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.
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.
In solidarity with people from other faiths who advocate for justice and equality for all in Palestine-Israel
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.”
Pondering thoughts on a book project, 2012.
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.
Should we be loyal, above all else, to the State of Israel? This is the view of South Africa’s current Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng. Yet Christian leaders from South Africa and virtually all continents made it clear that they “cannot serve God and the oppression of the Palestinians”
Issued jointly by Kairos Palestine and Global Kairos for Justice the authors of #Palestine_Cry4Hope ask Christians for decisive action to work for the freedom and human rights of Palestinians.
They call upon fellow Christians to reflect critically on how the Bible is used from the pulpit, in Sunday school classes, in policies and in interfaith relations to deprive the humanity of Palestinians. The matter demands a concerted effort they argue:
The very being of the church, the integrity of the Christian faith, and the credibility of the Gospel is at stake. We declare that support for the oppression of the Palestinian people, whether passive or active, through silence, word or deed, is a sin. We assert that Christian support for Zionism as a theology and an ideology that legitimize the right of one people to deny the human rights of another is incompatible with the Christian faith and a grave misuse of the Bible.
Israel’s Zionist ideology uses political and military might, racist discrimination and sacred texts to dispossess, transfer, massacre and exploit Palestinians. Numerous resolutions by the United Nations and reports by the International Red Cross and Red Crescent, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and other reputable bodies condemn Israel’s unlawful conduct. Hundreds of religious leaders, civil society and advocacy organizations from all over the world have already endorsed #Palestine_Cry4Hope.
Yet the current Chief Justice made glaring errors when he expressed his views in the webinar. According to Mogoeng, his Bible tells him to “pray for Jerusalem” and therefore he must “pray for Israel”. He added that those who “curse Israel” will themselves “be cursed”. These two points contain fundamental errors:
His assumption that all of Jerusalem is part of the Israeli state revealed his inadequate knowledge of history, political science, geography and international borders.
His assumption that the biblical Israel and the modern State of Israel are one and the same entity is one made by many Christians who conflate the two terms or read the Bible in a literal manner and not contextually. (For an excellent analysis of this matter, see Critical reflections on Israel’s claim to land in Palestine by Spangenberg and Van der Westhuizen).
The Chief Justice’s uncritical loyalty to Israel together with his omission to mention Israel’s well documented systemic human rights violations imply a view that Israel is exempt from international laws on occupation, land theft, exploitation, ethnic cleansing and apartheid. He is right that we have to love Jews. But will he disagree that when a murderer is on trial we do not stop loving that person when we acknowledge the crime and serve justice?
Mogoeng’s public opposition to his democratic government’s official position on Palestine and Israel on an international platform is shocking.
His apparent ignorance of the existence of Palestinian Christians, their suffering under the Israeli regime and their call for help, underscores his fallacious and misguided position.
The Chief Justice said that he spoke as a Christian and that he will never take back his words. This logic implies that people who embrace values of equality, justice and compassion in respect of all people and therefore support the Palestinian struggle will be cursed by God. It is a logic that crucifies Christ’s message of inclusive compassion and human dignity. God does not side with a country. God can be found in the midst of the oppressed.
In March 2021 South Africa’s Judicial Conduct Committee asked Mogoeng Mogoeng to apologise unconditionally for the political controversy he caused through his statements in the webinar with The Jerusalem Post in June 2020, but the Chief Justice chose to appeal against the court ruling. Moreover, he declined offers from South African Christian leaders to learn more about the situation in Palestine and how the Bible is abused to mask Israel’s crimes. Why does he refuse to meet Palestinian and fellow South African Christians? To me the answer is that he chooses to side with a country and not with God’s inclusive compassion and justice. The longer people support the Israeli state uncritically, the longer the suffering of the Palestinians.
Does Mogoeng Mogoeng’s conduct puts him in the company of people who do not care about all human lives, international law, the contributions of science, the importance of honesty and the rejection of racism and all forms of discrimination? The devastating impact of narcissistic, power-hungry, uninformed leadership has become all the more clear since 2020.
Southern African Church leaders
When Bishop Purity Malinga, the Presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa (the church of the late President Mandela) endorsed #Palestine_Cry4Hope, she connected the matter both with the Trump administration and with the heart of the Christian faith. She wrote as follows:
In the situation of the oppression of Palestinians by the Israeli Government which is intensifying every day due to the support from the United States Government, Christians’ silence and inaction give support to injustice and contribute to the dehumanization and death of the Palestinians. It is for freedom and full life of all – including the Palestinians – that Jesus came to the world, died and resurrected! Faith in Christ therefore demands that Christians everywhere preach, work and demand full and free life for all. I cannot then be a follower of Christ and support the oppression of Palestinians or of any other people. All human beings are created in God’s image and deserve to be treated with dignity. It is for that reason that I endorse the call to decisive action![i]
Unlike Mogoeng Mogoeng, the authors and the endorsers of #Palestine_Cry4Hope do not ignore documented facts, democratic values, international law, common decency and the universal value of compassion. In noting the intersectional nature of the matter, Bishop Luke Pato, the Anglican Bishop of Namibia, on behalf of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa (ACSA), calls forth the disturbing image of the #BlackLivesMatter campaign:
Palestinians have been held neckdown for decades. We cannot allow them to suffocate any further. Silence is complicit with suffocation.
