The new South African pass book

“On Monday, 21 March in 1960 police opened fire, without order, on a crowd that had gathered at the Sharpeville station to protest pass laws, stipulations that required Africans to carry books and produce them for law enforcement officials on request; 69 unarmed people were killed and another 180 were injured.” (Cape Town Magazine.com)

A friend and colleague, Seth Naicker reflected on these words and asked if we have reason to celebrate human rights on 21 March 2013:

Today while we enjoy our public holiday, we must be in tune with the origins of this day March 21st- a day impacted by the painful and traumatic loss of life captured in the title “Sharpeville Massacre 1960”.

human-rights-mural-pic

Today we live in a democracy where people can move freely without the dehumanising process of being regulated  by a pass book or as it was known back then ‘dompass’-meaning stupid pass.

However while the dompass is no longer required in our post Apartheid and 2 decade old democracy, we must ask ourselves:

•what is modern day dompass?

•what access is denied to people and upon what bias?

•who are the gate keepers regulating the dompass and who is trying to get in?

•am I gate keeping or am dompass burning.

I still see the dompass when people have to ask for access to what is their human right! The right to quality education, the right to work, the right to eat, the right to shelter, the right to speak, the right to disagree etc.

We have walked a long road to Freedom as a nation, but the journey is far from over and the quality of the Freedom is still riddled and gated with modern day dompass injustices.

 May ours hearts and pursuit of justice, equality and human rights continue to beat  in our every breath that we take and every step that we make, remembering that our human rights are resting on the shoulders of people who were had to fight and die for us to acquire our right to humanity.

 A blessed human rights day!

 Seth Naicker.

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BDS South Africa commemorating the Holocaust/Shoah

I often hear that advocating for a free and just Palestine means that I am against Jews, or that I deny the right of Israel’s existence.  And then I am asked to rather focus on the rights of Christians (as I am one).

With these kinds of arguments, individuals are grouped together in homogenous, faceless categories, as if all share the same values.

faceless

I cannot agree with such an approach.

Individuals choose how they interpret and position their religion, or their view of humanity (if they are not religious). Fundamentalist Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, humanists and others from basically all orientations practice exclusion, superiority and separatism – approaches that divide people and deny the dignity of some. The sociologist Manual Castells (2005) mentions, for example, a number of such examples from across the globe.

But then there are people from the same orientations who recognise the human dignity (and rights!) of all people, and they in turn choose for positions of inclusion or pluralism.  These are the people with whom I like to associate.

coexist

And so does Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) South Africa.  They agree wholeheartedly with those South African Jews who recently declared in a public statement that their proclamation of “Never again”  should mean:

“‘Never Again’ unconditionally, and to any human being – including the Palestinians.”

Visitors stand outside the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial museumVisitors at Yad Vashem (the Holocaust/Shoah museum) look out at the landscape in Jerusalem. Photograph: Abir Sultan/EPA

BDS South Africa and Open Shuhada Street held a Holocaust Remembrance Day event on Sunday the 27th of January in Johannesburg at the Constitutional Hill.  (Open the link if only to see the stunning visual).

Mbuyiseni Ndlozi of BDS South Africa sketches the background to the event:

“We, BDS South Africa and Open Shuhada Street (two primarily Palestine solidarity-focused human rights organizations) are embarking on this – hopefully regular event – firstly, in the recognition that the Nazi Holocaust was a human tragedy of unspeakable proportions.

Secondly, Holocaust denial and even anti-Semitism, occasionally emerges within Palestine solidarity circles. This needs to be dealt with and confronted head-on. This is a step in that direction.

Finally, we are tired of the Nazi Holocaust being monopolized to serve narrow, racist and ethnic interests; we want to provide a space for mourning and commemoration to those who truly believe that an injury to one is an injury to all – that when we say, ‘Never Again!’ we mean ‘Never Again!’ to any and all groups of people.”

(South African human rights organizations that endorsed the event include the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, the Coalition for a Free Palestine, the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI – South Africa), Kairos Southern Africa, Ndifuna Ukwazi, People Against Suffering Oppression and Poverty (PASSOP), Saint George’s Cathedral (Cape Town) and the South African Council of Churches).

Photos from the event

YouTube video clip from the event – very touching.

NOTES:

BDS stands for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions – an approach that played a huge role in the end of apartheid in South Africa. There are currently several BDS campaigns worldwide to end Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine.

index

Castells, M. 2005. The Power of Identity. The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture. Vol. 2. Oxford: Blackwell.

Faceless picture: http://iswimorsink.files.wordpress.com/2010/08/faceless.jpg

Shuhada Street used to be a lively street bustling with shops and people in the city of Hebron in the West Bank (Palestine) before it was closed and all the doors locked up to drive Palestinians out of their own city (picture below).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“Shoah” (שואה) (also spelled Sho’ah and Shoa) which means “calamity” is accepted as the general Hebrew term for what others generally calls the “Holocaust”.

South African church delegation: Why we’re going to Palestine

Press release issued on 6 December:

A group of South African Christian leaders and members will be in the occupied territories of Palestine on a one week solidarity visit till the 9th of December to visit the Palestinian people, and particularly the Palestinian Christians.

