Monday, 21 April 2014

Procession of Witness - TV news reports [VIDEO]

Television news reports of the Procession of Witness on Holy Saturday:

eNCA news: Religious leaders take Zuma to task on Nkandla>>

SABC news:



Sunday, 20 April 2014

Sermon at the Easter Vigil, St George's Cathedral, Cape Town

Sermon prepared for the Easter Vigil at St George’s Cathedral, Cape Town:

Christ is risen! We are risen indeed, Alleluia!

Thank you all for being here on this most holy night, when we recall and celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. A special welcome to those with blisters after running the Two Oceans Marathon or those who choose the option of the much gentler Walk of Witness or even those who did both. Thanks to the Cathedral staff and the Dean and all the regular worshippers here, who ensure through their sacrificial giving, that we have such a beautiful place in which to worship God.

I now ask you to observe a moment of silence, as we call to mind our own Lenten journeys, our personal or communal journeys, up to this Easter vigil.

When I lit the fire earlier in the service, I prayed, “Father, we share the light of your glory, through your Son, the Light of the world. Inflame us with new hope and purify our minds by this Easter celebration and bring us to the feast of eternal light.”

What does this mean? What is the Easter message from us to the world and what are Word and liturgy as well as the sacraments tonight saying Easter is? For me, Easter is an opportunity for us to turn ourselves inside out and expose our body, souls and mind to Christ the light of the world. Because as individuals, as families and as society, we need healing, consolation and transformation. We need our lights to be rekindled so that we can re-imagine the feast of eternal light.

We thus enter this celebration cognisant of our Lenten laments but confident that new hope is possible. We are renewed and purified as we rise with Christ from the dead for we were baptised with him in his death.

Easter then is also the assurance that our pain, despair, hollowness, distrust, fear or anything that takes us away from the love of Christ is now in the grave, buried – and that the risen Lord, the Christ, like an earthquake that rolled the grave stone away, bursts anew into our lives.

Easter for me then is a celebration of restoration and transformation. It is a time of rebirth. Christ forgives us, the penitent; He heals our brokenness and refocuses our vision. (Luke 24:5: Why do you look for the living among the dead?) Easter is also a time for renewal and holy recall, a remembering or renewal of our minds.

Luke 24:6-8, states, "Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” Luke further tells us the women remembered this and they reminded the eleven disciples of it, but the men mistakenly dismissed the women's reminder as "an idle tale".

The women in Luke's Gospel powerfully demonstrate the message of Easter. Let us walk with them briefly in today’s Gospel – from an act of service, they took the spices to the tomb, they encounter a transformed grave, they express their true feelings of fear, and emotions are then transformed and they too encounter the Lord when they are reminded of the Word. Then, renewed and with this knowledge, they go and share the news.

In this Easter celebration, as you share the light of God’s glory, through the Risen Lord, the Light of the world, may you be inflamed with new
hope and be purified to continue to take His message into the world until he brings us to the feast of eternal light.

Today at the Walk of Witness from District Six to Parliament, I shared the Lenten laments that God’s people bring to me; I wish also to share these with you, so that together we may bring them before the risen Christ for healing and transformation.

In the past six months, many people have said to me: "Your Grace, I'm so very tired of seeing the moral pollution. I am so tired of seeing the pervasive unethical contamination. It is so painful to see the inequality." They ask. They plead: "Archbishop, we should be joyfully celebrating the 20th year of democracy and liberation... but I've never felt so depressed by the crisis of distrust in our country's government." They ask, "Where do we go from here?"

Where do we go from here?

The welter of emotions to which their questions give rise is what the disciples and the women at the tomb might have felt. Using our language in South Africa today, the women at the tomb may have asked the authorities, "How much longer must we live out our daily existence, suffering from such a lack of transparency? When is President Zuma going to break his silence on the Nkandla report?" They could be asking, "How have we in South Africa found ourselves in such a void of morality? Why have we seen a collapse in the moral navigation our leaders are supposed to give us? And why has there been such a collapse of trust in government and political parties?"

