannot condone such brutality, which is based on the foundation of sectarianism.
Inasmuch as the emergence of IS poses a concern to our brethren of other faiths, it is one of the biggest challenges being faced by vigilant and conscious Muslims. The IS while viciously targeting Christians, Druze and other communities has massacred scores of Muslims. We also note that despite attempts to characterise IS as a Sunni-interest group; this is inaccurate as the majority of this rabid group’s victims have been Muslims of the Sunni trend. The IS, al-Qaeda and other such groupings which preach sectarianism therefore cannot claim to act in the name of Islam.

We also have to remember that this militant group did not appear from thin air; it was militarily, financially and logistically bolstered for several years, with aid and protection of Arab regimes and the West.

The crimes of IS affect South Africans as much as they do the people of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and the broader Middle East. A number of Muslim South African youth have been swept up by this phenomenon and some are even active in the IS’ army.

As the IUC, our position is clear:

  • The South African government should halt such elements from going over to create mayhem in the world.
  • The Muslim community bears the tough responsibility of educating, directing and guiding its youth such that they do not fall prey to the vices of the IS or any other groups (local ones included) which work to sow social discord and hatred.
  • Conscious South African Muslims need to stand up to and challenge those elements who for over three years now have been trying to create conflict among Muslims themselves.

The history of Islam demonstrates that Muslims, Christians, Jews and those of other persuasions can live together in a mutually productive and prosperous society founded on respect, sincerity and love. Our prayer is that all communities will recognise who the real enemy is and not be swayed by infighting and minor differences.

For comment, contact:
IUC Public Relations Officer: Magboeba Davids 083 746 4040
IUC Chairperson: Mansoora Africa (072 716 7772)

The original press statement is available here:
IUC Press Statement on IS September 2014.

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South African Muslims reject violence in the name of Islam

 

coexist

It is increasingly important and urgent for people of different faiths to stand together against a destruction of the sacredness of humanity. Let us who share the same values, take hands. As a Christian I support and have signed this petition by South African Muslims.

You too can sign their petition by clicking on this link.

Here is their full statement:

As South African Muslims, we reject the actions of groups that have adopted murder, kidnapping and violence against innocent people, the destruction of schools, sacred spaces and forced conversions, in the name of Islam. These include Boko Haram, Al Shabab, Al Qa’eda, and more recently, the “Islamic State”.

We stand in solidarity with Christians, Yazidis, Jews and Muslims who have been forced to leave their homes, and have experienced terror and trauma at the hands of those who claim to speak for Islam, but are behaving in a manner contrary to the tenets of our faith.   We are proud Muslims who stand for justice. We stand with communities that have been divided, with women who have been raped, with churches that have been razed. We stand with children that have known nothing but war, and death. We condemn the action of groups that use the religion of Islam to justify their brutality against innocent men, women and children of all faiths.

We acknowledge the legitimate concerns of groups that have been economically and politically marginalised, but call for political reform based on inclusivity. We also believe that military intervention, led by the U.S government, is inappropriate and more harmful. We call for the responsible use of terms like “jihadist” or “Islamist”. The human rights abuses perpetrated by these terrorists and killers have nothing to do with the concept of Jihad which is to “struggle” or “strive” for goodness. Their behaviour is contrary to Islam’s teachings, and are repugnant to Muslims worldwide.

The Islam that we know and love is centred on values of justice, mercy and compassion. It stands in solidarity with all people facing persecution.    These organisations – and the states that sponsor them – do not act in our name. We reject this hijacking and misrepresentation of Islam’s teachings. We further reject all forms of sectarianism – in the South Africa that we love, and in majority Muslim countries.      “Remember that people are of two kinds; they are either your brothers in religion or your brothers in mankind.” –  Ali ibn Abu Talib, Muslim caliph and son-in-law of Prophet Muhammad.