Bishop Thami Ngcana from the Council of African Independent Churches (CAIC), in turn, makes the connection with international law and the definition of apartheid in the Rome Statute. His statement reaffirm that it is time for the international community to recognize Israel as an apartheid state in terms of international law,
… to honour and defend the rights of the Palestinian people to dignity, self-determination, and the fundamental human rights guaranteed under international law, including the right of return for Palestinian refugees.
If the words of these Christian leaders and the hundreds of other endorsers do not stir the conscience of the Chief Justice, I ask myself how he will respond to the words of the South African Jews for a Free Palestine:
We endorse this call because in the same way that we, as Jewish South Africans committed to universal ethical values, condemn Hitler’s Germany for having implemented the segregation of Jews and Gypsies via racist laws and the implementation of similar racist and murderous codes and structures by Apartheid South Africa vis-à-vis Black people, we condemn the racism and segregation applied by Jewish Israelis with respect to Palestinian Arabs. We need to condemn what happened to the Palestinian people during 1948 when they were threatened, killed and thrown out of their homes. We need to condemn what happens to them on a daily basis under military rule and in the ‘open air’ prisons that are the West Bank and Gaza. We need to condemn the ongoing theft of land and the administrative detention of Palestinian activists as well as the arrest and incarceration of children. We need to condemn human atrocities, and any justification for atrocities of one person or one nation of another, wherever and whenever they occur.
On 25 June 2020 the office of the South African Council of Churches’ General Secretary, Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana called “on the international community to consider comprehensive sanctions against Israel should they continue with the illegal annexation of Palestinian land.” The SACC statement objects in the strongest terms to Israel’s intended breach of international law and the way Israel considers itself
…as an exception in terms of international law. The international community must be required to treat Israel like all other members of the international community and compel it to respect international law and the rights of all of humanity. A Christian leader in Ramallah has cried out: “Now everyone is bleeding; we Palestinians are bleeding physically. Israel is bleeding morally.” A careful reading of Jesus as Lord of history leaves no doubt that He would be the first to say an emphatic NO to the atrocities of the State of Israel.
The issue of the Palestinians and Israel deserves the attention of every person on this planet. Our choice is not one between Jews and Arabs or between Israel and Palestine. The choice we have is between justice and injustice, between equality or inequality, between the spread of false information or integrity, and between the use or abuse of sacred texts. Whether the discrimination takes the shape of antisemitism or apartheid they use a “theology of Empire” “manifesting in racial, economic, cultural, and ecological oppression that threatens humanity and all of creation”. From this intersectional perspective #Palestine_Cry4Hope is concerned with the future of both Jews and Palestinians,
…rooted in the logic of love that seeks to liberate both the oppressor and oppressed in order to create a new society for all the people of the land. We continue to hold firm to the hope articulated in the Kairos document that Palestinians and Israelis have a common future — that “we can organize our political life, with all its complexity, according to the logic of love and its power, after ending the occupation and establishing justice.” As followers of Jesus, our response to ideologies of exclusivity and apartheid is to uphold a vision of inclusivity and equality for all peoples of the land and to persistently struggle to bring this about.
To read and sign the call, click on #Palestine_Cry4Hope. It lists seven actions, including theological discernment and pressure on governments and world bodies employ political, diplomatic and economic means to stop Israel’s violations of human rights and international law.
[i] Other South African clergy who endorsed the call include Allan Boesak (Professor of Black Liberation Theology and Ethics, University of Pretoria); Frank Chikane (Moderator of the World Council of Churches’ Commission of the Churches on International Affairs), John de Gruchy (Emeritus Professor of Christian Studies, University of Cape Town and Extraordinary Professor of Theology, Stellenbosch University); Thulani Ndlazi (South African Synod Secretary of the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa); Moss Nthla (General Secretary of The Evangelical Alliance of South Africa, TEASA); Mautji Pataki (Chairman of the Ethical Foundation for Leadership Excellence and Former Secretary General of the South African Council of Churches); Edwin Arrison (General Secretary of Kairos South Africa) and Farid Esack (Professor of Religion Studies, University of Johannesburg and a Muslim liberation theologian). The full list with hundreds of endorsers is available on #Palestine_Cry4Hope.
In a historic step the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa (UCCSA) issued a clear statement in support of the non-violent Palestinian struggle. The church’s national conference approved the resolution on 10 July 2016.
Rev. Thulani Ndlazi, Synod Secretary of UCCSA, speaking at the conference
The declaration names the danger of Christian Zionism and its literal reading of the Bible which confuses the Old Testament’s Israelites with Jewish Israelis. ‘We hear the Palestinian Christians’ appeal for help,’ they say, and we commit our support to the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign.
The statement is the first of its kind by a South African church.
Earlier South African Methodists also urged their circuits to “study the Palestinian Kairos Document that calls for divestment of Israel to end the occupation by Israeli in Palestine” (2013 Yearbook, 3.4:93-95). They also encourage those who undertake “Holy Land Pilgrimages” to have meaningful engagements with the Palestinian community. Yet the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa (UCCSA) does not ask people to consider the requests of the Palestinian Kairos Document. UCCSA acknowledges their requests, it affirms the call for creative, non-violent resistance and it commits publically.
