Tag Archives: South Africa

Prayer in a time of violence

A white ribbon to commemorate the National Day...

A white ribbon to commemorate the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. Right-to-life Awareness. White Ribbon. فارسی: روبان سفید، نماد بین‌المللی آگاهی و توجه به مبارزه با خشونت علیه زنان است. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Lord, there is so much pain, so much hurt in our world.
The violence of rape and murder threaten to destroy our society,
Not by tearing us apart, but by leaving us indifferent.

Sometimes we nurture holiness as a barrier,
to keep us aloof from the darkness and violence around us.
But your holiness is not a barrier separating you from us;
It is a gift, which brings you closer to the pain and sorrow of the world.

The rape and murder of Anene Booysens and the terrible death of Reeva Steenkamp
have shocked us wide awake.
Lord, keep us alert to every rape, every murder, every child without a home.

Show us how to listen,
Show us how to care,
Show us how to reach out into our neighbourhood and our community
To bring your hope and healing, your peace and love. 

Live in us; shine the pure light of your holiness through us
Into the dark corners of our lives and our community,
To heal the broken, to bring hope to the hopeless and peace to our troubled times.
Make our lives and our community a home for the homeless

In Jesus’s name.


Filed under Prayers and Meditations

Census 2011: How much stuff?

South Africans are being counted.  Census 2011 is underway.  Jen and I completed the form on Saturday.  One set of questions asked whether we have various appliances in our home.  These include a television set, DVD player, refrigerator, microwave—about ten items.  We have them all.  I could not help thinking of the vast majority of South Africans who would be answeriing ‘No’ to all of those questions.  The next question asked whether we produce any agricultural products: livestock, fowls, vegetables, etc.  I had to confess that we do not produce any.  (I did ask Jen whether she thought her herbs would count; she thought not.)  The reality is that the majority of us who have most of the items in the first list probably answered “No” to the second.  Those who have none of the items on the first list, probably produce a good deal of those on second, at least for their own consumption. 

The truth is that I am a consumer.  I give little or nothing back; just money.

We were also asked whether we had running water in our home and I was reminded of my last post which dealt with the challenge posed by a young student for whom the greatest excitement of his aeroplane trip to the big city was having a hot shower.  It had been, for me, a sobering and challenging discovery.

It appears that it is not an isolated case.  A friend of mine has just returned from a conference in Johannesburg.  One of the speakers was a professor who had done a great deal of research into, and was well qualified to discuss, the socio-economic realities of life in South Africa.  She said that fifty percent of black South Africans measure success, and mark their climb up the social ladder, by whether or not they have running water and a geyser to provide hot water in their home.  When my friend read my post as it was published in The Witness, she was amazed to find a local example of such statistics; and I was equally amazed to find that the local example with which I had been presented was not an isolated case but a general reality.

The obvious question, that I fear to ask is, what difference will I allow it to make in my life?  What difference will we allow it to make in the life and witness of the local church?

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Hadedas: comic with a sickening cry

Hadeda0421“With monstrous head and sickening cry….” Such was the Donkey’s description of himself in GK Chesterton’s poem.

It could well be the description of a hadeda ibis, a large dark-coloured ibis disturbing the peace in rural and suburban Africa. Its ‘sickening cry’ wakes us in the early morning, disturbs our afternoon naps, and frightens the unsuspecting.

While graceful enough in flight (apart from the crooked neck), landing is a huffing and puffing affair usually accompanied by more cries; the latter either to express amazement at his ability to land or to inform all the cousins where he ended up.

Hadeda0422The hadeda is a drab grey/brown colour at first glance, but sunlight reflecting on the feathers displays a beautiful spectrum of colours similar to the effect of oil on water. Their long, curved beaks drill into the ground in order to feast on worms, crickets, and other such tasties.

South Africans tend to hate the hadeda—its noise and its mess. But take a South African away for a time and you’ll hear, “I miss the hadedas.” I was once talking on the phone with a South African living overseas. As we spoke the hadedas cried out in the background. “Was that a hadeda?” was the plaintive query.