As followers of Christ and the Easter Message, how are we to meet the demand that we go and tell that he has transformed our fear into knowledge and courage?

I want to pose tonight one of the questions I asked outside Parliament earlier today. On this most holy night, as I pray for the transformation of our country, especially at this time, I ask: Since our values should guide every decision made by our government leaders, and our historic Constitution clearly articulates our national values, what can our government leaders learn from the flawed decisions on Nkandlagate, that apparently didn't consider our national values?

As we prepare for the celebration of our 20th year of democracy and liberation, let us also hold a vision before us, of the resurrected Christ who has overcome. Let us approach those places and issues, the tombs, with renewed courage, and ask the difficult questions as we prepare to go out to inflame others with Christ our light.

Let us illumine this light not only in our country. On behalf of our brothers and sisters in Nigeria, where dozens are being killed in massacres every week, let us boldly ask: “Who is Boko Haram? Who benefits from their killings and the senseless kidnapping of young schoolgirls?” On behalf of our brothers and sisters in Ukraine, let us ask: “Is aggression to be rewarded? How should the international community respond to ensure the legitimate desires and demands
of all the people of that nation are met?”

Let us in unison decry such atrocities as are being perpetrated in northern Nigeria, and seek such knowledge as the women in the tomb displayed, knowledge that will draw men and sceptics to the risen Christ.

To conclude, I want to make a call to all Anglicans in our country, to exercise their hard-earned privilege and right to vote. After prayerfully reflecting on the party you want to vote for, please go to the polls and vote. And vote we must: too many people have suffered and died for us to stay away from the polls out of apathy.

While nothing stops you from spoiling your ballot paper out of protest, in the coming week the Independent Electoral Commission is due to publish the full list of parties which are standing in the election. We will have dozens to choose from: let us examine their policies, their behaviour and the behaviour of their leaders. Above all, let us engage with our consciences and be guided by these rather than by fear and blind loyalty when we make our mark on the ballot paper.

Christ is risen! We are risen indeed! Alleluia!

Amen

+Thabo Cape Town


Saturday, 19 April 2014

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba's address to a 'Procession of Witness', outside Parliament in Cape Town

Remarks by Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, prepared for the 'Procession of Witness' from District Six to Parliament, led by religious leaders on Saturday April 19:

Today is a day we're issuing to all South Africans a “Call to Witness.” What does this mean? For me, I'm asking all South Africans to turn themselves inside out and expose their sense of moral consciousness to the sun. Why? Because, the sun is God's disinfectant.

Because of the ethical state of the nation, we need to be morally disinfected... morally disinfected so that we can recapture the dream of South Africa. Over the last six months you have no idea how many thousands of South Africans have said to me, "Your Grace, I'm so very tired of seeing the moral pollution. I am so tired of seeing the pervasive unethical contamination. It is so painful to see the inequality." They ask. They plead: "Archbishop, we should be joyfully celebrating the 20th year of democracy and liberation, but I've never felt so depressed by the crisis of distrust in our country's government." They ask, "Where do we go from here?"

Well, where do we go from here?

The welter of emotions our situation unleashes demands prophets for a time such as this. My hope, and the hope of my fellow religious leaders, is that in the next few days – over and above demanding explanations, which seem not be coming – you will start a national conversation around three essential questions.

First, "How long must South Africa live out its daily existence suffering from such a lack of transparency? Real transparency is an essential ingredient for trust... the absence of transparency results in a withering, pervasive weight of distrust taking over.

And one might follow up the first question by asking, "Is the distrust we feel for today's leadership more or less than the distrust we felt during the days of apartheid?" The cost of the lack of trust we are experiencing is incalculable.

Elsewhere, I have spoken of the need for a Renaissance of Trust and Responsibility. When you disarm the people of our communities of their trust in our leaders, you not only offend them, but more seriously, you show our communities that you distrust them. You are either afraid of their values, or distrust their values. You are afraid of their ability to make informed, values-based decisions, or you distrust our constitutional values. You are afraid of their opinion or do not trust them to exercise their choices responsibly. You are afraid of their judgment, or do not trust them to apply their judgment. Or most seriously, you are afraid to let them question your actions and motivations, or do not trust them to understand your actions.