What makes it even more historic is the fact that UCCSA was the only South African church who publicly supported the now historic South African Kairos call of 1985. In it South African theologians asked the world to help end apartheid. The world listened and it helped. In recent years the churches of the world have started to speak up about fundamentalist, Zionist readings of the Bible that support Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians.
The statement by UCCSA on Palestine is a welcome prophetic step. It reads as follows:
We pledge our support to the Palestinian people as follows at this 8th South African Synod Conference of UCCSA in George, South Africa:
We recognize that the Palestinian struggle is not simply a conflict, but an asymmetric struggle between an oppressor and the oppressed. The oppression entails a decades’ long institutionalized discrimination against Palestinians in the occupied territories of Palestine and also against those within Israel and those in the diaspora who are not allowed by Israel to return.
We do not take an anti-Semitism position. However we are extremely concerned about fundamentalist and progressive Christian Zionism which conflate the Biblical Israel with the modern state of Israel. We call on all Christians to read the Bible responsibly so as to not trample on the human rights and the dignity of the Palestinians. We ask Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land to meet with and to listen to the Palestinians in Bethlehem, East Jerusalem and other cities in the occupied Palestinian territory.
We acknowledge with gratitude the support of our Palestinian sisters and brothers in South Africa’s anti-apartheid struggle.
With this resolution we join other churches in the world such as the Presbyterian Church, the United Methodist Church and the United Church of Christ in the United States of America as well as the United Church of Canada. With them we stand in public solidarity with the Kairos Palestine’s appeal for help and the Palestinian civil society’s call for creative non-violent resistance.
We pledge our support to the international Boycott Divestments Sanctions (BDS) campaign.
The United Congregational Church of Southern Africa is one church in five countries –Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. The UCCSA was formed in 1967 but traces its origins back more than 200 years to the arrival of the first missionaries sent by the London Missionary Society to Southern Africa. Today over 500,000 members worship in over one thousand local churches across the five countries.
“God is not a real estate agent” and “I remember a time when Nelson Mandela was called a terrorist” says a South African who has been living in Toronto since 2000.
Michael tasting olive oil at the Canaan Cooperative in Palestine
Michael Pott has been supporting efforts to expose human right violations in the Holy Land since participating in a Sabeel witness tour in October 2012.
This is his story:
South African apartheid ended, Zionist apartheid continues
As a student in South Africa during the 1970s, I was part of the movement committed to ending apartheid and Zionism. While I am proud that Whites no longer oppress Blacks, I am sad that Jews still treat Palestinians as second rate citizens. A November 2012 Sabeel tour reminded me that Zionism has slipped on the world issues agenda. I hope that this brief article will help re-energize the people who fought to end apartheid to take up the Palestinian cause and help end Zionism.
Many prominent South Africans, respected researchers and artists have said that the current conditions of the Palestinians are worse than those experienced by Blacks in South Africa under apartheid. I agree and hope you will get a chance to hear the speeches, read the research papers, and watch the movies on this subject.
I find it difficult to understand the theologies of apartheid and Zionism. I could not accept that God instructed Whites to deliver Black people from their primitive conditions. I also find it hard to believe that God is a real estate agent who gave the Jews the sole right to live in Israel. No matter how hard it is for me to understand a theology that promotes discrimination, I must remember that people who believe these theologies are made in the image of God and I must love them and promote nonviolent resistance.
Under apartheid a Black person was denied the same rights as a White citizen of South Africa. Today a Jew anywhere in the world is entitled to full citizenship of Israel while the same rights are denied a Palestinian who has lived in Israel for generations. To justify this oppression, politicians in South Africa and Israel created phony/dual political structures. In both countries, leaders who did not support the status quo were silenced. Not too long ago when Palestinians elected politicians that Israel did not agree with, the elected leaders were arrested as terrorists and the Gaza strip was blocked. I remember a time when Nelson Mandela was called a terrorist!
To achieve ethnically cleansed states in Israel and South Africa, the indigenous population had to be removed and evidence of their history and culture destroyed. In South Africa, Blacks were forcibly removed from their homes to create white-only areas. To create the Jewish state, Palestinian villages, homes and land were confiscated. Settler communities continue to seize Palestinian land. Other than standing in front of a bulldozer and losing your life, how can Palestinian land be protected and their rights restored?
Most people who have seen the wall the Israelis are erecting acknowledge that it is to secure access to natural resources and strategic land rather than for security. During our tour we witnessed countless examples of how the wall separates people from their land, how check points are used to demonstrate Israeli domination, how families and neighbourhoods are destroyed. While not belittling the conditions under apartheid, the wall creates conditions more brutal than in South Africa. Despite the tremendous human suffering, Israel and South Africa disregarded international law, United Nations resolutions and the local courts to maintain apartheid.
During our tour we traveled along well maintained roads that serve Israeli settler communities in the Occupied Territories. We also traveled on neglected roads the Palestinians use. While using these roads I remembered the differences I observed in the quality of infrastructure in South Africa upon entering a black area. These differences serve to frustrate people, build resentment and fuel the liberation struggle.
