Thursday, 25 February 2010

Message of Condolence on the Death of Professor Steve de Gruchy

This message has been sent to Marian Loveday, on the death of her husband, Professor Steve de Gruchy, following an accident on the Mooi River on 21 February

My dear Marian and family

On behalf of my wife and myself, and also on behalf of the whole Anglican Church of Southern Africa, I am writing to convey our condolences on the death of your husband.

Steve was a long-standing and dear friend of the Anglican Church, not only in Southern Africa, but of the whole world-wide Communion and will be sorely missed, even as we thank God for the fellowship in the gospel that we shared with him. Indeed, at times we have been tempted to think of him as 'one of us', and not only in that he held the Bishop of Kimberley and Kuruman's licence when he was at the Moffat Mission Trust. We were privileged to have him as a keynote speaker at the international 'Towards Effective Anglican Mission' conference in 2007, and I am glad that I was able to spend some time with him during my visit to the University of KwaZulu-Natal in September 2008. In various ways in recent years he has also had a significant input to our church's engagement with development issues, including in the vital area of training both parish clergy and bishops.

We shall miss Steve hugely, for the gifted theologian that he was, with a remarkable ability to draw links between academic theology, government policy-making, and the realities of the lives of the poor. I, and the Church I serve, shall keenly feel the lack of his insights into issues of poverty and justice within our country, and the challenges they pose to all who claim the name of Christian. But more than that, I shall miss a dear brother in Christ, a man of great warmth and humour, and someone whom I was privileged to call a friend.

Dear Marian, at this time our hearts go out to you, your family, and all who loved Steve. We hold you in our love and in our prayers, asking that our Lord - who wept at the grave of his friend Lazarus, and then was not afraid to face death himself, so that for all of us who put our trust in him it might become the gateway to life - may surround you with his compassion, his comfort, his strength, and the assurance that nothing, neither in life nor in death, can separate us from the love of God that is ours in Christ Jesus.

May Steve rest in peace and rise in glory, and may you all in your mourning know the consolations of Christ who promised that 'blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.'

Friday, 19 February 2010

Ministers of Reconciliation - a Reflection for the Beginning of Lent

This reflection is based on readings set for Ash Wednesday: Joel 2:12-18, 2 Corinthians 5:17-6:2, Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18.

Lent may be summed up in the words with which we receive the ash on our foreheads on Ash Wednesday: ‘Turn away from sin, and believe the good news.’

Sin, we know – and God knows too – is part of the human condition, and at times is all too evident. Our newspapers overflow with the sexual indiscretions of our country’s leaders – to say nothing of assertions of corruption and abuse of power. This behaviour is not acceptable. The Synod of Bishops made this clear in a statement we issued at the end of our meeting last week. Those we elect to serve our nation should lead through good example, and put the needs of others before narrow self-interest. Promiscuity, adultery and sexual exploitation are wrong in every culture; so are dishonesty and fraud. So too is the denial of human rights – whether undermining democracy or refusing women equality before the law, as happens in some countries of our Church’s Province, or in the criminalisation and persecution of gay people, as has been proposed in Uganda – all, again, matters that the Synod of Bishops has condemned.

Yet it is easy enough to point fingers. In the Gospel, Jesus warns against merely condemning others, like the hypocrites, and then washing our hands of the society to which we belong. Rather, he calls us to action, to become part of the solution. We are, to use the words of St Paul, to take up the ministry of reconciliation – participating in God’s reconciling of the world to himself through Jesus Christ. By his death on the cross, Jesus bridges the gap between the messy reality of human failings, and the glory of God himself.

The prophet Joel speaks of the priests similarly bridging the gap: standing ‘between the vestibule and the altar’ – between the world outside and the holy place of offering to God.

This is precisely where Jesus enacts reconciliation. In his incarnation, fully human, he is fully part of the world outside the vestibule – and yet he also the perfect lamb of God, the acceptable sacrifice upon the altar. All believers share in the holy priesthood of Jesus, as members of the body of Christ. We are also to inhabit this space between vestibule and altar. We live with one foot in the world, one foot in the kingdom of heaven.

