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Entries in poverty (14)

Friday
Feb132015

Theology and Public Life - Confronting poverty, unemployment and inequality

Please find a copy of the speech given by Dr Mamphela Ramphele at the Stellenbosch University Faculty of Theology open day on the 2nd of February 2015.

INTRODUCTION

We are privileged to be able to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of one of South Africa’s finest sons, Beyers Naude, born on 10th May 1915. It is fitting that his alma mater has honoured him by amongst others, namingthe Centre for Theology after him and organizing this Annual Lecture to reflecton Theology and Public life.  

Beyers lived his life as a spiritualsearcher for “the truth“.  The search for“the truth” during the dark days of apartheid brought him face to face with thechoice between obedience in faith to God or subjection to the authority of thechurch’s doctrines.  The Dutch ReformedChurch’s doctrines of the time were heavily tainted by chauvinist and racistideology that supported and promoted the socio-economic exclusion of blackcitizens.  This doctrine undermined the pillarson which humanity stands – the fundamental truth that all humans are created asequals in the image of God. Beyers Naude chose obedience to God and paid theprice of social disapproval and exclusion by the Afrikaner establishment. 

Today is an opportune moment for us toreflect on our own journeys as people of faith. We need to examine the extent to which we have made the kind of choicesthat affirm our faith in the equality of humans and commitment to building asociety characterized by Ubuntu – thehuman connectedness that binds us together as equal members of the human race.  Ubunturequires us to confront the legacy of socio-economic and political exclusion ofblack people by a white power structure.   The persistence of Poverty, Unemployment andInequality is a result of our failure to establish the human connectedness thatis essential to making Ubuntu a way oflife.   We are yet to see ourselves inthe faces our fellow human beings made in the image of the God we worship.

Our Theme: Confronting Poverty,Unemployment and Inequality gives us an opportunity from a Theology andPublic Life perspective to reflect on the texts of great thinkers about this brokennessin the human connectedness in our society. It is also an opportunity for us to recommit to healing ourselves asindividuals, our communities and our society as a whole.  In this lecture I would like to reflect onthree points:

1)   Thatthe process of Confronting Poverty, Unemployment and Inequality is inextricablylinked to the restoration of the moral health of individuals and the health ofour political community.

2)   Thetough choices that Spiritual Leadership faces in responding to the call topromote the structural transformation that is fundamental to uprooting Poverty,Unemployment and Inequality.  

3)   Theneed to nurture the Green Shoots of a new Struggle for True Liberty

 

CONFRONTING POVERTY, UNEMPLOYMENT ANDINEQUALITY

Our society is struggling to come to termswith the essential structural transformation that is required to build thecountry we committed to establish to make freedom a reality in the daily livesof all citizens.  The growing poverty, persistentunemployment and yawning chasm of inequality are symptoms of a society withdeep wounds and excruciating social pain for those on the wrong side of thedivide.  The euphoria of 1994 blinded usto the reality of the extent of transformation and healing needed to build thenon-racial, non-sexist and just democratic society envisaged in ourconstitution.

We need to confront and dismantle thesocial structures, that enabled a minority to exploit a majority of ourpopulation, that remain intact to date. For example our cities remainsegregated. Dormitory townships are supporting the prosperity and comfort ofthe well to do areas with their labour, consumer spending and taxes.  Take the case of staple food items such asbread.  A recent analysis shows that atownship such as Soweto with approximately 2million poor and unemployed people spendabout R10m per day on sugar-laced bread amounting to R3.65bn per year.  All that money leaves Soweto and billionsmore from other townships. Ultimately leaves South Africa as repatriatedprofits of multinational bread companies. This economic model can only generatepoverty for the majority and super wealth for the minority that owns most ofthe capital in our economy. 

Our education and training systems stillchurn out poor quality outcomes for the majority of children and young people.This leaves them ill-prepared to seize the labour market and self-employment opportunitiesin our economy.  The productivity of oureconomy suffers from the poor quality human capital.  The humiliation of life in poverty in themidst of conspicuous consumption is a source of re-traumatization, a disabling senseof worthlessness, anger and frustration. The social instability, brutality of violence and extent ofself-sabotage in those dormitory townships are a direct result of thestructural violence the society visits upon them daily.  This violence and social instability willincreasingly spill into well to do areas of our towns and cities.

The celebrated Indian Economist, C.T.Kurien, laments the pursuit of wealth at the expense of those excluded andexploited.  He urges the global communityto confront the traditional economic model. He is concerned about the reduction of humanachievement to monetary achievement. In virtually every field from technologyto spirituality success is increasingly measured in terms of a monetary number.The relentless pursuit of these numbers has taken its toll on social processeseven as it has led to the over exploitation of natural resources without even apassing thought to the needs of future generations.  He defines poverty as “the carcassthat remained from wealth acquisition.”  SampieTerreblanche brings this concern closer to our own situation: “In South Africa we can regard (black)poverty as the carcass left over from (white) acquisition.”[1]

Inequality generated by this economicmodel and the disrespect that goes with it, adds salt to the wounds of thosewho have to endure its burdens.  Thesocial fractures occasioned by the triple burden of poverty, unemployment andinequality undermine our connectedness as a human community.    

What are we to do to contribute to theprocess of structural transformation that is essential to healing the socialpain and wounds of our society as people of faith and citizens and peopleobedient to God in Faith? I am encouraged in this exploration by the congruencebetween the views of St. Augustine, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Dag Hammarskjold andRabbi Jonathan Sacks on the freedom we have as human beings to choose how tolive as creatures designed for connectedness with other humans.   Allthese thinkers link human freedom to action in the service of others.

Augustinians place a strong focus on sinas “attempts to flee from other humans,and also from God, (as) the really fundamental characteristic of what sin is. It(sin) is an attempt to treat others as objects so that we do not have toconfront what it would be like to treat them as humans and be exposed to theirclaims upon us as humans.”[2]  

Both Bonhoeffer and Hammarskjold (who werecontemporaries born in different parts of Europe) define sin asself-centeredness – to be curved in upononeself.  Freedom in their view isinseparable from unreserved service. Freedom “is a freedom in the midstof action, and the action required is the action to serve others.”[3] For both of them the life of aChristian is that of one who lives and acts in the midst of the needs of theworld.

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks in his wisereflections on Freewill had this to say: "Whenlife becomes cheap and people are seen as a means to an end, when the worstexcesses are excused in the name of tradition and rulers have absolute power,then conscience is eroded and freedom lost because culture has createdinsulated space in which the cry of the oppressed can no longer be heard."[4]

 The exclusionarysocial structures of the apartheid exploitative system designed to create “insulated space in which the cry of theoppressed could not be heard”, sadly remain intact to date.  Many of us living in the leafy suburbs ofmajor towns and cities can not, and do not, and will not hear the cry of thosestill living with unspeakable pain of poverty, unemployment and inequality.  We flee – physically and symbolically fromthe places where we would have to confront the claims that our fellow humansmake on us as a connected human race.   

