A strange assortment of things in the title, I know. But trust me, I can connect them all.
While a lot of what we’ve been doing has been studying churches and preaching, all of that is done within the South African cultural context, which is quite different from the overarching US context.
For a VERY brief background, which some of you may know some of, here is probably the briefest history of South Africa ever.
Blacks (it’s ok to say that here) were living here when Europeans first arrived in the 1400s. Whites slowly came until the 1600s, when the first “colony” was started by the Dutch. The British took over the colony around 1800, then there were independence wars between Zulus and Whites, and British and Boers, and individual republics. Lots of bloodshed. Indians (from India) came in the 1800s. Early 1900s, South Africa becomes a country (under Britain). Post WWII it became a republic and the apartheid government took over. There are about 50 million people in South Africa – 80% black, White about 9%, Colored about 9%, Indian 2%. (500 years in about 100 words – it’s a pretty rough modern history)
But all that to bring the title into a little bit of context. The large majority of South Africans are not white, the history has been one of war and injustice toward different groups – white against white, white against black, white against non-white. But it has also been a history of independence of spirit, fighting against the odds, and coming together to get things done. It is a rich and varied history, but 20 years after democracy, one still fraught with the ghosts of the past.
Just last week, the University of Cape Town council declared that they would take down a statue of Cecil Rhodes, a white 19th century businessman and politician, after about a month of protests from black students who see the statue as a sign of white imperialism. At one point excrement was poured on part of the statue.
There were protests as well last week about the Nelson Mandela statue at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. The crowd that gathered in protest of the statues claimed that Madiba (Mandela) sold out to the whites when he became president.
Statues of King George, Queen Elizabeth, Mahatma Gandhi, Paul Kruger, and some others, have all been vandalized as well.
But that’s not all that’s been going on here in recent weeks.
There have been a series of xenophobic attacks in different cities. Crowds are targeting immigrants from other African countries, hoping to drive them out of South Africa. At least part of this is because some South Africans believe these foreigners are stealing their jobs. Stores have been looted; there have been protests, riots, beatings, and killings.
Just yesterday about 10,000 people took part in a peace march against this violence in Durban. The march ended in chaos, however, which you can read about here. (The BBC has a few articles on all this if you’d like to check it out more.)
There are many people who have come to this country to seek a better life, who work hard, who just want to be able to live in peace and support their families. Many are now scared to go out and to go to work. They’re scared to go to church, to go to the shops, or anywhere.
Please, please pray for this nation, for its people, and for the foreigners here. Please pray for peace, for understanding, for safety, for those who can’t defend themselves and for those who don’t know how to. Pray for whatever else may be on your heart. Keep this country in your thoughts, your prayers, your hearts.