Delegates include the Southern Africa heads of the Methodist and Presbyterian Churches, the Secretary General of the Evangelical Alliance of South Africa and a senior member of the Dutch Reformed Church. Some of the delegates are:

1.    Bishop Zipho Siwa (Head of the Methodist Church in Southern Africa)
2.    Dr Braam Hanekom (Western Cape Moderator of the Dutch Reformed Church)
3.    Dr Jerry Pillay (Head of the Presbyterian Church of Southern Africa)
4.    Reverand Moss Nthla (Secretary General of The Evangelical Alliance of South Africa and Chairperson of Kairos SA)
5.    Father Michael Deeb (Director of the Roman Catholic Justice and Peace Commission)
6.    Father Zweli Tom (Secretary General of the Nelson Mandela Bay Consultation of Christian Churches)
7.    Dr Stiaan vd Merwe (Kairos Southern Africa)
8.    Ms Marthie Momberg (Kairos Southern Africa)
9.    Ms Nonhlanhla Shezi (Anglican Church, youth leader)
10.    Ms Theresa Ramphomane (South African Council of Churches, Women’s Desk)
11.    Ms Nobuntu Madwe (Methodist Church, Women’s and Children’s Desk)
12.    Nonqaba Esther Dlula (Anglican Church, Eastern Cape)

This South African Christian solidarity visit has been undertaken in direct response to an invitation by Palestinian Churches and Christians through their 2009 Kairos Palestine call, which asked the world’s Churches to “come and see” the reality on the ground, to come “as pilgrims” and to pray together in the spirit of “peace, love and reconciliation[…] Our appeal is to reach a common vision, built on equality and sharing, not on superiority, negation of the other or aggression, using the pretext of fear and security.  We say that love is possible and mutual trust is possible.  Thus peace is possible and definitive reconciliation also.  Thus, justice and security will be attained for all”. It is in this spirit that the solidarity visit takes place.

The South African Christian delegation will also listen to various voices in the Occupied Palestinian territories. As South Africans we feel that we have a moral duty to listen to those who are systemically oppressed as our country was a recipient of the world’s solidarity during the struggle against apartheid – a crime against humanity.  We can never forget how we benefitted from the world’s support when we cried out for help.  Whilst we remain intensely and painfully aware of the weaknesses and the prevailing injustices in our own South African context, our delegation will also share with the Palestinians the Church in South Africa’s experience of opposing apartheid and our challenges in helping to build a reconciled democratic state for all people. Moreover, we expect to learn from the Palestinian people and also to be re-inspired by them to work against injustices in this and in other contexts.

We also come with the understanding that all humans – Jews, Muslims, Christians and all others –are created in the image of God, and that, as phrased by the Palestinian Christians, “this dignity is one and the same in each and all of us.  This means for us, here and now, in this land in particular, that God created us not so that we might engage in strife and conflict but rather that we might come and know and love one another, and together build up the land in love and mutual respect.” 

As Africans we in turn bring our understanding of the spiritual concept of “ubuntu” whereby a person is a person through others, thus recognising the interconnectivity between all people and which expresses the value and meaning of life and of relationships.  As such we recognise the humanity and the dignity of both the oppressed and the oppressor. We resist fundamentalist, exclusivist theologies and ideologies, but we do not do so from a perspective of hatred, violence or separateness.

Finally, we look forward to join in the celebrations of the third anniversary of the launch of the Kairos Palestine call/document and to reflect together with Palestinian Christians on the meaning of Christmas.

Issued by:  Kairos Southern Africa on 6 December 2012

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One million signature campaign launched by Kairos SA

MEDIA RELEASE

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

St George’s Cathedral, Cape Town

PRESENTATION OF Kairos Southern Africa’s “A Word to the ANC, at this time”, THEOLOGICAL AND ETHICAL REFLECTIONS ON THE 2012 CENTENARY CELEBRATIONS OF THE AFRICAN NATIONAL CONGRESS

Today Kairos Southern Africa and the African National Congress met to discuss the letter that Kairos SA offered to the ruling party at the occasion of the launch of its centenary celebrations. We are thankful for the opportunity of this engagement and believe that it helps nurture a necessary national conversation.

The Centenary celebration of any organization will elicit reflections on that organization. So it is with the ANC. Accordingly Kairos Southern Africa has offered this reflection with the hope that it will add to a necessary national conversation about the kind of future we wish to have.

The Church has historically played a significant role in the birth and life of the ANC. During the darkest days of our history and especially when the broad democratic movement was stifled and banned, it was the Churches that often stepped in and kept the dream of a non-racial, just, democratic and united South Africa alive.

The statement we handed to the ANC contains words of congratulations and gratitude as well as words of concern. These concerns are also disappointments since we expected more of a movement that fought for the best values of humanity and for liberation.

But we are also disappointed in ourselves and in the way we have disengaged with this new dispensation and how we have often not exuded hope. The message is therefore directed as much to us as it is to the ANC.