Not unlike “the pre-conversion” BeyersNaude, we have found it difficult to challenge the establishment, because weare of it.  Those in government authorityand in leadership positions in the private sector are part of us.  We are a part of networks of support andpatronage that operate amongst those seen to be loyal to the political andeconomic establishment.  

Many of us as people of faith have foundourselves caught in the horns of a dilemma. How to be supportive of a newgovernment led by struggle heroes, whilst being obedient to God in faith and beingon the side of those crying under the burden of persistent injustices in theirdaily lives?  How do we remain true to ourobedience to God in faith in a society that seems to have come to tolerate continuedpoverty, unemployment and growing inequality? How do we challenge impunity in public life by the very people alongside whom we fought against the impunity of the apartheid system?  How long is long enough to begin to demandaccountability in public life as non-negotiable?

Beyers Naude, as a member of the AfrikanerBroederbond, faced the same dilemma when it became obvious to him that theAfrikaner establishment was committing atrocities such as the Sharpeville Massacre,and the systematic denial of the human dignity of his fellow citizens simplybecause they were black.  He too was toldto be patient by his friends, the likes of Rev Bertie Brink, who said: “Brother Beyers, I just want to advise youthat it is going to take years and years before our church realizes thatapartheid cannot be spiritually justified. Therefore, we must be patient.”[5]   

In our midst today are also peoplecounseling patience.  There are thosesuggesting that 20 years is too soon to expect transformation to have the desiredimpact on the lives of people living in poverty, unemployment and suffering thepain and indignity of inequality.   Many others are saying that 20 years is toolong for those children who still do not get the high quality early childhooddevelopment they need to lay the foundations for success in life.  More and more are saying that 20 years is toolong for those cohorts of young people – black and poor - 50% and more of whomdrop out of our school system due to poor quality teaching and learning intheir foundation years.  

Young people are saying that 20 years istoo long for those who against all odds, make it into the minority who qualifyfrom high school, yet end up without opportunities for higher education andskills training to prepare them for successful careers in the 21stcentury.  A growing chorus says that 20years is too long for the thousands of women and children who die unnecessarilyin childbirth due to poor quality health services despite the science andresources we have to stop the carnage.   

Like Beyers Naude, we face the choicebetween obeying God’s call to us to respond to the demands of our fellow humanbeings to make true liberty visible in our society or continuing with thestatus quo.  We are challenged to admitthat true liberty is not divisible – we cannot be free when the majority of ourfellow human beings remain un-free.  Wehave to tackle both the structural and psychological impediments to connectingthe moral health of individuals and the health of our political community withthe goal of true liberty for all.   Wehave to accept that a corrupted polity will effectively corrupt its citizens,and corrupted citizens will effectively corrupt their polity.     

We have made the big mistake ofjettisoning the psychological dimension of the struggle for true liberty in1994.  People who have been deeplywounded by decades of humiliation by political and socio-economic exclusion,cannot simply stand up and dust themselves up and move on.  The superiority and inferiority complexes ofracism and sexism, as well as the assault on the culture and self-image ofblack people, have left a multiplicity of deep wounds to heal on theirown.  A healing process is needed toacknowledge the wounds, apply the balm of truth speaking between perpetratorsand victims, and dismantle the structures that continue to wound millions ofblack people.  

Reconciliation can only come from puttingright that which has gone wrong (structural transformation).  As citizens and as Faith Based Leaders wewere too hasty to declare victory, especially after the Truth and ReconciliationCommission (TRC) process in the late 1990s. We left too many wounded people, who are the majority population, totheir own devices by excluding socio-economic violations of human rights fromthe TRC process. We have also not followed through with the minimalist reparationsproposed in the TRC Report.

What is needed is a new business model forour economy.  We need to rethink andtransform the socio-economic structures of our cities to stop the haemorragingof cash from the poorest to the wealthiest parts of our urban landscapes.  We need to address the cost of poverty in transportcosts, time away from families and lack of leisure and other facilitiesessential to enhancing the quality of life for poor people. We need to advocatefor, and champion larger investments in quality public services to enhance theoutcomes of education and health for all citizens.  

We also need to be open to innovations inpower generation technologies that focus on renewables and new human settlementmodels that integrate residential and industrial/commercial productiveactivities.  Our economy can only growfaster and in a more sustainable way by adopting models that promote the utilizationof the talents and energies of all able bodied people willing to participate inbuilding ours into a great society. 

We need to dismantle our “insulatedspaces” and be present in the lives of those wrestling with the triple burdenin our midst.  We need to listen to thecry of those black people plunged into self-hatred because of the dailyhumiliation and denigration they continue to endure.  We need to understand that destructivebehavior including self-sabotage, in personal, community and public life of ournation, is a direct result of the psychological liberation work yet to be done.  

Too many white people remain burdened by asuperiority complex that distances them from their fellow human beings.  There are too many white people who stilljustify the legacy of privilege they continue to enjoy as an entitlementresulting from their superior education, skills and harder work.  There are still too many men who believe thatthey are entitled to lead rather than recognize the complementary strengthswomen bring to leadership.

Beyers Naude, as founder and head of theChristian Institute, was one of the first white people in the 1970s torecognize the importance of psychological liberation through raising the consciousnessof both black and white people about the impact of racism and socio-economicexclusion on human relationships.  Beyershad benefitted from Afrikaners consciousness raising and solidarity action toheal the psychological wounds of humiliation Afrikaners suffered at the handsof the British.  He supported the BlackCommunity Programs (BPC was the development arm of the BCM) to model practicalmanifestations of self-reliance to drive black led sustainable developmentprojects.   

The gap left by the neglect of psychologicalliberation has been filled by, amongst others, the new churches.   Theyoffer salvation for those suffering the pain of being in the margins of society.   Some of these new churches, despite theirlimited human and material resources, are answering the call to hear the cry ofpain by being present in the daily struggles of poor people. 

But many of these new churches aremega-businesses with global links to centers in the USA and SouthernAmerica.   They offer a prosperity ministrybased on transactional relationships involving significant financialcontributions and unquestioning obedience to the authority of church leaders.   The level of desperation and loss ofself-esteem of the congregants involved is reflected by the extent to whichthey engage in further humiliating acts such as eating grass, drinking petrolor slavish submission to abusive church leaders.   How do we stop the sin of fleeing from theclaims these desperate fellow humans are making on us as humans? 

CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES OF LEADINGSTRUCTURAL TRANSFORMATION

Dag Hammaskjold’s life of public serviceas Secretary General of the United Nations in the Cold War era of the 1960s, isan inspiration we might draw on in this exploration of our own healing journeysas we confront the challenges and opportunities of structural transformation ofour society.  Hammarskjold’s life of publicservice was anchored on the search for life’s meaning.   This search led Dag to conclude that the wayby which one finds life meaningful is the way of experience; one seeks meaningby “daring to take the leap intounconditional obedience you will find that ‘in the pattern’ you are liberatedfrom the need to live ‘with the herd’. You will find that thus subordinated, your life will receive from Lifeall its meaning, irrespective of the conditions given you for its realization”.[6]

The liberation from ‘the need to live with the herd’ and enjoyment of the benefits ofbeing a member of the Afrikaner Broederbond, is what enabled Beyers Naude toleap into “unconditional obedience”to God.  The question for us today is howwe are to liberate ourselves from ‘the needto live in the herd’ and commit ourselves to tackling the structural andpsychological obstacles to true freedom for all South Africans?  The church at various stages in its life,including during the struggle for freedom from apartheid, anchored its missionon the connection between the moral health of individuals and the health of ourpolitical community.  

Imagine if people of all faiths were tomake 2015 the year of breaking down the edifice of socio-economic structuresthat perpetuate poverty, unemployment and inequality in the contexts we livein!  People of Faith across the religiousspectrum have historically been involved in advocacy for social justice and as actorsin socio-economic development projects, especially education and health care.  What stops the church today from respondingto the desperate needs for quality education, health care and promoting humandignity in our homes and communities?

There are inspirational stories emergingfrom across our country of citizens doing extraordinary things with limitedresources.  Take the example of civicengagement of retired people in Hermanus, in the Western Cape, who havecommitted themselves to transforming the local schools in the poor township ofZwelihle into high quality places of teaching and learning.   Enhancing education quality is transformingthe mindsets of those involved on both sides of the divide.  It sets the stage for dismantling the dividesin Hermanus between masters and servants, opening the gate towards rebuilding asociety of equal citizens.

Other citizens in Gauteng and Mpumalanga aresimilarly helping to make excellence affordable to poor communities through lowcost private schools.  Forgingpartnerships between poor public schools and better-resourced schools, is alsoworking wonders in enhancing performance across the board.  These are not, and should not be acts ofcharity. These are citizen responses to building a society we can all be proudto live in. 

Imagine if citizens of Stellenbosch wereto step outside their comfort zones to support the push for quality educationfor every child in settlements on your doorstep such Khayamandi!  The knock-on effects would includecollaboration between the very high net-worth residents and the poor people ofKhayamandi. Together they would build a re-connected healing community ofStellenbosch, where human dignity is celebrated at home, at work and in thewider community.  The same amazing thingscould happen if Cape Town leafy suburban citizens would dare to reconnect withtheir fellow humans on the Cape Flats.

The over-60s in our society are anunder-utilized resource. Theis resource could be harnessed to tackle structuralconstraints to sustainable socio-economic development.  Many citizens in this age group have a wealthof experience, scarce skills and independent financial means.  Imagine connecting our huge youth base – thelargest proportion of our population (59%) under 35 years – with the almost 10%of our population who are retired and still energetic!   The enthusiasm and energy of youth inspiredand nurtured by mutually supportive relationships with older generations couldbecome a winning proposition for our society. 

The linking of hands to innovate andexperiment with new business models to accelerate economic growth, educationand training as well as job creation, could see us turning round our moribundeconomy into a thriving one.  We could turnthe challenges of the triple burden into an opportunity to build bridgesconnecting us as fellow human beings.  Becomingmore attentive to the needs of our fellow human beings and learning from oneanother, are the ingredients needed to build a more prosperous, inclusive and stablegreat country together. 

GREEN SHOOTS OF A NEW STRUGGLE FOR LIBERTYFOR ALL?

There are encouraging signs across ourcountry that people of faith are waking up to their responsibilities andrecommitting to obedience to God in faith. First, many individuals are openly searching again for appropriateresponses to the growing social justice challenges in our midst.  The courage to engage in a new struggle onthe side of poor people is being championed by a growing number of faith-basedleaders.   

The South African Council of Churches(SACC), that played a seminal role in proclaiming liberation theology andsupport for the struggle for freedom, is being revived after years ofneglect.  Leaders such as Rev FrankChikane, Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana, Ms. Hlope Bam, have stepped up to the role ofgiving the SACC revival a boost.  Here inthe Western Cape The Religious Leaders Forum led by Rev Xola Skosana is gearingup for a stronger prophetic voice and greater responsiveness to the cry ofthose living on the margins of our society.

The Methodist Church of Southern Africa has also taken a bold step by putting a stop to its priests acting as Chaplainsto the ANC.   The Chaplaincy of the ANChad become controversial in its support of the ANC’s claim to “being of God”and therefore deserving support from God-fearing citizens. 

The Archbishop of Cape Town, ThaboMakgoba, has also come out in support of actively standing with thosemarginalized by poverty and indignity.  Hehas called for 2015 to be a year of “renaissanceof the spirit and the reconnection with the values of our constitution and ourspiritually guided families …… You have the chance to shape our country’sdestiny.  Destiny is not a matter ofchance, but a matter of choice.”[7]

There are other encouraging initiativesafoot as well.  The Authentic HopefulAction (AHA) had a soft launch in December 2014 to mobilize action against thetriple burden of poverty, unemployment and inequality.  It draws its strengths from the Second KairosInitiative that presented an open letter to the ANC leadership in 2012,challenging the persistent social injustice and growing corruption ingovernment.  The success of AHA willdepend on its ability to ignite the imagination and energy of citizens and thefaithful to mobilize a sustainable social movement for a new struggle forsocial justice.

The successful sprouting and blossoming ofthese green shoots depends on the extent to which they inspire citizens acrossthe spectrum to rise to the challenge and opportunity of building a movementfocused on uprooting poverty, tackling unemployment and inequality.   The question for you and I here today is howwe respond to the call to obedience as we go back to our bases?  Are we ready to ”take the leap of obedience” and start the process of dismantlingthe socio-economic barriers we have built in our own lives or those weperpetuate to insulate ourselves from our fellow human beings?  Are we ready for the journey to reconnectwith our fellow human beings?  

CONCLUSION

Let me conclude by bringing in the voicesof young men from Khayelitsha whom we seldom have the opportunity to listen to.   They are part of a group supported by aninitiative by two traditional ballet dancers that enabled them to escape theclutches of gangs to rebuild their lives They are exceptional in theirperformance as dancers moving gracefully in a celebration of ballet and Africandancing motifs.   The untapped talentamongst these young people is immeasurable. Let me share with you the lyrics of a song they composed during oneevening during a weekend away organized by their mentors:

 

Ndiyoyika

Ndiyabuza kaloku, yini

na sibulalana sodwa

Bayaphi ubuntu

 

Sesisele sisodwa

simunamunana nak’ilahle

baphi na abadala

ndiyabuza kaloku.