I remember when anyone who challenged the supremacy of the apartheid government was either banned or labeled a traitor, a communist or an agitator. Non-violent resistance to White oppression was brutally crushed. Many people have forgotten how the Sharpeville massacre resulted in the armed struggle being added to the means of achieving the liberation of South Africa. Because of the very different levels of military power in both South Africa and Israel, the oppressed people who no longer supported nonviolence resorted to unconventional warfare (aka terrorism). During the liberation struggle in South Africa no one expected a military victory. I did not meet anyone in the Occupied Territories who thought the Israeli military would be defeated. At the same time only the naive believe that the struggle for human rights can be suppressed by firepower.
I remember the bias in my apartheid education that promoted White nationalism and demonized Blacks. Jewish children are taught to believe negative stereotypes of Palestinians (Arabs). Based on a brief visit with a Jewish family in Tel Aviv, Zionism is firmly believed and the stereotypes of Palestinians are upheld. During discussions with Palestinian groups on our tour we were told that there are currently very few programs that encourage dialogue among Jews, Christians and Muslims. This is unfortunate as I remember how important multiracial group discussions were about a just and peaceful South Africa. The KAIROS document for South Africa facilitated some of these discussions. I hope that the Palestinian KAIROS document will be as helpful.
The systematic denial of people’s basic human rights did not work in South Africa, and it will not work in Israel. Nonviolent resistance, international sanctions, dialogue among South Africans and the armed struggle helped end apartheid. I look forward to the day all people in Israel/Palestine will enjoy the same basic rights in a secular country. Archbishop Tutu saw the end of apartheid in his lifetime. How long will it take to end Zionism?
Michael Pott graduated from Stellenbosch University in 1981. He worked for much of his career for the Development Bank of Southern Africa: “Human rights and democracy are values I have always supported. For many years my partner and I worked to establish the democratic South Africa. When the democratically elected government chose to abandon the Reconstruction and Development Program, we decided we did not agree with the new strategy and immigrated to Canada.”
As we listened to the different sides of the stories shared by Christians, Muslims, Jews, political representatives, NGOs, soldiers, and ordinary local people concerning the situation in Palestine-Israel we were starkly reminded, in this time of Advent, that the Christ-child came to bring a message of peace and justice on earth.
We were deeply grieved and appalled that this is not the situation in this Holy Land of God and are concerned that the integrity and credibility of a message of inclusivity and human dignity as expressed in the Gospel is at stake. However we were encouraged by the initiatives undertaken, by Christians, Muslims, Jews and others to find peaceful solutions to the problems of Palestine and Israel.
We were a group of leaders of various churches and church organizations (including women and youth) in South Africa gathered in Bethlehem in Palestine from 2-9 December 2012. our visit was a response to the call of Palestinian Christians to “come and see” for ourselves.
Mindful of our own history and the ongoing need for healing, reconciliation and peace we were able to identify and engage with certain experiences in a deeply meaningful and personal way. We also recognised with sadness our own sense of judgments and complicity as Christians in addressing the realities of God’s people in this part of the world; often out of ignorance and due to misleading information and untested beliefs. It is for these reasons that we wish to humbly share our experience with the South African public and, Christians in particular, during this journey with our friends in Palestine and Israel.
In our days in Palestine and Israel we saw the following for ourselves:
The infrastructure built to reinforce an apartheid system, for example separate roads for Palestinians and Israelis and especially the Wall which brings limited security to Israelis but ultimately steals land, oppresses, and separates Israelis and Palestinians from each other.
The different kinds of checkpoints and blockages and how they humiliate, harass and oppress Palestinians psychologically, politically and economically. We were deeply alarmed that foreigners were accorded a far easier passage of travel from one place to another than the Palestinians in their own land.
Young Israeli soldiers being used to uphold the military occupation of Palestine which also included some former South African young Jews with whom we engaged.
Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories in direct violation of international law depriving Palestinians of land, natural resources and freedom.
Christians working together in addressing the issues of the occupation which is evident in the Kairos Palestine initiative and in their broad involvement in non-violent resistance to the occupation.
Christians and Muslims praying and working together to end the occupation.
The destruction and demolition of homes inter alia incited by the intention to dispossess Palestinians of their land resulting in a broader picture of ethnic cleansing.
The economic impact of the occupation as seen in the following: businesses abandoned because of the wall and blockages, the doors of shops wielded and closed, olive fields destroyed, restrictions on movement and the emergence of ghost towns in what used to be thriving communities.
How believers are restricted and or prohibited from worshiping and visiting places of religious importance to them.
Water tanks on the roofs of Palestinian home as evidence of restrictions on the use and provision of their water whilst this was noticeably absent from homes in the Israeli settlements.
In spite of the resentment and even hatred we saw signs of hope, resilience and tenacity of the human spirit in the face of injustice and oppression and commitment to a just peace. In this regard the message of love also for the enemy albeit expressed in non-violent resistance in the Kairos document is a sterling example of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The arrogance, blindness, insensitivity, self-destruction, and the illusions of security in the use of military might.
We wish to reiterate that our intention is not to take sides with the Palestinians or Israeli Jews or to make statements of judgment but to focus on the perspective of justice and to report on what we have heard and seen from the many different people and sources we have encountered with this in mind.