This letter we have handed over to the ANC therefore addresses both the Church and the ANC.  It asks if the South African dream of unity and dignity based on justice, peace and righteousness is unfolding in the country.  The letter confesses to instances where there have been shortcomings by  churches to live according to the values of a just, democratic culture.  It expresses concerns with several issues in the country; including among others the challenges of deepening inequality, service delivery and corruption.

The choice for us as South Africans is stark: either we choose life or we choose death. Either we choose reconciliation, justice and friendship or we choose conflict that will engulf us all. Either we choose greed or we choose to share.

We do not regard this letter as complete or perfect, but we hope that it conveys an ethos of constructive self-critique that will help us to refocus our energies on what we really want.  We believe that as in 1985 when some South African churches spoke up against apartheid, this moment too is a Kairos opportunity, one that may pass us by if we do not act now. It is a decisive moment that asks for our participation.  We pray for courage and transformation.

We welcome today’s meeting. We hope that it contributes to a widening of debate among all South Africans, especially the Churches, who have largely withdrawn from engagement with our unfolding democracy.

Accordingly, we launch the million signature campaign today to get the conversation going particularly amongst those who have been disconnected from the democracy. We think this will be one small, but not insignificant way that we can help to build social cohesion and to mobilize particularly the churches to take our responsibility for this society much more seriously than we have done up to now.

Kairos Southern Africa is committed to the values of justice, peace and righteousness.

 

ISSUED BY KAIROS SOUTHERN AFRICA

CONTACTS:

Rev. Moss Nthla      +27 (0) 828098533,       nthlaro@icon.co.za

Rev. Edwin Arrison: +27(0) 847351835,     earrison78@telkomsa.net

MORE INFORMATION:

http://kairossouthernafrica.wordpress.com/

Nearly 1000 citizens have already signed the letter.  All South Africans who can associate themselves with this message may endorse the letter with their signatures.

Also on 8 February and immediately before this press release, we met with the ANC and gave them our letter.

The Kairos SA delegation consisted of: Moss Ntlha, Edwin Arrison,  Joe Seoloane, Lunga Ka Siboto, Michael Weeder, Mike Deeb, Nkosikhulule Nyembezi, Denise Ackerman and myself.

The ANC delegation consisted of: Gwede Mantashe, Mathole Motshekga, Songezo Mjongile and Moferefere Lekoro Tsoana.  We were told that Baleka Mbete was one of the key people who insisted that this meeting should happen.

If you want to sign the Kairos SA letter to the ANC, simply send an e-mail to Edwin Arrison at earrison78@telkomsa.net.
Please indicate if you are not a South African citizen (but you may still sign).

To read our letter, choose one of these links:

The complete letter: THEOLOGICAL AND ETHICAL REFLECTIONS ON THE 2012 ANC CENTENARY CELEBRATION

The shortened version: KAIROS SA WORD TO THE ANC_shortened version

About what led up to the media release and meeting.

Aside

A word to the ANC, in these times

“We are the  ones we have been waiting for”
(Alice Walker, Nobel prize winner)

It is time for us, the ordinary people, to speak up.
By doing so, we influence our reality.

I share this text with you as I have signed it.
If you are South African and 16 years or older, you may sign too.  All you need to do is email my colleague Rev Edwin Arrison earrison78@telkomsa.net

We know that the document has many flaws, but this is our starting point.
We hope you share in the ethos it conveys and we would love to have your feedback.



THEOLOGICAL AND ETHICAL REFLECTIONS
ON THE 2012 CENTENARY CELEBRATIONS OF THE AFRICAN NATIONAL CONGRESS

A WORD TO THE ANC, IN THESE TIMES

As we continue to celebrate the coming of the Word into the world (John 1: 1) and God made human, we, fellow South Africans and Christian theologians, now wish to pass these words on to the African National Congress, as it prepares to celebrate its centenary during 2012…

We do so in a spirit of appreciation and gratitude for you and in a spirit of true friendship, where we can both congratulate you and raise some concerns as friends, and pray that these celebrations will be appropriate and not lavish, especially given the levels of poverty and inequality in our country.

We do so, knowing that many members of the ANC are also part of the Christian community, and this document is therefore written for our collective reflection.

We also do so, knowing that many Christian leaders were involved in the formation and nurturing of the ANC over the years, and we therefore continue to feel a sense of responsibility for its existence and what it does. In 1912, the founders of the African National Congress dreamed of a different future for all the people of South Africa, where there would be no more coloniser and colonised, but where we would all be one: One people, one nation, one country!

They dreamed that the injustice that was being meted out to black South Africans by the colonisers would come to an end. We thank God that the colonial and apartheid systems have come to an end and a great effort has been made to better the lives of all South Africans, especially the poor.

Although there has been much progress in this regard, certain tensions and contradictions continue to militate against us fully achieving this dream. The effect of the 1913 Land Act, is largely still with us; the economic disparities are stuck with us; deep levels of poverty are staring at us.

In this year, we once again dream of a future of being one, united in our diversity. This unity needs to be based on justice, peace and righteousness. Let us use this year to once again dream this dream together.

To continue reading, click HERE

To read about the One Million Signature Campaign, click HERE.