At Lent we particularly recognise this tension of being sinners, yet redeemed. We face it in two ways. First, we weep, as the priests of the Old Testament were called upon to weep. We weep at our own failings, and we weep at the failings of our society, our nation. We lament and we repent. We also weep as Jesus wept when he looked down on Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, and saw the pains, the brokenness and weaknesses of its inhabitants – yearning to take them under his wing, like a mother hen shelters her chicks. For it is not our task to condemn. We remember that God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but so that the world might be saved through him (John 3:17).

Therefore, second, we face Lent committing ourselves to turn from sin and to believe the good news – the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ. In doing this, we model what it means to turn towards the redemption which Jesus offers. We become ministers of reconciliation by encouraging others to follow us in living – not with promiscuity or corruption – but in pursuing faithfulness, trustworthiness, honesty, generosity of spirit. We demonstrate the morals, the values, the ethics, we’d like to see upheld, in every relationship – whether personal, professional or political. We follow Jesus in bringing good news to the poor, feeding the hungry, visiting the imprisoned, and ministering to the needy.

So let me challenging you to adopt some specific action as a minister of reconciliation this Lent. Perhaps you can build, or deepen, a relationship with someone from a different background from you – helping weave and strengthen the fabric of our historically divided society. Perhaps you can make a donation to Haiti or some other needy cause. Perhaps you can join a project run by your Church, Diocese or another Christian group, or by an NGO, or become involved in a local political issue.

Lent is traditionally a time for prayer and fasting. This is its starting point. But it is also a time for acting. You might be familiar with the words in which Mahatma Gandhi encouraged people to take up the challenge of responding to the needs of the world: ‘Be the change you want to see in the world’. Scripture takes the same sentiment and expresses it from the perspective of the God who reaches out in love to us, and calls us to share that love with others: ‘Be a minister of reconciliation.’


Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Statement on the Ugandan Homosexuality Draft Bill

We, the Bishops of the Anglican Church in Southern Africa, meeting at Thokoza Conference Centre, Swaziland, from 8 to 11 February 2010, are disturbed by the debate among Ugandan law-makers of a draft bill that seek to criminalize homosexuality and to prosecute gay people. It even proposes imposing the death penalty, which we regard as a breach of God’s commandment, “You shall not murder,” given in Exodus 20:13. We also deplore the statement, attributed to our fellow Bishop, describing those who are opposed to this legislation as “lovers of evil”. Though there are a breadth of theological views among us on matters of human sexuality, we see this Bill as a gross violation of human rights and we therefore strongly condemn such attitudes and behaviour towards other human beings. We emphasize the teachings of the Scriptures that all human beings are created in the image of God and therefore must be treated with respect and accorded human dignity.

We are therefore also deeply concerned about the violent language used against the gay community across Sub-Saharan Africa. We thus appeal to law-makers to defend the rights of these minorities. As Bishops we believe that it is immoral to permit or support oppression of, or discrimination against, people on the grounds of their sexual orientation, and contrary to the teaching of the gospel; particularly Jesus’ command that we should love one another as he has loved us, without distinction (John 13:34-35). We commit ourselves to teach, preach and act against any laws that undermine human dignity and oppress any and all minorities, even as we call for Christians and all people to uphold the standards of holiness of life.

We call on all Christians to stand up against this Bill so that its provisions do not become law in Uganda or anywhere else in the world. We also call on our President and Law-makers to engage in dialogue with their counterparts on the rights of minorities.

Statement from the Synod of Bishops, 8-11 February 2010

The Synod of Bishops of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa (ACSA) gathered with the Diocese of Swaziland in the blessing of their new Conference Suite at Thokoza (Joy), the Anglican Conference Centre in Swaziland. We then continued our meeting in that tranquil setting, giving thanks for the spirit of joy and fraternal charity that undergirded all our proceedings and which enabled us to conduct our work in an atmosphere of prayer.

