Freedom Day 2001
A millennium message to the people of Southern Africa from the Bishops of the Anglican Church.
27 April 2001
South African Freedom Day
As Freedom Day 2001 dawns we thank God for seven years of democracy and liberty in South Africa, and look forward to building on what has been achieved.
While this message focuses on South Africa, we are supported by the Bishops of Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland and St Helena, who are part of the Church of Southern Africa. We have in mind the key and sensitive relationships which South Africa has with her neighbours. Economic circumstances, xenophobia or expulsions of non-citizens in any of our countries immediately impact on our neighbours.
For many years our passion as church has been to proclaim the Christian message to the nations of Southern Africa for the sake of reconciling, healing and reconstructing our people's lives in their community and family life. To that end we have been working to prepare God's people spiritually and practically to promote God's ourposes in Southern Africa and the world.
There is much for which to thank God in South Africa today. In 1994 God, who loves justice and freedom, led the nation -- across the Red Sea -- from the racial dictatorship of apartheid and generations of dispossession and oppression into the hope of a just, shared and democratic future. Great steps have been made in this direction. South Africa's constitution with its Bill of Rights is widely acclaimed as an unparalleled constitutional document. Much has been done to bring healing and reconciliation in the country, primarily through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission but also through multiple grassroots initiatives; in this we have become a beacon to many historically divided and embittered communities world wide.
The commitment of South Africa's government to freedom of speech, open government, universal and equitable access to basic services, housing, health care and education is a cause for joy and congratulation. Initiatives to find just solutions to ancient land problems offer hope for future peace and security. The legislative programme to give effect to all these ideals has been laudable. We thank God for the many honest and committed people in government at all levels who labour sacrificially from day to day for change, for delivery of services, and for the good of the poor and needy. While violence remains all too common, it is no longer officially sanctioned by government against its own citizenry, as it was for many years.
We thank God for the degree of peace, healing and delivery, which has been so far achieved.
However, as we celebrate, we know there is still a long journey to be undertaken. We as church and all our people must continue to work with integrity and energy for a society which more truly reflects the values of the Gospel: one which is non-racial and non-discriminatory, affirming of our cultural diversity and able to give all its citizens pride in being South African.
Most seriously, we need to add to our concern for political democracy a similar passion for economic justice, for eliminating poverty and corruption in favour of equity and opportunity. In today's economically lopsided world, South Africa remains an exceptionally inequitable society, displaying vulgar accumulations of wealth alongside exceptional depths of squalor and deprivation.
We hold that the prevailing economic orthodoxy of global capitalism is heretical, unjust and inhuman. It is heretical in that it idolises capitalism rather than glorifying the living God; it is unjust in that it rewards those who are already wealthy or powerful at the cost of the poor and weak; it is inhuman in that it brushes aside the wellbeing of people in the pursuit of material gain. The living God calls us to structure our economics for humanity in stark contrast to the present system. "Trickle down economics" are a myth because many of the "haves" of this world use their power to stop anything. Trickle-down economics has been shown to be a myth. The rich of the world getting richer and the poor getting poorer. New ways of organising and controlling the world's economic affairs must be found, and found urgently. There are alternatives.
One of these, which we strongly advocate, is that the governments of Southern Africa should explore the introduction of a Basic Citizens Income in place of the present social grants paid which are notoriously open to inefficiency and corruption in their administration. This could alleviate poverty, increase food security, minimise malnutrition, inject cash into local economies, raise the dignity of our citizens, reduce crime dramatically, promote development and give hope to young people. We believe that such a scheme could be funded and administered within the resources of our countries with great benefit to our peoples.
We remain concerned about the widespread collapse of civic conscience, corruption, the abuse of hard won freedoms and the lack of civic responsibility at many levels of our society, from the streets to the highest corridors of government. When people are motivated by a spirit of getting what they can get away with, the poor suffer and the struggle against apartheid is betrayed.
The degree of violent crime and dishonest dealing (from theft on the pavements to so-called white-collar offences) is in danger of dragging the country into even worse poverty, inequality and mismanagement.