Sifuna wena Mama nawetata

Uyabanda umzi ongena

mfazi

 

Kwanele ma-Africa

Kwanele bantwana

Bo’mtonyama

Masibambaneni

 

I’m afraid

I’m asking why are we

killing each other, where

is our humanity

 

We have been left alone

Trying to find answers

Where are the elders

I’m asking

We want our mother

and father

A house with no woman

is cold

 

It’s enough my fellow

Africans

It’s enough sons and

daughters of the soil

Let’s unite

How are we to respond to these voices?  We have the power, theresources, the experience and models of success, to root out poverty,unemployment and inequality.  The keyquestion is whether we are willing to make the choice to respond and expressour obedience to God through service to these young people and others in ourmidst so we can restore our human connectedness.   

Mamphela Ramphele

Active Citizen

2/2/2015

 

[1] C.T. Kurien, Wealthand  Illfare — An Expedition into RealLife Economics, Books forChange, 139, Richmond Road, Bangalore-560025. Rs. 390. Terreblanche, S. AHistory of Inequality in SA: 1652-2002, University of Natal Press, 2002p413.  

 

[2] A Conversations With CharlesMathewes, Ass Professor of Theology at the University of Virginia andauthor of A Theology of Public Life, Cambridge, USA, 2007, Boisi Centrefor Religion and American Public Life, Boston College, USA.

[3] Dag Hammarskjold’s White Book – An Analysis of Markings,p129, Gustaf Aulen, 1969, Fortress Press.

[4] Rabbi Jonathan Sacks,Covenant and Conversations 5775 one Ethics, Freewill

[5]  Beyers Naude, My Land vanHoop, Human and Rousseau, 1995:43

[6] Dag Hammaskjold, Markings, p114, as quoted in An Analysisof Markings , Gustaf Aulen, p35, Fortress Press 1969.

[7] Time for a New Struggle,Archbishop of Cape Town, Thabo Makgoba, Sunday Independent, 11/1/2015

Friday
Nov292013

Remembering the life and witness of Dorothy Day

Today many Christians will commemorate the life of Dorothy Day. She was the co-founder of the Catholic worker movement, a deeply committed pacifist and servant of the poor.
Her life was shaped by a contemplative faith, out of which arose her quest for peace and justice in the world.

As with many great leaders she was not free from controversy. 

I have often considered that in order to bring about a substantial and lasting change in society there needs to be a family significant disruption of the status-quo. The 'powers' of every structure and age are resistant to change. It is seldom an easy process, but I do think that a peaceable approach, emanating from a position of deep faith, soaked in grace, stands the best chance of bringing change without resulting in significant brokenness.

My prayer is that I, and many others, will embrace the discipline of daily faithfulness to the Gospel of grace and peace, that in our prayer, our action and our words we will serve in small ways that contribute to the positive transformation and renewal of the world.
Saturday
Jul272013

Back from Nigeria! Off to Johannesburg - FastForward leadership conference

The last two weeks have been another whirlwind! I arrived back form an amazing trip to Lagos in Nigeria where we had the most amazing opportunities to meet beautiful people doing truly wonderful work in the Church and the broader community! While there I had the change to speak at a number of events and meet with some wonderful Church leaders and Christians in business. There is a strong commitment to the societal transformation and there was great support for the Alpha Course - a most amazing tool for evangelism.  We also had great support for 'EXPOSED - Shining a light on corruption' and the work of 'Unashamedly Ethical'.

This morning I flew to Johannesburg to speak at the FastForward leadership conference at the wonderful Gracepoint Church!  This is a most remarkable Christian community that holds personal holiness and social holiness in equal esteem.  Indeed, one can only honour God when one is right with God and in right standing with God's will in the world.  Gary and Jacqui Rivas are doing amazing work here.  I am thankful for them, their ministry and our friendship.  Truly amazing people in an amazing community of faith.

I promised to upload my slides from my talk at the conference today - however, my internet access is a little sketchy, so please do check back in a day or so when I get home I will upload my slides and the videos that I used at the conference. If you are interested in an earlier post I did on the subject of the Church and its growth and change please follow this link for some thoughts and ideas that I had back in 2009.

Tomorrow I will be speaking on justice and partnership at their morning services in a message entitled 'A partnership between the pavement and the pew'.  This morning I was inspired by this beautiful quote in my morning devotions.  Perhaps it will challenge, inspire and encourage you on your journey of loving service?

People may come to our communities because they want to serve the poor; they will only stay once they have discovered that they themselves are the poor.

Jean Vanier (founder of the L'Arche communities)

 

Friday
Jun072013

The Church and the Millennium Development Goals (MDG's)

Yesterday I had a chance to do a presentation at the Stellenbosch University Winter school on the role of the Church in reaching the Millennium Development Goals (MDG's).  Here are the slides from that presentation.

The good news is that there has been some great progress towards achieving the 8 MDG's and addressing extreme poverty across the world.  However, it is critical that we finish well! It would seem that some early strides were made, and that now many governments have slowed their progress on more difficult issues.

The role of the Church is crucial in this process.  My reasoning was quite simple:

1.  The Christian faith is the largest faith on earth.

2.  Our scriptures are clear that we should work for justice for all people.  The earth is the Lords, we have stewardship of it and we need to do a better job of caring for one another and the plant.

3.  There are simple and practical things that we can do.  They begin with prayer but must move to action.

4.  I encouraged the listeners to move through the 4 stages of engagement (as mentioned by David Korten in his research), namely from A) Charity B) Projects C) Advocacy and Policy engagement to D) Social movements for change (e.g., like the suffigen movement in the last century).

I gave three examples:

- Micah Challenge Australia and the 'Finish the race' campaign at http://www.micahchallenge.org.au

- Unashamedly Ethical which is a global ethics advocacy community with support and encouragement http://www.unashamedlyethical.com

- Promising life, a South African project to work for the maternal health care and the reduction of infant mortality in South Africa (we have one of the best policy frameworks for basic health care, and great allocation of resources, yet delivery and implementation by the Department of Health in South Africa is dismal!) join them here http://www.micahchallenge.org.za

Of course I would encourage you please to sign up to EXPOSED and send a strong message to the leaders of the G20 that global corruption is not acceptable!  Go to the website or sing up below http://www.exposed2013.com

Thursday
Feb142013

Franco and Sophie - a story of grace

God gave me a wonderful gift this week. It has been an exceptionally busy couple of months with my work at 'EXPOSED - Shining a light on corruption', Unashamedly Ethical and the University. Between travel, meetings, conference calls, speaking engagements, writing and supervision I hardly felt like I was touching sides.

The busyness of life has a way of drawing me away from what matters most. I begin to adopt a functional, rather than a reflective, orientation towards life. My days are spent on tasks rather than prayer and people. This can quickly lead to disconnection from God and God's wonderful world, and the people in it.