This matter is not about Jews versus Muslims, or Muslims versus Christians, or any religious group versus any other. Not at all. It is about justice whilst also being sensitive to the injury of self-destruction by those who oppress and destroy in violation of international law.
In this time of Advent we are reminded again that we want to align our consciousness, our beliefs and our actions with what our respective faith traditions teach us about peace, love, reconciliation and justice on earth. In Christianity, we try to follow the example set by Jesus. We ask our fellow brothers and sisters to reflect on his example in these weeks leading up to Christmas.
We did not expect the extent to which Israel violates international laws to oppress the Palestinian people. Our exposure to East Jerusalem and the West Bank was overwhelming, one which traumatised us. However, even though we experienced that the Palestinians live in open-air prisons, they were still able to inspire us with their dignity and their commitment for a just peace based on human dignity for both themselves and the Israelis. “We want more than human rights,” they told us, “we want our human dignity and reconciliation”.
These are the first words from a media statement issued by twelve South African Christian leaders who visited the occupied state of Palestine from 2 – 9 December 2012.
The delegation included the country’s heads of the Methodist and the Uniting Presbyterian Churches, the Secretary General of the Evangelical Alliance, the Vice Moderator of the Dutch Reformed Church and a representative of South African youth.
Rev Moss Nthla, Secretary General of The Evangelical Alliance of South Africa and Chairperson of Kairos Southern Africa and Dr Braam Hanekom, Vice Moderator of the Dutch Reformed Church, addressing an audience of Palestinian Christians in Bethlehem
The statement continued as follows:
Being South African, it felt like walking into another apartheid ambush. We witnessed violations of the international human rights law and the international humanitarian law on so many levels – the multiple house demolitions, the discriminatory legal system, the daily intimidation, the Apartheid Wall and its associated regime of restrictions on movement and access, the damage to olive groves, the imprisonment of a large percentage of Palestinians including children, the confiscation of water and land, the closure of previously bustling streets and businesses, separate pavements and a system whereby the colour of Palestinian vehicles’ number plates restrict them to certain roads.
Our visit was undertaken in direct response to the Palestinian Christians’ invitation to come and see for ourselves what their circumstances are. We heard from Christians how they have experienced a political and an identity catastrophe (the Nakba) since 1948 when the State of Israel was declared and 750 000 Palestinians became refugees. Moreover, they experience a theological catastrophe as Christianity is being used to justify the oppression of the indigenous Palestinian people.
What we have discerned is in alignment with what the Palestinian Christians propose in their document called “A Moment of Truth. A word of faith, hope and love from the heart of the Palestinian suffering.” This urgent appeal to the international community proposes resistance to Israel’s occupation as an act of love.
We affirm the right to security, self-determination and dignity for both the Palestinians and the Israelis. Real security is only possible through the exercise of justice. We are conscious how a literal reading of the Bible, one where the Israel of the Old Testament is confused with the State of Israel, can result in the oppression of people. We confirm that the crisis in the Holy Land is in essence not a religious conflict, but a political crisis brought about by the violation of international law. As South Africans we believe we have a moral obligation to speak up and to stand with the oppressed. We do not want to side against the Israelis, but we do want to uphold international law and fight against any form of injustice.
We support the Palestinians’ call for non-violent resistance. They ask for responsible tourism whereby pilgrims who visit Bethlehem and the Old City of Jerusalem also visit Palestinian Christians. They ask the world for economic, cultural and other forms of boycott, divestment and sanctions – a strategy that helped to end apartheid in South Africa. We believe that maximum pressure must be put on Israel to abide by international law. This should be done on the basis of “equality and sharing, not on superiority, negation of the other or aggression, using the pretext of fear and security” as stated in the Palestinian document “A Moment of Truth”.
We went on a guided tour by a Jewish Rabbi (previously from Canada) and we had intense discussions with him over dinner in Jerusalem. From him we did not hear the message of reconciliation or that both peoples were created in the image of God and have the right to dignified lives. He talked a lot, but he did not answer our questions.
The Vice Moderator of the Dutch Reformed Church, Dr Braam Hanekom who was part of our delegation, emphatically stated:
“It was a tremendous privilege to visit Palestine in this time of Advent. I am more convinced than before that the non-violent alternative of faith, hope and love that the Palestinian Christians show us is the way forward.”
Our statement concludes as follows:
Whilst we remain intensely and painfully aware of the weaknesses and the prevailing injustices in our own South African context, we are inspired to work against these and other injustices. In these weeks leading up to Christmas we want to show our full solidarity with all those who suffer in the Holy land where Christ was born.
Bishop Zipho Siwa, Presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church in Southern Africa
Dr Jerry Pillay, General Secretary of the Uniting Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa and President of the World Communion of Reformed Churches
Rev Moss Nthla, Secretary General of The Evangelical Alliance of South Africa and Chairperson of Kairos Southern Africa
Dr Braam Hanekom, Vice Moderator of the Dutch Reformed Church
Ms Nonhlanhla Shezi, President of the Anglican Youth of Southern Africa
Ms Theresa Ramphomane, Coordinator of the SACC Women’s Ecumenical Conference
Ms Nobuntu Madwe, General President of the Women’s Manyano (Union) of the Methodist Church of South Africa
Fr Michael Deeb, coordinator of the Justice and Peace Department of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference
Fr Zweli Tom, Anglican Priest and Secretary General of the Nelson Mandela Bay Consultation of Christian Churches
Nonqaba Esther Dlula, Eastern Cape Anglican Church
Dr Stiaan van der Merwe, Kairos Southern Africa
Ms Marthie Momberg, Kairos Southern Africa
Jerusalem, 8 December 2012.
