Lent is the Christian season of lament and preparation for the Feast of the Resurrection. In anticipation of that great day in our lives and that of world history, we intentionally reflect on the call of Jesus Christ to follow him. The Lenten anticipation of Easter invites us on to a path of suffering and sacrifice. We seek to die to sin, and to find ways of embracing the joy of the resurrection--God’s gift of forgiving love.
During the third week in Lent we gathered on the steps of St George’s Cathedral where our predecessors stood during the apartheid era. We stood in silence under the banner, “A Flower for Thuli, A Message for the President”, referring to the South African 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 9” institutions -- the independent institutions set up under the South African Constitution to guard our democracy.
This year marks the twentieth anniversary of the birth of South Africa’s democracy and brings a special focus to how we observe Lent. Our prayers place us in the palm of our Creator’s hand. We glory in the fact that God has guided us through the darkness of our struggle to the bright dawn and blessings of liberation.
We believe that people are to be loved and that things are to be used. Yet we have witnessed our people relegated to the ranks of the unemployed, the homeless, and the hungry. We have witnessed the widening gulf between rich and poor in our society. We have witnessed the ongoing craving for power, status and wealth at the expense of service delivery to the poor. We have witnessed an increase in gangsterism and drug abuse in the Western Cape as a form of escapism. We have witnessed a crisis in our educational system and when the church has dared to confront this stark reality, it has been met by personal attacks on our Archbishop and slandering of the church as an institution.
In light of these conditions, we are compelled by our faith to proclaim that life-giving Gospel of Jesus Christ, to speak a message of hope into a seemingly hopeless spiral of societal degradation. If indeed we believe, as the Psalmist reminds us, that the earth is the Lord’s and ALL that therein is, then we cannot fully celebrate and appreciate our democracy until such time as the scourge of corruption and greed which has disproportionately contributed to the inequality that we are witnessing today, is obliterated for our common life.
We are torn apart as a nation and we are pained and Joshua-like we must raise the trumpet of prophecy and proclaim a time to celebrate and lament:
We celebrate because the new South Africa is
God's answer to prayer and the sacrificial discipleship of many;
the fulfilment of our Creator's love of justice as he saw his children martyred on the streets, tortured in detention, driven from their homes and ancestral lands, divided from one another, in apartheid South Africa.
the sign of God's dream and desire for the abundance of life for all South Africans, black and white;
We lament because
the integrity of Creation and its benefits for God’s children is being threatened;
the rampant entitlement and avarice of powerful groupings are bonded by self-centred, wicked interests as they conspire at the expense of the well-being of the people;
the value of our 20-year old democracy is tainted as parliament becomes the haunt of those who are rewarded for compliance with the culture of greed and corruption;
We, the faith-community, bow the knee of our heart to God for our silence over these many years, and for our failure to respond compassionately to his cry in the lives of the people of our land -- especially those who are poor, naked and those denied their daily bread.
We call upon
all the people of God to raise their protest and righteous anger at our government’s inability to be a Good Shepherd;
to gather in a Procession of Witness at the Parliament of our land;
the Church in all its manifestations, the interfaith communities and all those who wish to enter into solidarity with us, to join in this act of witness;
a concerted effort of the entire community of faith-based and non-governmental organizations, not so much to defend the Public Protector as an individual, as to defend the rights of the public – whose rights are in fact being protected by the Public Protector – and the integrity of the office of the Public Protector.
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, abandon the empty tomb of unfulfilled promises and return to Nelson Mandela’s way of governance and leadership. It was 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 entrusted to them that awesome and awful responsibility of leadership.
We stand between a crucified people of Good Friday, and the Easter-promise of an abundance of life for all, as we seek the fulfilment of the promise of our Constitution.
We invite you to gather with us on Saturday,
19 April 2014 at 10am on Kaizergracht Street, District-Six (below St. Mark’s Church) to start our Procession of Witness to the Houses of Parliament.