As we met, we wrestled together with Scripture and listened to scholars speak on the authority of Scripture and its interpretation – that is, questions of hermeneutics. The problem of interpretation is crucial in a world of growing fundamentalism and we will continue to explore different hermeneutical ways of studying and interpreting Scripture. We believe that the prayerful study of Scripture should be central in all parish life, and encourage parishes to promote such study.

We listened too to scholars speaking on the spirituality of traditional African religion and its relationship with Christian spirituality. We recognise that we have only begun to scratch the surface of a deep and complex subject, and that there is still much that needs to be done in this regard. We have formed a Task team to explore in greater detail the implications of African traditional customs and rites being incorporated into Christian liturgical practice. But, because we are concerned that certain aspects of the two spiritualities might well be incompatible, we believe that, at least for the present, we must discourage any syncretism between the two.

As we sought to hear what the Scriptures are saying to us at this present moment, at the same time we listened to stories both from the Bishops and from civil society about what is happening in the nations within our Province. There are clear signs of spiritual growth and much that is happening for which we give thanks to God.

However, we have also been disturbed by some of the reports we have received, that suggest that there are common threads running through all the countries within our Province, threads that appear to be unravelling in worrying ways.

We believe that those in power are called by God to wise leadership and exemplary lifestyle, exercised on behalf of all God’s people and for their upliftment and betterment – as St Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans. Of particular importance within God’s economy are the poor, and those who live on the margins of society. It is our observation that, though lip-service is widely paid to the notion of social upliftment, the reality is that most of the leaders of our respective nations seem more committed to self enrichment than poverty eradication.

We have listened to accounts of unbridled greed, a greed that is not simply limited to those in political power. Nevertheless, we are especially concerned at the levels of greed of those in power, and at the manner in which political processes are manipulated and co-opted in the pursuit of self enrichment. This has resulted in a serious undermining of democratic values to the point where, in some places, such values are non-existent. We were distressed to hear of people living below the poverty datum line in the oil rich country of Angola, and of the huge number of people struggling to exist on less than $2 a day in Swaziland, where the average per capita income is over $5,000 per annum. In some of the nations within our Province, this quest for self enrichment has given rise to blatant abuses of power to the point where, in Swaziland, for example, political leaders stifle all attempts at dialogue and silence opposition, preferring instead to rule by threats and intimidation.

We have also been concerned at reports regarding the moral degeneration within our societies and among their leadership. The almost unprecedented levels of alleged corruption among those in positions of power within the Republic of South Africa, the seeming inability or unwillingness of the State to hold anyone accountable, and the recent revelations of the sexual misconduct of the President of that country do not bode well for the future and are cause for serious concern. The people in our pews look at what is happening there and elsewhere within our Province, and ask who they can respect and look up to as role models in the political leadership of our nations.

Much of this moral decay seems to disregard and undermine fundamental human rights. Certainly some of the corruption allegations referred to above appear to have been at the expense of the poorest of the poor, and show scant regard for what are seen by many as basic human rights. In the same way, the sexual indiscretions mentioned highlight the way women more widely face exploitation and abuse, and, in the case of Swaziland, are reduced to the status of the possession of a male through the denial of basic human, political and economic rights.

In response to the overarching call of God on all our lives, we therefore call upon the leaders of all the nations within our Province to covenant with us in a process of moral, spiritual and economic regeneration, in which we seek to model our lives and our societies more closely on God’s principles and purposes for humanity, as they are held in common by the great majority of faith groupings. Through doing so, may we be servants of his blessing upon all his people.