In such circumstances, the necessary programmes to contain rampant disease (including HIV/AIDS, TB, malaria, cholera and foot and mouth) will be inhibited in their effectiveness.
If we do not soon sort out these matters, many of the idealistic programmes launched in the past seven years will lose their integrity and effectiveness: for example the manner in which land is redistributed, government contracts are awarded, government is conducted, law is respected, and basic services are provided. Delivery delayed is democracy betrayed.
We encourage the governments of all countries in Southern Africa to practise and align themselves with democratic governance of its citizens and urge the church in all our dioceses to strive for reconciliation and unity within our life and in society.
We are concerned that the agreement reached for the people of Lesotho to go to the polls in the year 2000 has not been implemented. To undermine this agreement is a recipe for discontent which can lead to an explosive situation putting the peoples' lives in danger.
Deportation of foreign nationals from South Africa to Mozambique needs to be reconsidered, especially as many of these children of Africa appear not to be Mozambican nationals.
In this setting, the church must look first to its own life and integrity.
We want the parishes, congregations and small groups of our church to be places where people are welcomed, and feel that they belong to a loving community where worship leads them into deeper faith and commitment to God's work in the world. We want our parishes to be places where the fundamental values affirmed in the Gospel are lived out and reinforced so that they can be carried outwards into society: such values as kindness, courtesy, mutual respect, caring, ensuring justice and contributing to the common good. (Gal 5:22, 1 Cor 12:7). We know that, as our people live a lifestyle of meaningful worship, simplicity and sharing, compassionate service, and proclamation, others will be drawn to Christ and into this accepting Christian community. This needs to be done without disrespect to those of other faiths than ours but in the spirit of openness and co-operation in nation-building.
In accordance with the calling set out by our Lord Jesus Christ (Luke 4:16ff) the church must always pay priority attention to the very people this world would like to forget, despise and marginalise -- the poor of every kind. We applaud and support the prophetic role of our Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane in urging this priority on the church and the wider community locally and internationally.
This priority attention needs to be expressed in the ministry of caring and compassionate action by Christian individuals and groups, adopting a simpler lifestyle for ourselves in order to provide for the needy and disadvantaged. It will also be expressed in prophetic ministry as we advocate the needs of the poor in the public arena, press for continuing policies of provision for the marginalised, oppose corruption and press authorities at all levels to address the rights and needs of all the people in their care.
This is why we take the view that we do, regarding global capitalism and the need for a Basic Citizens Income.
These concerns must be pressed especially where it seems that there may be some backing off from commitments made (for example in the RDP). This relates to such issues as access to land, job creation, and provision of lifelong education and affordable health services. They need to be pressed in a broad context of concern for our physical environment and the long-term future of the sub continent.
From our membership we ask continuing efforts to live by the standards we have set ourselves -- standards of spirituality, morality, and following Jesus in the service of others. We look for prayer, generosity, and active witness from all our people.
Once again we commend the rule of life set out by the Bishops in the Anglican Prayer Book p.434
The Father expects all his people to witness to the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the power of the Holy Spirit to bring others to a knowledge of him. The Anglican Church in Southern Africa shares in this call, and every baptized and confirmed member must share in God's mission to the world.
To this end your lifestyle as a Christian should include these responses to God's love for you: To
In all of this we ask fellow Christians, adherents of other faiths, government and the people at large to join us as they see fit. We are constantly pressed to work at re-building the moral fibre of our society at a time when some are actively unravelling it. This is not a matter of private ethics only, but integrity, compassion and the pursuit of justice in the public arena. To do so requires integrity, compassion and effort from all of us.
Stretching towards the future and preparing God's people to work for others, we must stop being shaped to the pattern of this present world, and go on being changed by the renewal of our minds by Christ, offering ourselves together to God. (Phil 3:2, Eph 4:12 - 13, Rom 12:1-2).
Issued on behalf of the Anglican bishops of southern Africa by Tulleken &
Associates. Agency contact: Loraine Tulleken (011) 839 1058 or 0836025010
PO Box 569
Auckland Park 2006
27 11 839 1058
Fax: 839 1213
Back to contents