We often sit in our tiny garden with a hadeda or two ambling around within a couple of metres, keeping a wary eye on us. Suddenly, with no apparent reason, one of them will let rip his awful high-pitched scream. A partner in the tree above will screech a reply. Back and forth will go the “Haa, haa” without any sense of interaction between the two—it’s more like a shouting contest than a conversation.

Hadeda0419 When quiet, and they can sit quietly for very long periods of time, they are the most comical of creatures. They look like a row of little old men, passing the time of day scratching and preening themselves, sitting on a roof or a fence in a row of five or ten or more.

Taking off, especially if they have been given a fright, is hilarious. I have occasionally (unintentionally) frightened a hadeda or two when opening the back door. Only half their energy is spent getting their not inconsiderable bulk off the ground with much flapping of their large wings. The rest seems to go into squawking their displeasure and alerting the world to our uncharitable behaviour. But in spite of the noise and their weight, they rise surprisingly quickly from a standing position.

The hadeda will not win any beauty contest, nor singing competition; there is nothing particularly attractive about them. The hadeda is simply there: a large, loud presence on the African landscape, an atrocious noise in our quiet suburbs. But without them our landscape would be poorer and our lives a little less rich. A reminder that in God’s scheme of things there is room for all: the petite and unobtrusive, the stately and graceful, and the buffoon.

And who is to say who is who? Today, perhaps it is the gracious wisdom of the sage we need. But tomorrow, who knows? Perhaps it is the buffoon who will draw us out of our sorrow and introspection and lead us into loud and carefree laughter that damages our dignity but frees our souls.

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Jesus, HIV Positive?

“Jesus was HIV Positive”        

That’s what the newspaper headline screamed at us this morning.        

Of course (as it was meant to) it raised the ire and started me wondering who this arrogant person was and what dubious ‘research’ gave rise to such a scandalous idea.  Obviously some wretch looking for cheep publicity.  Oh, how quickly we jump to protect Jesus from scandal.   How foolishly we forget that Jesus was out there in the firing line long before we came along.  He doesn’t need our protection.  He wants us to follow him, to find him among the poor and the blind and the lame.         

The headline was actually the title of a sermon by the Rev Xola Skosana of the Way of Life Church in Cape Town.  He says, “In many parts of the Bible, God put himself in the position of the sick, the marginalised.”  The sad thing is that his remarks angered Christians in the township in which he preached.  But this pastor took his cue from Matthew 25 and said, “When we attend to those who are sick, we are attending to Him. When we ignore people who are sick, we are ignoring Him”.        

Christians in the township accuse Skosana of portraying Jesus as sexually promiscuous by drawing a link between the son of God and HIV/AIDS.  In spite of all we have heard, and all we know, we still presume ‘sexually promiscuous behaviour’ whenever we hear ‘HIV/AIDS’.  And our judgemental attitude precedes any caring we might offer.  But those who care for the sick and the marginalised put themselves at risk of infection every day.  Jesus reached out and touched the untouchables of his day (the lepers) with concern only for their wellbeing and self-worth.  We must assume that Jesus in South Africa today would be putting himself at risk of infection everywhere he went—not foolishly or wantonly but, when the need arose, he would care rather than conform, he would touch rather than retreat.   

Caring for the Sick, from 'L'Abbaye De Port-Ro...

Image via Wikipedia


We hear of doctors and nurses and others on the frontline of caring for those infected by this fearsome disease receiving needle-stick injuries and coming into contact with bodily fluids.  Jesus would, I think, be no different.  He was not afraid to contract leprosy in first-century Palestine.  We should expect that he would be equally unafraid of contracting HIV/ AIDS in 21st century Africa.         

The township of Khayelitsha in which Skosana’s church is situated is as rife with HIV/AIDS as anywhere else in South Africa today (we hear of nearly 1,000 people dying daily here).  It is sad that the people should reject his message with anger, not because he was talking down to them or that he’s an outsider (he has lost two sisters to AIDS) but because they want to protect Jesus from such scandals.  The incarnation, however, is scandalous.  It means that God isn’t waiting for us in heaven far removed from the realities of life and death.  He has come to find us here and we will find him, grappling with poverty and dying of AIDS.        

But then the message of the incarnate Jesus reaching out to the poor and marginalised has never gone down too well.


Filed under Community, Odds & Ends