Last week was no different. We had a great contact week with our Master of Theology students who are doing the course in missional spirituality. Rev Trevor Hudson and Prof Robert Vosloo came and did the input sessions with our students. I sat in on most of the lectures, and also spent time with the individual students and the group helping them to work towards their research tasks and assignments. At the end of the week the examinations began for the group of students from last year's MTh course. In all 12 students had an opportunity to give a defence of their Masters research projects. This is an exciting time where the students present their ideas and the faculty (lecturers) get to engage with them. Whilst it is an exam, it is also a great time of learning and sharing.

On Monday afternoon one of my Masters students did his defence and did a great job. He has passed and will get his degree. It felt good to celebrate this significant milestone with him! However, as I left the University to rush home in order to go onto a conference call with colleagues in the UK for EXPOSED my mind was already focussed on tasks.

I drove out of Stellenbosch and as I passed Stellenbosch square I saw two people on the side of the road, a young boy and his mother. The mother was clearly very drunk. In fact, she was so drunk that she could not stand or walk without stumbling. She was dangerously close to the moving cars and her little son was applying all of his weight to try and pull her out of the road. My heart was touched. Seeing a little 6 year old boy struggling to help his mother in this situation left me very bruised. So, I turned my car around to the other side of the road and stopped to pick them up.

God had given me the gift of Franco and Sophie. Franco is six years old and has just started school. Sophie is his mother. Her husband died of HIV/AIDS a while ago and she has a drinking problem. Franco was trying to help his mother home.

After I had put Sophie in the front seat of the car, and get Franco securely fastened in the back (in Liam's 'booster seat') I took them home. I discovered that Franco has a brother - he is 9 years old. How sad it is that these two boys bear the responsibility of caring for themselves and their mother. Of course this event touched a very tender part of my own life and brought back memories from my early childhood.

I couldn't do too much for them. After getting Sophie and Franco safely home we talked for a while. I first spoke with Sophie about her life and her struggles. I encouraged her to seek help and prayed with her. It was a hopelessly inadequate response to this very serious situation. I then spent some time with Franco. I told him how beautiful and brave he is. I reminded him that God had made him a very special boy and that God has a wonderful plan for his life! I reminded him that he is loved and that God had sent me to collect him and his mom that afternoon. All that I had in the car to give him was an apple, a banana and one of Liam's story books. He was over the moon with the book.

Franco and Sophie have been living in my heart and mind all of this week. As I go to meetings, as I meet people, as I speak at events, as I plan, as I write, as I pray... God has given me a gift. It is a sad gift, but it is important.

The Bible says "Learn to do what is right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow" (Isaiah 1.17)

Please can I ask you to pray for Franco, Sophie and Franco's little brother? Please ask God to care for them. Please pray that Sophie will find the help that she needs, and the Franco and his brother will be spared from neglect or abuse. Please pray that they may reach the beauty of potential that God has placed in them. Please don't make the mistake that I make and get so busy that you neglect the opportunity to be wounded by suffering.

Saturday
Aug042012

A Biblical mandate for advocacy on poverty and corruption - ABLI presentation

Yesterday I had the great honour of speaking in the Plenary and conducting a workshop session at the African Biblical Leadership Initiative (ABLI) forum in Uganda.

I was invited to present on our campaign 'EXPOSED - Shining a light on corruption'. A number of the participants asked me to upload the slides from the presentation.

You can view the slides online below (please note that the first slide is blank, there is content from slide two).

If you would like to download a copy of the slides you can download them in PowerPoint format here.  They are in PPTX format and the file size is about 7.5MB.  If you use the slides please just attribute their source.

I told three stories to make the point that Christians have a responsibility, a ministry, to advocate for justice (speaking out against corruption and working with and for the poor).

Story 1 was called Philip's story.  It asks a powerful theological question:  If God has made the earth plentiful.  If Africa is so fertile and rich in natural and human resources, then why is he, and so many other Africans, stuck in abject poverty?

I used this wonderful video from NURU international.

Story 2 is a Biblical story.  I give some Biblical and Theological input on God's Economy (the oikos [household] nomos [management]).  The etymology of the contemporary English word 'economics' derives from two Greek words that mean the 'management of the household of God'.  The basic point here is that God desires a different standard of equity, justice and the management of the earth's resources so that every person can have a share of God's loving provision to flourish and live in blessing.

Some participants challenged a statement that I made in which I said that the prosperity 'gospel' is  not Biblical.  I stand by that statement.  I do not believe that God is an 'investment banker' where if one follows certain deterministic principles God is contractually bound to make one rich.  Moreover, it is simply not possible for the world to all live at the same standard of consumption that is expounded by prosperity preachers.  We can sustain that level of consumption of the natural resources of the earth.  If every person on earth lived at the standards of the average first world citizen the planet would depleted in a few short years.

However, I also do NOT believe that it is God's desire that the poor should remain in poverty.  I also do not believe that all wealth is evil and wrong.  I believe that what God wants is greater equity between the poor and the rich. In God's economy no child should have too much while another child has too little.  Of course there would be some who have more (e.g., persons who pursue business) and some who have less (persons such as myself who follow a life of service in the academy or in ministry).  However, no one should have too little and no one should have too much.

I do believe that part of the ministry of the Church is to develop the nation.  We should be involved in economic development.  We should be encouraging entrepreneurship.  However, we should also be encouraging responsible stewardship.  We should be encouraging simple and responsible living.

Aman, and a visiting Bishop from Zambia, both put their finger on the problem.  They both suggested that the problem is the terminology that we use.  For me, and many 'westernised' Christians the word prosperity has connations of excess (i.e., how does one get a bigger house, a better car, a higher salary than the good one already has).  However, for most poor persons prosperity means being able to meet the needs of your family and live with a reasonable measure of economic and social freedom.

Just to give some credit, I used a slide from my colleauge at the University of Stellenbosch, Dr Marius Nel, in this section.  It traces the development of the Historical Jesus scholarship.  I basically ask the question 'which Jesus shapes your faith?'  In short, the kind of Jesus that one finds preached by popular television preachers does not resemble the Jesus of the Bible very much.  If you want to find out what the Jesus of scripture cared about do yourself a favor and JUST read the red letters of the Gospels (the words of Jesus) for a month or so and see what Jesus thinks about, talks about, and cares about.  You may be surprised that he cares more about justice, economics, gender relations, systems of power in society than you thought.

Story 3 is our story.  I used the 'EXPOSED - Shining a light on corruption' campaign as an example of  advocacy on corruption and poverty. In this section I drew on the great work of my colleague, Amanda Jackson, on advocacy.

I used this video.

I hope there may be something of use here.  Please let me know what you think.  God bless, Dion

Wednesday
Jul112012

Beyond scarcity: Power, poverty and the global water crisis

Our friends in the United Nations Development Program put toget a wonderful report entitled 'Beyond scarcity: Power, poverty and the global water crisis' a while ago.