So question three becomes, "How did we here in South Africa find ourselves in such a void of morality?" The collapse in trust didn’t happen all at once. I recall the Ernest Hemingway dialogue in “The Sun Also Rises.” When a man asks another, “How did you go bankrupt?” the other answers, “Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly.”

So it is with the collapse of standards and values. What started as a trickle is now a flood. The wave of distrust is wiping out the incremental progress we have made on accountability, democratic choice and the rule of law.

In the face of the nation’s questions to our President on the international embarrassment we call "the Nkandla question”, he has opted for silence. Unfortunately those advising him have forgotten the admonition: Silence screams the truth.

This is not what our country wants from our President. It is not what our country needs from our President. And it is not what we voted for when we asked our President to take responsibility for our country's navigation.

I, like many, want to believe our President when he said that he didn't rob our nation's treasury. But if he didn’t, did he hold the stepladder? If he did, sadly he's as guilty as the person who climbed through your window.


All this leads us to some questions:

1. Mr President, how much longer do the citizens of South Africa have to wait to for you to explain how you came to make the decisions you made on Nkandla?

2. Mr President, which of our constitutional values did you use in making your decisions about the R234 million spent at Nkandla?

3. Mr President, what is your plan for responding to the historic levels of distrust that permeate every discussion about our national government?

4. Mr President, what is your plan for beginning a national conversation about our national values before the election so that every South African can vote their conscience?

Mr President, our country deserves better. Our country's communities deserve better. Our families deserve better. Our children deserve better. You were elected to provide a moral compass for our nation. You were elected to be a model of a leader who makes values-based decisions. You were our hope. That's a huge responsibility. We need to hear the voice of responsibility speak.

We're facing an historic opportunity and it's not the celebration of our 20th year of democracy and liberation. It is how you decide our destiny. It's in your moments of decision or indecision that our destiny is shaped. Mr President, how you are remembered in history, your legacy, is going to be determined by how you speak to the nation about how you made the decisions you have made.

All the nation wants is a leader who sets an example by taking responsibility. A leader who is transparent. A leader who acknowledges imperfection, and who in acknowledging imperfection commits to a life as a values-based leader.

Nothing short of that will be enough.


Mr President and all of us listening today, now wearing my cap as an archbishop and of course a Christian leader: Easter assures us that it is at such heights of pain, despair, hollowness and distrust, that the risen Lord, the Christ, bursts anew into our lives to restore and transform them. Easter is a time of rebirth. Christ forgives the penitent, he heals the broken and gives hope to the hopeless. Easter is a time also for renewal. We are strengthened to offer ourselves in service of the common good, following the example our saviour set for us.

May our walk today establish God’s shalom, his salaam, his peace. May we now courageously look inwards, disinfect ourselves of all that is not values-based and proclaim a vision of the resurrected Christ who has overcome death. Let us pursue all that leads to trust, accountability and transparency. I want to end with a prayer, before we receive the final blessing. Let us pray:

God bless South Africa
Heal her present wounds and of the past,
Guide her with values-based leadership
Lead her into the way of truth,
Rekindle her levels of trust,
Until all shall be equal
And all shall flourish.
For Christ's sake, Amen.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

From Standing for the Truth to Standing Up for Good Governance

Twenty-five years ago, religious leaders gathered regularly in Cape Town for both silent protests on the steps of St George's Cathedral and public processions through the streets of the city to call for an end to apartheid and the beginning of negotiations to bring about democracy.

The protests were conducted under the banner of what the leaders called the “Standing for the Truth Campaign” and they culminated in the more widely-based Defiance Campaign of 1989, in which thousands of people defied apartheid laws in the weeks before President F W de Klerk took power.

Five months later, Nelson Mandela was released and political organisations were unbanned. Negotiations followed soon after, resulting four years later in the inauguration of President Mandela, then two years after that, the adoption of our first democratic Constitution.

