The last few weeks have been a time of upheaval in our nation in the form of student protests with the ugly reality of deeply rooted racism and prejudice exposed once again. Students who have worked hard to get into university have been denied their ability to attend classes and engage in their studies. Many have been victimised and afraid and while there has been some order restored for the moment, our country feels fractured and vulnerable. While all this rages on around us, it reveals again the deep wounds of our past that we all still carry. It reveals that perhaps we have not come as far as we would have hoped and that we still have a lot to do to become the nation I believe, deep down, we all hope and believe we can be.
The events that have transpired – that threaten to keep as separated from one another and to sow prejudice and dissention – have reminded us to look deep within our own souls again and to face, the often unpleasant, realities we confront there. We must acknowledge and admit that white privilege is real, however defensive that may make some. We must face the reality that Afrikaans is still associated as the language of the oppressor, and feels like a threat to the dignity of some. We must be confronted by the reality that there are students who may have been “born free”, but are not free from the deep woundedness and hatred. We must deal with the fact that there are clearly some young people in our nation who do not have appropriate channels to voice their pain, frustration and ideologies in constructive ways – or that they have not been taught the skills to manage their reality and their desire to see transformation. He have to face the stark truth that as South Africans – all South Africans – there are clearly areas in which we have failed.
And yet, in the midst of all the negative events of the last few weeks, there is hope. As some students gathered to provoke violence, to vandalise and to break down, others gathered in small and then larger circles, black and white, English, Sesotho, Zulu and Afrikaans, and they prayed. They sang songs of praise to God who does not see us as black and white, but as His beloved children. They cried out for peace and healing to the only One Who is able to bring healing and restoration.
As I watched and listened to all that has been going on, I was filled with fear, dread and anxiety, but I was also filled with incredible hope. While we serve our living God, who unites, Whose perfect love drives out fear, and Who teaches us how to forgive and have compassion for one another, there is always hope. I believe that people who call themselves Christ followers have a responsibility to step up, now, in this moment, and live out their faith in the way they relate to others. Let the church be an example of integration, of mutual understanding, of forgiveness and co-operation. Let us lead the way. Let us show the young people of our nation how to find their voice and to speak about things they care about in ways that bring life and peace. Let us remind each other and ourselves that prejudice of any kind has no place in Christian community, in our world or in our hearts.
Love is the greatest weapon of the Christian. Jesus taught us that there is nothing love cannot overcome. Let the Christian community be the light as it has been on campuses this last week. Let us stand together. Let us vehemently fight against all that separates us, all that is unjust and keeps us from identifying with the humanity and the image of God within each other, and let us pray for our nation. Let us be peace-makers and relationship-builders and let us seek God together.
“… I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.”