In this report they show that there are varying levels in which the access to water impacts upon the poor.  

First is the issue of access (scarcity).  If one cannot get water, a most basic of needs, you will suffer a great deal.  Not only can you not meet the basic needs of your body, to hydrate yourself.  It also denies your human dignity.  You cannot clean yourself.

Second, this report highlights that it is not only access to water that impacts the poor, it is also the way in which the water is delivered that can compound the suffering of the poor.  In the report they highlight how frequently the delivery mechanisms pollute the scarce water that is so desperately needed. When the water is polluted and consumed it causes disease that quickly leads to people dying, since the poor seldom have access to basic health care.

I would encourage you to watch the video below.  It is well done, very informative and can be a great source of information to direct your prayers and Christian response to the issue of poverty.

As a Christian what could you do, and pray, to see this situation changed where you live?  How about praying, or acting, on behalf of Christians in other parts of the world (such as India, Nigeria, or Rio)?

You can join 100 million other Christians who are adding their voices to show God's love for the poor, and God's desire to transform those who are caught in corruption - sing up for 'EXPOSED - Shining a light on corruption' at http://www.exposed2013.com

Saturday
Jul072012

Consultation on Christian Advocacy Poverty and Corruption

Today I have the joy of speaking at the CANOPI gathering here in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia. The Consultation on Christian Advocacy Poverty and Corruption is being hosted by Malaysian Care, a Christian aid and advocacy agency in Malaysia - see http://www.malaysiancare.org/

They have a great model of Christian care through development - as I have met with their staff and listened to their programs I am left with a sense that they care about what the Gospel of Christ looks like (and feels like) in society. Jesus own 'mission statement' in Luke 4 comes to mind - feeding the hungry, developing the poor, working for the liberation of the oppressed.

What is equally encouraging is that their work is ecumenical. They are wise enough to know that the solution to many social challenges doesn't lie with only one Church grouping. Rather, the whole of the community needs to be involved in working for God's loving Kingdom to be established.

Please could I encourage you to visit their website and also to pray for and support their wonderful work? If you live or work in Malaysia please join CANOPI. I am pleased to say that they are a partner of our 'EXPOSED - Shining a light on corruption' campaign - see http://www.exposed2013.com

Friday
Mar302012

Uganda - from the pavement to the palace

It is just after 6 am in Uganda. Graham Power and I have just returned from speaking on Power FM, the radio station of Watoto Church.

This truly is a Church that is being salt AND light! By this I mean that they have a consistent Christian witness, giving expression to God's love in ways that are traditionally associated with being 'the Church' i.e., preaching the good news of God's love for people and the world, gathering for worship, discipling their members etc. However, they are also being salt (in the sense that this phrase 'salt and light' was used in the New Testament). Salt was used to prevent the decay of food stuffs in the days before we had refrigerators. Watoto Church is a Church that is actively 'salty'. They serve the poor, they care for the orphans and the vulnerable. It is truly a remarkable thing to see how they give expression to the Good News - they not only preach what the 'gospel sounds likes', they also 'show what the Gospel looks like'.

In a few hours Graham and I will be speaking at the Makerere University on Unashamedly Ethical and EXPOSED. We end our time in Uganda by speaking at a Watoto Church to a group of about 1000 business people tonight. From there we fly to Rwanda for some more speaking engagements and the grand finale of the East African reality TV series - Inspire Africa (a show that is quite similar to Donald Trump series 'The Apprentice').

What prompted this post, however, was a series of experiences I had yesterday.

After arriving in Kampala just after midnight I slept for a short while before going to a business breakfast at the Africana Hotel. A couple hundred entrepreneurs had gathered to hear Graham Power and Mrs Janet Museveni - the First Lady of Uganda. It was a wonderful time. It is always deeply inspiring to hear Graham's testimony, and it was wonderful to see so many passionate and talented business people with an interest in Ethics and business. It is a great honor to share some encouragement and challenge with them. Mrs Museveni is an inspiring woman of faith - her love for God and her people is deeply moving.

Later in the morning I needed to walk into Kampala to buy some supplies. My friend Graham Vermooten and I were walked through the busy streets, dodging the boda boda motorcycles and taxis! Kampala is a bustling city with a great deal of emerging wealth and a seemingly growing economy. The familiar sights of South African retail and commerce are evident here - MTN, Standard Bank, Nando's, Mr Price etc.

However, as we rounded the corner I saw a little girl, no more than two and a half years old sitting all alone in the middle of the pavement begging for food or money. I was arrested in my steps. I felt such a sense of pain and shame rise up within me. How sad it is that a child of that age should be begging for enough food just to survive! Poverty is frequently associated with laziness and poor choices in adults. However, a young child, in fact a baby, is a victim of poverty. There is no other way to put it.

As we walked a little further there was a group of four or so women and girls - clearly street people - sleeping in the grass on the pavement. I wondered if the baby belonged to one of them? Regardless, I was so moved by what I had seen I could not get it out of my mind. Rounding the corner there once again signs of emerging wealth, an upmarket shopping mall with a parking lot filled with luxury 4x4 vehicles, busy shoppers, stores filled with food, clothing and all sorts of unnecessary distractions. The contrast is just so stark!

What shall we do with the poor? I choose that phrase deliberately 'with the poor'. I am certain that the solution to poverty is not to keep a person enslaved and dependent on others. That thought had crossed my mind - the little girl, if she survived into her teens, would most likely become enslaved in sex work, or at best dependent upon the alms of others. It is highly unlikely that she would end up differently from the four women fast asleep on the grass.

Indeed, what shall we do with the poor? How shall we work alongside them, with them, to engender a change of heart and mind that will break the cycle of poverty?

This post is entitled From the pavement to the palace because the day ended on the opposite extreme - our team was invited to dinner at the Presidential residence in Kampala. A beautiful compound with lush gardens. Not extravagant by any means (I have certainly seen more ostentatious homes in Bryanston, and Somerset West where I live). The President and First Lady live in a beautiful but modest home. Of course security was extremely tight and no cell phones or cameras were allowed. However, we did take our camera crew (with permission) to film Mrs Museveni for the Unashamedly Ethical and EXPOSED campaigns.

It was Mrs Museveni who stated so clearly that poverty is frequently entrenched in the mindsets of individuals and upheld through structures in society. Injustice and corruption are frequently the primary cause, and the ongoing catalyst, of poverty. However, a solution to poverty is not only to be found in handouts and charitable work. She eloquently stated that the solution is to be found in restoring human dignity and worth, in helping persons to see and discover their human potential. In releasing untapped ability, creativity and opportunity in both individuals and communities. Enterprise development, education, and spiritual and moral formation are all necessary elements in working alongside the poor for transformation and renewal.