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Gaza: South Africa’s lack of solidarity a “national shame”

The South African government lags behind in its solidarity with Palestine because of pressure applied by the South African Zionist lobby. This inactivity is “a source of national shame” Kairos Southern Africa said at a press statement in Cape Town on 11 July 2014.

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Several civil societies as well as the ANC Youth League tabled their positions and their appeal to the South African government to members of the local and the international press. The joint message was clear:

Any attempt to remain neutral in this kind of conflict is both futile and immoral. Neutrality enables the status quo of oppression to continue. It is a way of giving tacit support to the oppressor. We are not taking sides against the Israeli people, but we unequivocally reject the Israeli regime’s treatment of Palestinians. We want international law to be upheld. Our government must implement BDS actions. An insufficient response will prolong the suffering and the damage. All violence must stop with immediate effect.

Here is Kairos Southern Africa’s full statement:

PRESS RELEASE: Response to Gaza violence
Friday, 11 July 2014
11:00, Cape Town

Kairos Southern Africa believes that all lives have the same value, and that all violence is destructive. The current and ongoing situation between Israel and Palestine poses a critical test for the international community’s commitment to international law and human dignity. In this context, we hold the following position:

  1. The occupation of Palestine by Israel is the primary violent act. We condemn it absolutely. Israel’s widespread, ongoing, collective attack on the Palestinian people is a form of institutionalised, systemic violence practised in multiple ways on the besieged Gaza strip and occupied East Jerusalem and West Bank.
  2. The violent resistance by Hamas is understandable, but we do not support it. We do not believe that this violence represents the will of the majority of Palestinians, who ask for active non-violent resistance in the form of boycotts, divestment and sanctions.
  3. On 10 July, the Palestinian unity government appealed to the United Nations Security Council to enforce International Humanitarian Law.
  4. Many Israelis and the majority of the Palestinian people are exhausted by the ongoing struggle. They want an end to the unbearable and inhumane situation; and they want to live normal, secure and hopeful lives. Therefore, they are calling for help on their governments and the international community to end to the ongoing occupation.
  5. The South African government has failed to take tangible action in the form of support of boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel, because of pressure applied by the South African Zionist lobby, which insists on the South African government’s neutrality when it comes to Israel. As a result, South Africa now lags behind other countries in its solidarity with the oppressed in Palestine. We see this inactivity as a source of national shame. In the light of our history, we of all nations must actively help others who are systemically oppressed.

We call on the South African government to do what is honest and just, so that we can be honourable international citizens. We do not ask our government to issue more statements, but to implement boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel, and to take the actions called for in the Cape Town Declaration of 6 February 2014.

The South African government must:

  • Adhere to its legal obligation under the Rome Statute to set up a special court to deal with war crimes, deal expeditiously with the Gaza Docket and with South Africans serving in the Israeli Defence Force.
  • Adopt the HSRC report that found Israeli guilty of Apartheid, and present it to international bodies, including the International Criminal Court, the United Nations and the African Union.
  • Stop financial transactions with Israeli settlement companies, banks, and companies involved in the settlements.
  • Lobby for financial and other support in the global arena for the Palestinians for socioeconomic development after the end of the occupation.
  • Support Palestinian students as a concrete act of solidarity and ease entrance into South Africa for Palestinians.
  • Support health systems infrastructure in Gaza, in the West Bank and in refugee camps.
  • Support the Robben Island Declaration for the freedom of Marwan Barghouti and all Palestinian political prisoners.
  • Support the Palestinian-led call for boycotts, divestment and sanctions issued by the majority of Palestinians by implementing complete military, financial and political sanctions against Israel until it complies with all the applicable UN resolutions and International Law, and ends its occupation; and table this matter at both the African Union and the United Nations.
  • Encourage witness and solidarity visits such as the World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) programme.
  • Build and strengthen an international diplomatic bloc in solidarity with the Palestinian people, starting with Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa (BRICS).
  • Campaign for Israel to be suspended from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) network.
  • Encourage and support Palestinian reconciliation efforts.