Chapter Nine of that founding document of our new nation established a number of state institutions whose purpose is to “strengthen constitutional democracy in the Republic” by promoting good governance. Among them are the office of the Auditor-General, whose jobs include auditing and reporting on the finances of all national and provincial state departments and administrations, and the office of the Public Protector, who is tasked “to investigate any conduct in state affairs, or in the public administration in any sphere of government, that is alleged or suspected to be improper or to result in any impropriety or prejudice...”



Twenty years after our political liberation, it is right to celebrate the gains of democracy: the right to vote for all, our achievements in housing, in some of our infrastructural programmes and in repealing the apartheid laws that demeaned us. But the governing party's responses to recent reports of the Auditor-General and the Public Protector threaten not to strengthen but to undermine constitutional democracy and good government.

Year after year, the Auditor-General reports billions in unauthorised, irregular, fruitless and wasteful spending, yet in some government departments nothing seems to happen. And now the African National Congress and its leaders in and out of government have adopted a barely-concealed hostility to the Public Protector's report on the mis-spending of our money on Nkandla.

At the end of March, as part of the church's Lenten observances, I called upon people of faith to return to the steps of St George's Cathedral and once again to join a silent vigil there. We were joined at short notice by an encouraging number as we stood in the footsteps of our predecessors, holding flowers and posters which illustrated the theme of the vigil, “A Flower for Thuli, A Message for the President”, referring of course to the Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela, and her report on the upgrades to President Jacob Zuma’s private country estate. The placards called on the President to respond to the Public Protector’s report, and on the public to defend our Chapter Nine institutions.

After the vigil, I voiced in the cathedral an appeal for the entire faith-based and NGO community to gather, not to defend the Public Protector as an individual but to defend the rights of the public and the integrity of her office; in short to stand up for good governance. Since then, we have been wrestling with how do to this, engaging in the deep reflection which Lent enjoins the Christians among us to engage in.

This led to the call that I and other Christian, Jewish and Muslim religious leaders issued yesterday (Tuesday) to the public of Cape Town to join us in a Procession of Witness at 10 am on Saturday, April 19, walking from District Six to Parliament, to call our leaders to account and to appeal them to live up to the national values established by the Constitution. The call was supported by the full spectrum of the inter-faith community, from the Muslim Judicial Council and the Union of Orthodox Synagogues to the Methodist Church, the Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk, the Uniting Reformed Church and the Uniting Presbyterian Church.

Our intention is to evoke the spirit of the 1980s, when the faith community intervened to promote and defend democracy. Anyone who shares our objectives, including members of political parties, is free to join our procession, but no political party posters or insignia will be permitted, and it will be led by religious leaders, not by politicians. And your concerns need not be limited to the Public Protector's report – since consulting community leaders on our intentions, the crises brought about in our communities by gangsterism, drug abuse and poor education have also been raised.

In recent conversations with leaders in politics, business, education, civic life, civil society and religion, I have been exploring the issue of what national values should be guiding us by posing questions to them. At the core of these questions is, how can we challenge those in power and governance by pointing them to our national values, their institutional values and even their personal values? How can they serve with these values in mind and use them to transform all into being loving and compassionate interacting and interdependent communities sharing common interests, common goals and shared values? How can they put themselves into the shoes of those at the receiving end of their governing?

In that spirit, I want to ask of ANC leaders and the Cabinet: What do you have to do to bring our country together at this critical point in our democratic history? What do you have to do to create a renaissance in trust?

One of Madiba's greatest characteristics was his ability to revisit his positions and decisions and to change course when it seemed right to do so, not in his own personal interests but in the interests of building and holding the nation together. Our political leaders are challenged now to reset their moral compasses and to follow his example.

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba

This article was published as an op-ed in the Cape Argus, Cape Town on April 16, 2014

Top Interfaith Leaders Support Procession of Witness [VIDEO]

Leaders of the Christian, Jewish and Muslim communities have called on their followers to join the "Procession of Witness" from District Six to Parliament on Saturday.