I am still haunted by the sight of that little girl.

However, I am encouraged and thankful that God is placing persons throughout the various strata of society to partner with Him in bringing renewal, healing and transformation in the world. From the ordinary person like me, to the first lady of a nation, God has planted within us the capacity for care. The ability to make difficult and sacrificial choices about our time, our money, our space, and our energy. The Watoto Church is a testimony to that! These are not wealthy people, but the wealth of their love is extravagant for the poor!

Please can I ask you to pray with me for those who awoke today hungry? Please will you pray for that little girl? Graham and I fed her something as we walked back to our lodgings. It was something small, another little bit of sustenance that would take her a step further in her life. Please pray that she would not only have food today, but be nourished in her body, mind and spirit so that she may grow to become just like the first lady of her nation. God's desire is that we should all become fully human. We can be a part of that wonderful work!

Please join us in shining a light on poverty - a positive light of care! Please join the EXPOSED campaign and start planning what you will do during EXPOSED week 14-20 October in 2013. Share your story on our Facebook page and encourage others to join you in God's work of renewing the earth and its people.

Friday
Mar302012

Uganda - from the pavement to the palace

It is just after 6 am in Uganda. Graham Power and I have just returned from speaking on Power FM, the radio station of Watoto Church.

This truly is a Church that is being salt AND light! By this I mean that they have a consistent Christian witness, giving expression to God's love in ways that are traditionally associated with being 'the Church' i.e., preaching the good news of God's love for people and the world, gathering for worship, discipling their members etc. However, they are also being salt (in the sense that this phrase 'salt and light' was used in the New Testament). Salt was used to prevent the decay of food stuffs in the days before we had refrigerators. Watoto Church is a Church that is actively 'salty'. They serve the poor, they care for the orphans and the vulnerable. It is truly a remarkable thing to see how they give expression to the Good News - they not only preach what the 'gospel sounds likes', they also 'show what the Gospel looks like'.

In a few hours Graham and I will be speaking at the Makerere University on Unashamedly Ethical and EXPOSED. We end our time in Uganda by speaking at a Watoto Church to a group of about 1000 business people tonight. From there we fly to Rwanda for some more speaking engagements and the grand finale of the East African reality TV series - Inspire Africa (a show that is quite similar to Donald Trump series 'The Apprentice').

What prompted this post, however, was a series of experiences I had yesterday.

After arriving in Kampala just after midnight I slept for a short while before going to a business breakfast at the Africana Hotel. A couple hundred entrepreneurs had gathered to hear Graham Power and Mrs Janet Museveni - the First Lady of Uganda. It was a wonderful time. It is always deeply inspiring to hear Graham's testimony, and it was wonderful to see so many passionate and talented business people with an interest in Ethics and business. It is a great honor to share some encouragement and challenge with them. Mrs Museveni is an inspiring woman of faith - her love for God and her people is deeply moving.

Later in the morning I needed to walk into Kampala to buy some supplies. My friend Graham Vermooten and I were walked through the busy streets, dodging the boda boda motorcycles and taxis! Kampala is a bustling city with a great deal of emerging wealth and a seemingly growing economy. The familiar sights of South African retail and commerce are evident here - MTN, Standard Bank, Nando's, Mr Price etc.

However, as we rounded the corner I saw a little girl, no more than two and a half years old sitting all alone in the middle of the pavement begging for food or money. I was arrested in my steps. I felt such a sense of pain and shame rise up within me. How sad it is that a child of that age should be begging for enough food just to survive! Poverty is frequently associated with laziness and poor choices in adults. However, a young child, in fact a baby, is a victim of poverty. There is no other way to put it.

As we walked a little further there was a group of four or so women and girls - clearly street people - sleeping in the grass on the pavement. I wondered if the baby belonged to one of them? Regardless, I was so moved by what I had seen I could not get it out of my mind. Rounding the corner there once again signs of emerging wealth, an upmarket shopping mall with a parking lot filled with luxury 4x4 vehicles, busy shoppers, stores filled with food, clothing and all sorts of unnecessary distractions. The contrast is just so stark!

What shall we do with the poor? I choose that phrase deliberately 'with the poor'. I am certain that the solution to poverty is not to keep a person enslaved and dependent on others. That thought had crossed my mind - the little girl, if she survived into her teens, would most likely become enslaved in sex work, or at best dependent upon the alms of others. It is highly unlikely that she would end up differently from the four women fast asleep on the grass.

Indeed, what shall we do with the poor? How shall we work alongside them, with them, to engender a change of heart and mind that will break the cycle of poverty?

This post is entitled From the pavement to the palace because the day ended on the opposite extreme - our team was invited to dinner at the Presidential residence in Kampala. A beautiful compound with lush gardens. Not extravagant by any means (I have certainly seen more ostentatious homes in Bryanston, and Somerset West where I live). The President and First Lady live in a beautiful but modest home. Of course security was extremely tight and no cell phones or cameras were allowed. However, we did take our camera crew (with permission) to film Mrs Museveni for the Unashamedly Ethical and EXPOSED campaigns.

It was Mrs Museveni who stated so clearly that poverty is frequently entrenched in the mindsets of individuals and upheld through structures in society. Injustice and corruption are frequently the primary cause, and the ongoing catalyst, of poverty. However, a solution to poverty is not only to be found in handouts and charitable work. She eloquently stated that the solution is to be found in restoring human dignity and worth, in helping persons to see and discover their human potential. In releasing untapped ability, creativity and opportunity in both individuals and communities. Enterprise development, education, and spiritual and moral formation are all necessary elements in working alongside the poor for transformation and renewal.

I am still haunted by the sight of that little girl.

However, I am encouraged and thankful that God is placing persons throughout the various strata of society to partner with Him in bringing renewal, healing and transformation in the world. From the ordinary person like me, to the first lady of a nation, God has planted within us the capacity for care. The ability to make difficult and sacrificial choices about our time, our money, our space, and our energy. The Watoto Church is a testimony to that! These are not wealthy people, but the wealth of their love is extravagant for the poor!

Please can I ask you to pray with me for those who awoke today hungry? Please will you pray for that little girl? Graham and I fed her something as we walked back to our lodgings. It was something small, another little bit of sustenance that would take her a step further in her life. Please pray that she would not only have food today, but be nourished in her body, mind and spirit so that she may grow to become just like the first lady of her nation. God's desire is that we should all become fully human. We can be a part of that wonderful work!

Please join us in shining a light on poverty - a positive light of care! Please join the EXPOSED campaign and start planning what you will do during EXPOSED week 14-20 October in 2013. Share your story on our Facebook page and encourage others to join you in God's work of renewing the earth and its people.

Friday
Oct142011

Occupy Grahamstown! The poor, the state and the Church?