ISSUED BY KAIROS SOUTHERN AFRICA

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

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We are not happy with South Africa’s politicians

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Leaders of South Africa’s Christian, Jewish and Muslim communities have called on their followers to join a “Procession of Witness” from District Six to Parliament on Saturday 19 April 2014 to demand:

“A change in the practice and behaviour of all parliamentarians, captains of industry and commerce; and

“That all those, in all sectors of society, who have influence and power, return to Nelson Mandela’s way of governance and leadership: governance that was not threatened by healthy social discourse; governance that was always mindful of the plight of the poor and the marginalized; governance that took seriously its responsibility to all people who have given leaders their trust.”

When Anglican Archbishop Thabo Makgoba of Cape Town announced the procession, he was supported by Maulana Abdul-Khaliq Allie, secretary-general of the Muslim Judicial Council, and Christian leaders including the national moderator of the Uniting Reforming Church of Southern Africa and president of the World Council of Churches, the Revd Dr Mary-Anne Plaatjies-van Huffel.

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The Union of Orthodox Synagogues also sent a message of support, as did the Western Cape moderator of the Ned Geref Kerk, Dr. Braam Hanekom.

in defense of the role of the Public Protector and to express their concern over other issues affecting Cape Town communities.

The procession will begin at 10 am on Saturday at Keizersgracht, District Six.

Archbishop Makgoba said that “while the Procession is open to all, including members of political parties, it will be led by religious leaders and no party political banners will be permitted.”

The Procession route, from Keizergracht in District Six to Parliament, is quite short so it should be possible for most people with moderate levels of fitness to participate. The maximum time for the entire event should be three hours, but it is likely to be less than this.

Other Christian leaders who joined the call included Bishop Michel Hansrod, head of the Cape district of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa; Bishop Margaret Vertue of the Anglican Diocese of False Bay; the Revd Lucas Plaatjie, moderator of the Cape synod of the Uniting Reforming Church; the Revd Michael Muller, moderator of the Presbytery of the Western Cape of the Uniting Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa; and Dr Johan Botha, scribe of the Uniting Reformed Church.

The full text of Archbishop Makgoba’s statement follows:

Some weeks ago, a number of us gathered on the steps of St George’s Cathedral where our predecessors stood during the apartheid era. There we stood in silence under the banner, “A Flower for Thuli, A Message for the President”, referring to the Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela, and her report on the upgrades to President Jacob Zuma’s private residence at Nkandla.

Our placards called on the president to respond to the Public Protector’s report and on the public to defend our “Chapter Nine” institutions – the independent institutions set up under the South African Constitution to guard our democracy.

Speaking in the Cathedral afterwards, I voiced my yearning for the entire faith-based and NGO community to come together not so much to defend the Public Protector as an individual as to defend the rights of the public and the integrity of her office, which appears to be under assault from forces including many members of Parliament.

After wider consultations led by the Dean, we have decided to pluck up the courage that the times demand of us and to invite the people of Cape Town to join us on a Procession of Witness from District Six to Parliament, with the aim of calling upon our leaders to live up to the national values established by the Constitution.

Although this is primarily a response to the crisis in government presented by the worrying developments surrounding the Chapter Nine institutions and especially those concerning the Office of the Public Protector, we are also responding to the plight of communities ravaged by gangsterism, drug abuse and poor education.

And while the Procession is open to all, including members of political parties, it will be led by religious leaders and no party political banners will be permitted.

We, the faith community, confess our silence over many years, and our failure to respond compassionately to God’s cry in the lives of the people of our land — especially those who are poor, naked and those denied their daily bread.

Our Procession is now being held to demand:

  • A change in the practice and behaviour of all parliamentarians, captains of industry and commerce;
  • That all those, in all sectors of society, who have influence and power, return to Nelson Mandela’s way of governance and leadership: governance that was not threatened by healthy social discourse; governance that was always mindful of the plight of the poor and the marginalized; governance that took seriously its responsibility to all people who have given leaders their trust.

