Monday, 7 June 2010

Holy Remembering - Dealing with Difficult History

This Statement, on the Centenary of the Union of South Africa, was issued on 7 June 2010

June 2010 marks the centenary of Union of South Africa. Speaking of this anniversary, the Deputy President, Kgalema Motlanthe, said that South Africans must deal with our history in its entirety, and embrace it for what it is. He warned against merely focussing on feel-good moments, while avoiding those parts that make us feel uncomfortable.

He is of course right. I should like to add to his words, by saying that Christians in particular should have confidence to engage with history in this way, knowing we have resources to look back on the chequered past of our country and to find the seeds of redemptive hope. Our faith enables us to dare to be honest about ambiguous events such as the Union of South Africa. It was in many respects an unsatisfactory compromise at best, even though it brought solutions to other painful issues of that era. Many who supported it recognised its limitations at the time, but nonetheless hoped it might be a potential stepping stone to a better future. Yet as we know, these hopes were not realised and its provisions were twisted to far worse ends.

We can confidently risk engaging in holy remembering, because we remember as those who belong to Jesus Christ, Saviour and Lord, who suffered for our redemption. In Him we can give thanks for what was good, while at the same time finding freedom to acknowledge what was not. We bring this into His presence with our prayers for His transfiguring touch. Where we have reason to repent, we can do so, knowing He does not leave us under condemnation, but rather delights to forgive, transform and redeem.

Human history is little different from our present or future. The choices before us today are equally filled with ambiguity and unpredictability, and laden with both positive and negative consequences, predictable and unforeseeable. Yet the redemptive promise of Jesus Christ is what enables us not to stand back from the challenges that face us, but rather to take the risks of ‘getting our hands dirty’ in the tasks of political and socio-economic nation-building.

So may God bless us and our nation – as we continue to engage with our past history and its continuing legacies, and as we go forward, tacking with courage the complex questions and challenges that face us. Let us all be ready to step up and play our part in God’s redemptive mission to his world, and especially to South Africa today.

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Thanks for your feedback! Archbishop Thabo