We do not take sides between countries, but we are not impartial when it comes to the upholding of international law and human rights. We are just as concerned about the psyche of the oppressor as we are about the devastating effects of denying people dignity. Israel’s occupation of Palestine must end.
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
When I read this prayer, I thought of my own silence during the apartheid years:
You ask for our courage to protect the powerless
but we prefer to remain safe, preserving ourselves for future challenges.
You ask us to speak out for justice
but we whisper, in case we are heard.
You ask us to stand up for what is right,
but we would rather blend in to the crowd
You ask us to have faith,
when doubting seems so much easier.
Lord forgive our calculated efforts to follow you,
only when it is convenient to do so,
only in those places where it is safe to do so,
only with those who make it easy to do so.
Together we pray God forgive us and renew us;
Inspire us and challenge us
So that we might risk the journey, to your kingdom with you,
This Prayer of Confession was read in 2003 at a service at Cheltenham Races, GreenBelt, UK. Nora Carmi from Kairos Palestine (who was there but doesn’t know who the writer is) recently used it to open a skype meeting of the international Kairos core group whereafter my South African Kairos colleague, Stiaan van der Merwe, forwarded it to me on e-mail.
When does learning take place? When behaviour changes.
BUT – which way do we choose?
I am inspired by the USA Christians’ recent Kairos statement and their confession of their country’s role in the oppression of both the Palestinian and the Jewish people:
We begin with a confession of sin to Palestinians in the State of Israel, the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem, the diaspora and in refugee camps in Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria. As U.S. Christians we bear responsibility for failing to say “Enough!” when our nation’s ally, the State of Israel, violates international law. Our government has financed Israel’s unjust policies and has shielded its government from criticism by the international community. At the outset of the current U.S. administration, our government led Palestinians to believe that at last we would pursue a political solution based on justice. But the “peace process” has continued to be no more than a means for the continuing colonization of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the imprisonment of Gaza and the intensification of the structures of oppression.
As Christians addressing the Palestinian cause we must also acknowledge our shameful role in the historic persecution of the Jewish people. We recognize the dehumanizing and destructive power of doctrines and theologies that denigrated Judaism. Our predecessors perpetuated anti-Semitic stereotypes, practiced scapegoating and cloaked prejudice, hostility and murder itself in the robes of our religion. We confess that our churches failed to resist, and sometimes even aided and abetted pogroms, mass dislocations of Jews, and the calamity of the Nazi Holocaust itself. In so doing, they betrayed the teaching and example of the one we claim to follow…
In light of these tragic failures, we must repent. We must work and even suffer for peace, filled with a heart of love for both Israelis and Palestinians. We must work and even suffer for peace, filled with a heart of love for both Israelis and Palestinians.
They continue by asking USA Christians to overcome their prejudices and myths, to engage with Palestinians, to listen to their stories, to examine their biblical interpretations, to actively participate in non-violent action as a means to end the illegal occupation and to advocate.
More and more I start to think that my “tribe” does not only consist of my family, my friends and my nation. I feel connected to, and draw inspiration from the actions and support of like-minded people all over the world which include people from different religious backgrounds.
When I look at the list of people who already pledged their support for the USA Kairos statement, it doesn’t matter all that much that I don’t know most of them. I still sense a warmth of recognition since we all want a better life on this planet through non-violent means.
the well known theologian Walter Brueggemann (Professor emeritus at Columbia Theological Seminary),
my EAPPI colleague from Team 41 Rev. Andrew E. Larsen (Evangelical Covenant Church in Seattle, Washington) and
Tom Getman whom I met through Kairos for Global Justice.
What matters, is that we stand, and work, together. (We at Kairos Southern Africa wrote a letter of support for this new initiative.)
The people from Goa, India also enthuse me through their letter to the Christians in Palestine:
We acknowledge our own indifference and inaction in the past and deeply regret this. Three years ago, for the first time, we sprung into action when we decided to study the issue of Israelis who had completed their term in the IDF and who turned up on the shores of Goa to overlook and disregard their actions while on military duty. Our study revealed how dehumanized these young people had become and how, because of an oppressive and cruel system of illegal military occupation, even the victimizers had turned casualties and victims of their own cruelties.
But many kinds of people are like-minded.
It saddens me immensely to read about fellow South Africans, in fact the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) who under its leader Reverend Kenneth Meshoe came out strongly against the South African government’s planned relabeling law (Government Gazette Notice 379/12). The ACDP criticised Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies for (what they call) “singling out” Israel for censure.