We invite you to gather with us on Saturday, 9 April 2014 at 10am on Kaizergracht Street, District Six (below St. Mark’s Church) for our Procession of Witness to Parliament.

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Mandela: Intertwined lives

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“Peace, freedom and democracy for all South Africans!” proclaimed Nelson Mandela on his release from prison in 1990, also declaring himself as  “a servant to all in South Africa”. Today we are a nation in mourning.

After being condemned and locked away for 27 years as a political prisoner, Mandela received the Nobel Prize for Peace (1993) and became the first president of the new, democratic South Africa (1994).

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Mandela became the one who inspired diverse people to reconcile – those who struggled against apartheid, those like me who did nothing to end the injustices of oppression and even those who thought that inequality and racial separation were the best for all.

He showed us what it looks like when you grant others what you want for yourself.

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He availed himself to be Tata (“Father”) to all of us.  He served us through his humility, his warmth, his wisdom and his openness, and when with children he used to look as if he has never lost the unbounded joy of an unscarred child.

Madiba made me feel safe and cared for even though I was one of those who, for most of the time, did nothing to end the injust apartheid system. He, and many others who struggled against apartheid, fostered a climate in which I could face and acknowledge my guilt of inaction and therefore of complicity in maintaining an oppressive system.

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I mourn the passing of this beloved man. My heart is with his family and loved ones. My heart is with all comrades who struggled with him against oppression.

And yet…

…I also lament the ongoing pain, suffering, corruption, neglect, greed and other injustices in my country. I cry out for my land! I ache to see a dream in mud! Should we already mourn the loss of Mandela’s legacy? Where is our servanthood?

“Who have we become?” Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu recently asked passionately. “Who have we become?”

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HOW DID WE LOSE OURSELVES?

Who do we want to be in the here and now?

The life of Madiba should be remembered through our attitudes and our actions.

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We are still here. It is our responsibility to shape the texture of every breath and every step.

I rejoice that I am not free from my memory of maintaining the oppression of others as I do not want to be free from it. I want to remember where I come from and how for many years I did not know how to feel fully human.  Now I shall continue to breathe and walk. My life is intertwined with all.

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Marwan Barghouti

SOUTH AFRICAN COUNCIL OF CHURCHES PRESS RELEASE

ON NELSON MANDELA

December 6, 2013.

 

Today the people of South Africa and the world, stop in their tracks to recognize the sad departure from his illustrious earthly life, of Nelson Mandela. The South African Council of Churches extends a special pastoral embrace to the Mandela family at this time. We are very much saddened by the news of the death of our Nations first President: A man of vision, courage and zeal for the liberation of humankind. He has lived a selfless life so that we may all enjoy freedom and the fullness of life, just as our Lord had purposed. Today we are a respected nation because of his tireless fighting spirit to free us from oppression, exploitation and sexism, and for this we thank God.

 

In his words Mandela said, “Man’s goodness is a flame that can be hidden, but never extinguished”. On the night of his sad departure, that flame of his goodness was held up by the grace of God, that it may remain to inspire and influence present and future generations to strive always to live for the common good, after the manner of Jesus Christ who said I have come that you may have life to the fullest.

 

Thus Nelson Mandela will not have died, but would have transitioned to a perpetual beacon of light for the democratic order that he led as the first democratic president of the Republic of South Africa.

 

We call on the nation to pay respect our former president deserves even at his death, by praying for his soul, his family and the nation. We call on the churches and all people of faith, to focus their worship services and prayers this weekend not only to mourn Mandela but also to celebrate his achievements and thank God for his life and example. The Mandelas are members of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa and therefore we appeal to all denomination to support the leadership of the Methodist Church in all ministrations.

 

Today a special meeting of Church leaders and representatives of various denomination will be held at Khotso House, the Headquarters  of the SACC.   

 

For further information and enquiries, please call the President of the SACC at 0828931378

Issued by the South African Council of Churches, Khotso House, Johannesburg