I'm not sure what I expected when I arrived in South Africa, but I wasn't expecting the audiences I addressed to be as integrated as they have been. From the CESA synod meeting, to the Antioch Bible Church worldviews conference, to the gathering of Christ Church Uhmlanga, the audiences have pleasantly surprised me by their diversity.
This isn't to say South Africa is anywhere near the harmoniously diverse society that people here want it to be. But it strikes you that the country is farther along in post-Apartheid community than the unintelligent visitor like myself would have thought.
To appreciate how far along the country is, you'd have to compare the state of things to the United States--not the present U.S.--but the U.S. 15 years after Emancipation from slavery. South Africa has had the Truth and Reconciliation Committee, there have been denomination-level and church level discussions about "race" and reconciliation, and there is the sea change in governance.
The U.S. is just now getting to the point where meaningful discussions about "race" can be had. Rather than repent after slavery, there was the rise of the Klan, the repeal of Reconstruction gains, and the establishment of Jim Crow. The U.S. effectively introduced its own apartheid after slavery. Apologies for slavery have come 100 years after the fact and sometimes quite grudgingly. And in quite a number of places, Sunday morning is still the most segregated hour in America.
What strikes you is the forthright and bold way in which South Africans have taken up its discussion of "race" and reconciliation. To be sure, a lot of that forthrightness stems from the fact that black South Africans are the majority in the country, whereas African Americans were a minority in the U.S. following Emancipation. Majority/minority status matters when it comes to determining whether your history of oppression will be addressed with any haste. For example, it's unthinkable that the "with all deliberate speed" verdict of the U.S. Supreme Court in Brown v. Education could have been passed in a black majority South Africa. Or, it's unimaginable that a majority black South African president would only be elected 140 years or so after Apartheid's end. Things happen faster here because black Africans are the majority. But that notwithstanding, they are happening and it's striking.
And I'm praying that more and more the peace of Christ which reconciles sinners to God and ethnic groups to each other would be present in this place. Ephesians 2:11-22.
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