Romans 13: 1-4 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists authority resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgement. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you wish to have no fear of the authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive its approval; for it is God’s servant for your good. But if you do what is wrong, you should be afraid, for the authority does not bear the sword in vain! It is the servant of God to execute wrath on the wrongdoer.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Briefing Note - Meeting of the Synod of Bishops, Swaziland, 8-11 February

The Synod of Bishops is a consultative meeting of all the Bishops and assistant (or ‘Suffragan’) Bishops of the 27 Dioceses of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, at the invitation, and under the chairmanship, of the Archbishop of Cape Town. The Synod generally meets twice a year, and may be held anywhere within the Church’s geographical area, which also includes Angola, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, St Helena and Tristan da Cunha. It has previously met in Swaziland, most notably in 1992, when the Provincial Synod (the Church’s legal decision-making body, which also includes clergy and lay people) was held alongside, and took the historic decision to ordain women to the priesthood.

The agenda for a Synod of Bishops may range widely across matters of concern to the life and mission of the Church within Southern Africa and beyond. As well as questions of theology and Christian practice, these may include, for example, the life of the world-wide Anglican Communion, and political and economic developments within the countries of the Church, as well as globally.

This meeting will particularly consider relations with other Churches in Southern Africa, theological education, management issues including pensions, and preparations for the Provincial Synod that will be held in October 2010. Two key tasks are to review development of the Church’s ‘Vision 2020’ initiative, and the appointment of a Bishop for the new Diocese of Ukhahlamba. The Bishops will be addressed by Professor Peter Mtuze on African Spirituality, and Professor Jonathan Draper on The Bible and Hermeneutics.

During the gathering, the Archbishop, together with the Bishops, will officially open and bless the refurbished Meeting Room of the Thokoza Anglican Conference Centre, owned and run by the Diocese of Swaziland. The Bishops will also meet representatives of civil society to listen to their stories of life in Swaziland, and have other opportunities during their visit to affirm and encourage the Anglican Church in Swaziland in their journey of faith and in their mission.

The Archbishop requests prayers that the Synod may be guided by the Holy Spirit in all its deliberations, and especially over the choice of the first Bishop for the Diocese of Ukhahlamba. He also asks for prayers for the Bishop and people of the Diocese of Swaziland, and the particular challenges that they face.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

'Moral State of the Nation Address'

Note: The Archbishop of Cape Town gave the following address on 3 February 2010 at the Gordon Institute of Business Science, Illovo, speaking alongside the Chief Rabbi of South Africa Dr Warren Goldstein (

Ladies and gentlemen, I’m glad to be with you this evening.

Introductory Comments

I have just returned from the World Economic Forum in Davos. There, religious leaders contributed articles on ‘Values for the Post-Crisis Economy’ and helped lead discussions, as part of our interdisciplinary consideration of economic, political, social and technological developments. This underscored how religious leaders are expected to express views on the moral questions that set the context for our lives.

So I am grateful to the Chief Rabbi for proposing that we should address the moral state of the nation, from the perspective of our particular faith communities. My hope is that we may sow the seed of something larger for the future: that in years ahead, contributions will come from a fuller breadth of the faith communities – and that we will prompt a debate, in which all South Africans should share, on the broad questions shaping national life.

Nonetheless, I am aware that it might seem presumptuous to deliver a ‘Moral State of the Nation Address’. Therefore, let me offer it as just one lens through which we might view our country. But I hope we will nonetheless bring a helpful focus on areas where we feel compelled to speak and act, and where we cannot allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by moral relativism. This is our reality. This is Holy ground.

The Nature of Morals

My purpose this evening is not to ‘moralise’, in the sense of passing judgement in a spirit of negativity. It is always easier to criticise and condemn. It is far harder to be creative and constructive. Yet let us dare to take the harder route, as a new decade unfolds before our feet.

This week, we are especially conscious of the journey of the past twenty years, and the momentous steps that set us on a new path, and opened up new hopes and dreams. Twenty years ago, liberation movements were unbanned, Nelson Mandela walked free, and suddenly, anything seemed possible.