Meshoe claimed that there is no such state as the ‘Occupied Palestinian Territories” and therefore holds no ground within the law:
Section 24 of the consumer protection act says the importer of any goods must disclose the country of origin. I am disputing that the Palestinian territories are not legally and officially recognized in the world
Backing up its words with action, the ACDP organised a protest march, from the Union Buildings in Pretoria to the offices of the Department of Trade and Industry for Thursday morning 28 June 2012 and another protest in Cape Town on Friday 29 June in front of the Parliament Buildings. So we at Kairos SA responded again – with an urgent and a passionate plea in an open letter to Rev Meshoe to reconsider his position.
Don’t march, we asked. Don’t fall prey to Israeli propaganda. Don’t use the name of God to justify a crime against humanity. Allow South African consumers to know that “Produce of Israel” often actually means “Produced in the occupied territories of Palestine”. Do you know the pain and injustices, we asked:
Do you know, Rev Meshoe, that Jerusalem Christians are being displaced, that their homes are being taken over by settlers and that many Jerusalem Christians
and other Jerusalemites have had their citizenship taken away from them through a mere administrative act?
Do you know the pain of families whose land is confiscated for the illegal wall or an Israeli-only road? Have you looked into the eyes of a scared child who is held captive or searched by soldiers? Have you seen the faces of farmers whose water wells or
cisterns were destroyed by bulldozers, or a woman who wanted to save her furniture before her house was leveled to the ground? Do you know what the weariness of workmen who queue up from 2:00 at a check point to get to work on time look like?
Have you seen fields of Palestinian olive trees destroyed at the hands of Israeli settlers? Do you know the fear of rural people who were held at gunpoint and instructed to flee from their village? Do you know that whole Palestinian towns are threatened with demolition and how your words of support for the present state of Israel provide oxygen to the fire of violence?
Do you not know, Rev Meshoe, how hope is being sucked from young Palestinian Christians by the illegal Occupation and how they rather choose to emigrate with their young families than live in Palestine, thereby robbing Palestine of one of its
most important natural resources?
Why do you not support the right to own property, the right to equality, the right to an adequate standard of living, the right to freedom of movement, to self-determination and the right to live free of harassment and violence for all in Israel and Palestine? Are you not aware of these illegalities and many other inhuman abuses by the state of Israel? If you are genuinely not aware of the things we write in this letter, we are more than willing to supply you and your party with all these facts.
On the same day that we sent the open letter to Rev Meshoe (21 June 2012), I also got an e-mail from Jewish voice for Peace who, unlike our Christian brother, work for a just peace:
We learned that retirement giant TIAA-CREF has dropped all 73 million dollars in Caterpillar stocks from their socially responsible investment fund.
This is a watershed victory: we’ve been campaigning for this change because Caterpillar bulldozers have been used to destroy thousands of Palestinian homes and orchards.
But we can’t stop here. The movement to pressure Israel to be accountable to international law is now on the verge of a historic breakthrough at the Presbyterian General Assembly in Pittsburgh next week.
The Presbyterian Church (USA), one of the largest Protestant denominations in the US, will be meeting to decide whether to divest from Caterpillar and a few other companies profiting from the Israeli occupation. This is by far the most contested divestment vote in the US, and our pro-occupation opponents will be out in full force.
We don’t have the hundreds of thousands of dollars for paid ads or celebrity speakers that our opponents have—but we do have committed, knowledgeable and dedicated Jews who can walk the aisles side by side with our Palestinian allies and tell Presbyterian voters face to face to go with their conscience and vote on behalf of justice for all people.
Let us live, and act, in Light and in Love, no matter what our culture or religion is.
It happened during lunch hour in Ryneveld Street past Stellenbosch University’s old main building…
Stellenbosch, Monday 5 March 2012, a march for justice in Palestine
On a tranquil autumn day, Muslims, Christians, and a Jew with white, brown and black faces, young and old, walked through the heart of the town and the campus, in silence, connected by a clear statement…
13:00: March, from Arts Building (corner Merriman and Ryneveld Street) to the Faculty of Theology (Dorp Street 171).
13:00 – 13:40: Simulated Israeli checkpoint at the main gate of the Faculty of Theology.
13:40: Opening of gate for all, handing over of Bethlehem Call, and the Afrikaans Die Bethlehem Oproep to the Beyers Naudé Centre for Public Theology.
Everyone who supports a free and just Palestine were welcome to join us and ab0ut 50 people walked with us. The group walked to the main building of the Faculty of Theology .
At “Checkpoint 171” (actually the main entrance to the Faculty of Theology in 171 Dorp Street) we wanted people to experience what it feels like to not be able to enter your own university in your own land, or rather, to not have the access to education, etc. [I’ll load our video here asap.]
(photo by EA Carol Martin)
After a few staged “incidences” such as the one here where one Christian and a few Muslims wanted to respectively visit holy sites and their mosque but were refused entry, we opened the gates well in time for classes, but we also did so for another reason….
Inside the premises, on the steps to the front door, we presented The Bethlehem Call/ Die Bethlehem Oproep to the Beyers Naudé Centre for Public Theology to Prof. Julian Smith (Vice-Rector, Community Interaction, SU) and Prof. Nico Koopman (Dean of the Faculty and Director of the Centre). We chose this Centre for its commitment to the honouring of the legacy of Beyers Naudé who was a champion for justice. Both of them applauded everyone walking through the town to the faculty. Prof Smith said that all of the 28 000 students of the University should in fact stand up for human rights. We are very grateful for this response by our university and the Beyers Naudé Centre.