Last week I posted a video and reflection on the growing discontent with global poverty and the manner in which the enfranchised and powerful persons and organs of society are dealing with the poor. Remember what I said about the gini coefficient? The gap between the rich and the poor is not only an affront to God, it is serious challenge to national stability and safety.  Where some people have too much and others have too little a revolution is inevitable.  It is even more volatile in a nation like South Africa where the majority of the people are poor.  Since the Church is called by God to be an agent of healing, transformation and service to society I wonder what role the Church should be playing in reforming the global (and local) economy?  I am sure of one thing, there will be members of various Churches in the crowds that participate in riots, protests and marches.  Others are the sons, daughters, family and friends of Christians.  Of course it is also true that those who occupy positions of power and influence (politicians, economists, business persons, lawyers, police officers etc.) are also members of our Churches!  Surely we have a role to play!

Today I received the following email about an 'people's uprising' that is planned for the City of Grahamstown.  I would encourage you to read the statement - regardless of your political views or your perspective on poverty.  This statement gives a vivid insight into the growing discontent among ordinary South Africans.

What is the role of the Church in such a situation?  What should we be doing, saying and praying?

13 October 2011

Unemployed People's Movement Press Statement

Occupy Grahamstown!

Recapitalise the Poor!

As a movement of the poor we have taken great inspiration from the rebellion that has spread from Tahrir Square in Cairo to Syntagma Square in Athens, the Puerta del Sol in Madrid and now Liberty Plaza in New York. Our comrades in Students for Social Justice have been just as inspired by the growing spirit of rebellion that is jumping, like a fire, from country to country.

 On Saturday we will occupy Grahamstown. The students will march into town from the Botanical Gardens. We will march into town from the township and the squatter camps. We will meet on the square at the Cathedral. We will turn that square into a people's university, a people's kitchen and a space of people's power. Our aim is to bring the rebellion of the poor, the rebellion that has put thousands and thousands on the streets of South Africa in recent years, into dialogue with this global rebellion. The alliance between organised students and the organised unemployed is strong in Grahamstown. Together we can build strong foundations for the struggles to come.

 We have been inspired by this global rebellion because the comrades in Tahrir Square showed the world the strength of a united and determined people. We have been inspired by this rebellion because it has clearly told the bankers that their time of ruling the world is over. We have been inspired by this rebellion because it has clearly told the politicians that from Cairo to New York people are determined to rule themselves and to build their own power from the ground up.

 We will occupy Grahamstown in the name of freedom. We insist that all people have the right to organise themselves according to their own free choices. We denounce the ANC for the murder of Andries Tatane and all the others. We denounce the ANC for the repression of the Abahlali baseMjondolo, the Landless People's Movement, the Anti-Eviction Campaign and all the others. We denounce the ANC for their attempts to censor the media. We denounce the ANC for continuing to claim that the movements of the poor are a Third Force. The ANC insult us by making us live like pigs and excluding us from all decision making and then, when we rebel, they insult us again by saying that it must be a white academic that is making us rebel. The ANC is incapable of understanding that poor black people can, like all other people, think for ourselves. The ANC is incapable of understanding that they do not and have never had a monopoly on struggle. The ANC is incapable of understanding that they are the real counter-revolutionaries.

 We will occupy Grahamstown in the name of real democracy. We join the people of the world in showing our anger at the way that the capitalists have bought the politicians and the whole system. We will join the people of the world in insisting that democracy will have to be rebuilt from the ground up. Democracy is something that you do. It is not something that you watch on TV. Democracy is something that everyone can do. It is not something that experts like politicians or NGOs must do for the people.

 We will occupy Grahamstown in the name of justice. We join the people of the world in insisting that we will not pay for the crisis caused by the bankers. Their wealth must be expropriated and returned to the people. South Africa is the most unequal society in the world. The predatory elite are publicly gorging themselves while the poor are starving, desperate and frightened. Last week Transnet advertised for 30 jobs - 30 boring and badly paid jobs. Ten thousand people came to apply. Forty people were injured when the gates were opened. The contempt with which the poor are treated in this country is incredible.

 It is not just the ANC that treats the poor with such gross contempt. Business is just as bad. We have not forgotten how the big companies colluded, in the midst of mass unemployment, to fix the price of bread. When we are strong enough we will fix the price of bread from below. We will take the struggle for bread that was started in Durban forward. Imagine one day when people around the country enter the supermarkets and begin eating the bread without paying. That will be the last day on which the capitalists fix the price of bread.

 We are not asking for higher taxes to increase funding for the state. Our municipality is a notorious kleptocracy. The ANC is corrupt from top to bottom. We do not want to struggle to buy Blade Nzimande a new car or more houses, cars, watches and sushi parties for Julius Malema and his friends. We do not want to struggle to finance Kebbelism. What is the point of the ANC getting more money to build houses when the houses that they build are unfit for human habitation, fall down in the first wind and are only given to ANC members?

 We are not anti-state. But our state is rotten to the core. Until we can build enough people's power to be able to discipline the state from below we will have to treat it as what it is, a vehicle from the predatory elite to feed off society.

 The capitalists in Europe are saying that the people must pay for the banks to be recapitalised. We say that it is time to stop all public subsidies for the rich. We say that it is time for the banks to recapitalise the people. Abahlali baseMjondolo has correctly insisted that the poor were made poor by the same economic system that made the rich rich. Therefore it is only logical that the billions and billions held in the banks on Wall Street must be used to recapitalise the poor. We are calling for a universal guaranteed income. It must be at least R2000 per month and it must be paid to all people without going through local councillors or party structures.

 Some of the comrades that were amongst the ten thousand in Bloemfontein are coming to Grahamstowm to learn from our struggle. Ayanda Kota was recently in Durban to be at the Abahlali baseMjondolo AGM. We are, day by day, building a national movement of the poor, by the poor and for the poor from the ground up. Every day our struggles and our movements are drawing closer.

Sekwanele!

Genoeg!

Enough!

Liziwe Gqotolo 073 440 5536

Siyanda Centwa 078 571 5507

Ayanda Kota 078 625 6462

I'd love to hear your feedback! If you're in Grahamstown (a city in which I lived for 4 years!) and plan to participate in this gathering please let me know.  God bless, Dion

Thursday
Oct062011

A reflection on being a Christian in the world economic crisis

This morning I was struck by the news on the riots, unrest, protests and unhappiness at the world economic situation.

In this video I reflect on what I believe a Christian response should be to the economic, social and political inequalities in the world.

I would love to hear your thoughts.  By the way, you can find out about the gini coefficient here. Also, in the video I made mention of the book '44 sermons to serve the present age' - I accidentally said that my friend Lisa Withrow was the editor (while she contributed it was in fact Dr Angela Shier-Jones who edited the book.  Sorry for fumbling that one Angie!  Jetlag brain!)

God bless from Malaysia!

Dion