The procession was announced formally at a news conference by Archbishop Thabo Makgoba of Cape Town, supported by Maulana Abdul-Khaliq Allie, secretary-general of the Muslim Judicial Council, and Christian leaders including the national moderator of the Uniting Reforming Church of Southern Africa and president of the World Council of Churches, the Revd Dr Mary-Anne Plaatjies-van Huffel. The Union of Orthodox Synagogues also sent a message of support, as did the Western Cape moderator of the Ned Geref Kerk, Dr. Braam Hanekom.

The procession will begin at 10 am on Saturday at Keizersgracht, District Six.

The Cape Town newspaper, Die Burger, published the following video news report of the news conference today. The church leaders' comments are in English, the reporting which links them is in Afrikaans:

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Religious leaders announce 'Procession of Witness' from District Six to Parliament

Leaders of the Christian, Jewish and Muslim communities have called on their followers to join a "Procession of Witness" from District Six to Parliament on Saturday in defence of the role of the Public Protector and to express their concern over other issues affecting Cape Town communities.

The procession was announced formally at a news conference by Archbishop Thabo Makgoba of Cape Town, supported by Maulana Abdul-Khaliq Allie, secretary-general of the Muslim Judicial Council, and Christian leaders including the national moderator of the Uniting Reforming Church of Southern Africa and president of the World Council of Churches, the Revd Dr Mary-Anne Plaatjies-van Huffel.

The Union of Orthodox Synagogues also sent a message of support, as did the Western Cape moderator of the Ned Geref Kerk, Dr. Braam Hanekom.

The procession will begin at 10 am on Saturday at Keizersgracht, District Six.

Archbishop Makgoba said that "while the Procession is open to all, including members of political parties, it will be led by religious leaders and no party political banners will be permitted."

He added that the procession was being held to demand:

"A change in the practice and behaviour of all parliamentarians, captains of industry and commerce; and

"That all those, in all sectors of society, who have influence and power, return to Nelson Mandela’s way of governance and leadership: 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 given leaders their trust."

Other Christian leaders who joined the call included Bishop Michel Hansrod, head of the Cape district of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa; Bishop Margaret Vertue of the Anglican Diocese of False Bay; the Revd Lucas Plaatjie, moderator of the Cape synod of the Uniting Reforming Church; the Revd Michael Muller, moderator of the Presbytery of the Western Cape of the Uniting Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa; and Dr Johan Botha, scribe of the Uniting Reformed Church.


The full text of Archbishop Makgoba's statement follows:

Some weeks ago, a number of us gathered on the steps of St George’s Cathedral where our predecessors stood during the apartheid era. There we stood in silence under the banner, “A Flower for Thuli, A Message for the President”, referring to the 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 Nine” institutions – the independent institutions set up under the South African Constitution to guard our democracy.

Speaking in the Cathedral afterwards, I voiced my yearning for the entire faith-based and NGO community to come together not so much to defend the Public Protector as an individual as to defend the rights of the public and the integrity of her office, which appears to be under assault from forces including many members of Parliament.

After wider consultations led by the Dean, we have decided to pluck up the courage that the times demand of us and to invite the people of Cape Town to join us on a Procession of Witness from District Six to Parliament, with the aim of calling upon our leaders to live up to the national values established by the Constitution.

Although this is primarily a response to the crisis in government presented by the worrying developments surrounding the Chapter Nine institutions and especially those concerning the Office of the Public Protector, we are also responding to the plight of communities ravaged by gangsterism, drug abuse and poor education.

And while the Procession is open to all, including members of political parties, it will be led by religious leaders and no party political banners will be permitted.

We, the faith community, confess our silence over many years, and our failure to respond compassionately to God's cry in the lives of the people of our land -- especially those who are poor, naked and those denied their daily bread.

Our Procession is now being held to demand:

• 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, return to Nelson Mandela’s way of governance and leadership: 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 given leaders their trust.

We invite you to gather with us on Saturday, 9 April 2014 at 10am on Kaizergracht Street, District Six (below St. Mark’s Church) for our Procession of Witness to Parliament.