From left to right: Rev. Edwin Arrison (Kairos SA), Prof Nico Koopman (Dean, Faculty of Theology and Director of the BNC), Prof Julian Smith (Vice Rector Stellenbosch University), Christel Erasmus and Deon Scharneck (Kairos SA, theological students and organisers), MM (EA, Kairos SA) with fellow EAs Terry Crawford Browne (also from Kairos SA) and Carol Martin on whose camera this picture was taken.
The Bethlehem Call was composed in December 2011 by 60 people from 15 countries in Bethlehem, Palestine, as an urgent appeal to take a stand with the Palestinian Christians against the illegalities of the Israeli Occupation. (See also an Islam response to the Kairos Palestine document.)
As I translated The Bethlehem Call into Afrikaans, I realised something I’m supposed to know – just how powerful it is to read something in one’s own language. I have read The Call many, many times since December 2011, but now the words in my mother tongue made me experience the contents in a more immediate, a more intimate, manner. Suddenly I understood the urgency, the lament, and the appeal so much better.
I am a post-apartheid South African and for the life of me I just cannot allow another apartheid system in another part of the world. I have to stand with the oppressed. No, I have to do more. I have to spread the message and advocate for a just peace in Palestine.
Die Bethlehem Oproep:
Hier staan ons – Staan by ons
Hoe lank nog, o God, sal hulle ons lewensonderhoud steel? Ons mense onderdruk, gevange hou en verneder? Ons kinders van hulle jeug ontneem? Inderdaad, vir hoe lank nog, Here, sal die talle Christene in die wêreld die lewensangs van ons Palestynse susters en broers en al die onderdruktes verontagsaam?
“Kom en kyk” het die Christene van Palestina gesê. “Kom kyk na die olyfboorde, die stootskrapers, die antieke terrasse, die verdeelde stede. Die situasie word al hoe erger.”
Vandag neem die onregmatige regime en die onwettige vorms van Israel se besetting van Palestina dimensies aan van sistemiese onreg waardeur die ondenkbare en die onvoorstelbare internasionaal aanvaar, ondersteun en genormaliseer word. Dis ‘n voorbeeld van empire (globale dominansie) in aksie. Dit gebeur in Palestina soos ook in baie ander kontekste in die wêreld. Terselfdertyd is Palestina duidelik ook ‘n internasionale kwessie. Die Israelse regering maak aanspraak op, en geniet inderdaad ‘n status van uitsonderlikheid in die internasionale gemeenskap. Israel beskou haarself as verhewe bo die reg en word gehanteer asof vrygeskeld van die internasionale reg. Hierdie status gee Israel se regering die vryheid om Palestina sonder enige straf te beset.Soos ons met ons eie oë gesien het, het die verraderlike toestande afgedwing deur Israel se besetting van die Palestyne en hulle land ‘n vlak van feitlik onvoorstelbare, gesofistikeerde kriminaliteit bereik. Dit sluit die gestadigde, dog doelbewuste, en sistematiese etniese suiwering en landsmoord van Palestyne en Palestina in, en daarby ook nog die verwurging van die Palestynse ekonomie. Die brutaliteit in die internasionale “geweld van stilswye” gee Israel se regering ‘n byna ondeurdringbare skild om haar bose plan uit te voer met ‘n blatante minagting vir menseregte en die internasionale reg. Stilte is ‘n opinie. Passiwiteit is ‘n aksie. Ons aanskou wêreldwyd ‘n besliste ruggraatlose lafhartigheid en swye wat faal om weerstand teen Israel te bied. Ons sien dit in regerings, politieke partye, mediahuise, besighede en die meeste van georganiseerde geloof – insluitend die Christendom – en in die stilte van profete. Dit maak ons aandadig aan misdade teen die mensdom, soos dié van apartheid en vervolging soos beskryf in die internasionale reg.
Ons merk ook die vasbeslotenheid en veerkragtigheid van Palestyne waarmee hulle die wanbalans van politieke, ekonomiese and militêre mag met ‘n onbuigbare standvastigheid vir hul vryheid en ‘n regverdige vrede ewenaar.
‘n Onstuitbare momentum om Israel se regering en haar plaaslike en internasionale steun te delegitimeer en te kriminaliseer, is aan die opbou. Dat internasionale boikot, disinvestering en sanksie (BDS) veldtogte en ander vorme van nie-gewelddadige weerstand bestaan, is ‘n voldonge feit. Die regering en staat van Israel word tans beskou as ‘n apartheidsregime volgens die internasionale reg, met spesifieke verwysing na die VN konvensie oor die onderdrukking en strafbaarheid van apartheid as ‘n misdaad en die Rome Statute van die Internasionale Kriminele Hof. Die wreedheid van die Palestynse situasie maak vergelykings met apartheid in Suid Afrika oorbodig en byna irrelevant. Die maatstaf is die internasionale reg, nie Suid-Afrika nie…
 Relevante internasionale wette sluit in die International Convention on the Suppresion and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid (aanvaar in 1973 en geaktiveer in 1976); en die Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, Artikel 7(1)(h) & (j), en artikel 2 (g) & (h) van 1988.