So my fundamental question tonight is to look at those hopes and dreams, at the vision for which we had struggled, and then dared to believe could become reality – and to ask ourselves: Who are we now? We aspired to be masters of our own destiny. What destiny are we now creating for ourselves? Do our actions and their consequences reflect our deepest, most heartfelt, aspirations? Or have we lost sight of that great and glorious vision – and, if so, how shall we rekindle it in our hearts and minds, our souls and spirits?

These are moral questions, if we appreciate that the Latin roots of the word ‘moral’ address the essence of what it is to be human: to be flourishing individuals within flourishing communities. The totality of human existence, lived well, is the core business of the faith communities. It is also the context for conducting our political and economic life. Therefore, our best chance of making a success of our country, lies in making the comprehensive well-being of the whole of life, our over-riding priority.

In its proper sense, therefore, morality is not an optional extra, for those with tender consciences, or who can afford to have scruples. This is the picture given in the play, My Fair Lady: Colonel Pickering, shocked at the attitudes of working class Alfred Doolittle, asks ‘Have you no morals, man?’ – and gets the response, ‘Can’t afford them, governor.’ It’s witty, but it’s wrong.

Morality, then, directs us to the common good – the pursuit of all that makes us truly, fully, human. To echo the words of Jesus Christ, it is life in all its abundance, for all South Africans. This was what we dared to dream, twenty years ago.

Constitution and Covenant

Abundant life for all is enshrined in our Constitution, which commits us, among other things:

• to establish a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights;

• to improve the quality of life of all citizens; and

• to free the potential of each person.

It is helpful to look at these commitments, and the Constitution itself, not as a contract, but as a Covenant, between South Africans. To understand what Covenant means, I want to turn to the Hebrew Bible – Holy Scripture which the Chief Rabbi and I share. Here we read how God regrets he ever created degenerate humankind – with the exception of faithful Noah. God tells Noah to make an ark, a great boat, in which Noah’s family and two of every kind of animal take refuge. A flood then destroys all other living things. After the flood subsides, God makes a new beginning in his relationship with humankind, in the form of a Covenant.

It is as though God says to humanity, ‘We belong together – we cannot get away from each other – and therefore, the only sensible thing to do is to commit ourselves to make the very best of this relationship, and keep on investing together in our shared future. Really, there is no alternative.’

In South Africa, we too belong together – we cannot get away from each other – and therefore for us also, the only sensible thing to do is to commit ourselves to make the very best of the relationship that lies between all South Africans, and keep on investing together for our shared future. Really, there is no alternative for us, either.

Covenant is entirely ubuntu-shaped – we find our humanity through the humanity of others – we flourish through promoting the flourishing of others. SePedi has a proverb for this: Mphiri o tee ga o lle – one bangle makes no sound. But working in harmony can create a beautiful symphony!

With the World Cup only 127 days away, football also offers some good illustrations. I watched the final of the African Cup of Nations at Zurich airport, waiting to fly home – and I saw the elegant goal that brought the Egyptians victory. It demonstrated team spirit; co-operation; mutual trust; generosity in sharing the ball, in sharing opportunities – for the good of the whole team.

Furthermore, every player must play by the rules – no matter how great a star. It’s no different if we want South Africa to be winners in the game of life – we must play as a team, work hard together, and all keep the rules. This is why upholding the Constitution – both its letter and its spirit – is a moral non-negotiable.

While I’m on the subject, let me pay tribute to ‘Team South Africa’ at Davos. The representatives of government, business and civil society, were wonderful ambassadors not only for the World Cup, but also for our country as a place to do business and invest. Of course, we are not perfect – no country is – but I saw that the flames which ignited our hopes and dreams, twenty years ago, had not fully been extinguished. But how shall we fan them more fully back to life?

The story of Noah offers three signposts to the way ahead. God warns Noah and his sons not to shed human life – for humanity bears the image of God – and God adds, ‘… never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth … and this is the sign of my covenant: the rainbow.’ So then, the three signposts to abundant life:

• first is the sanctity of life – which must be honoured as holy;

• second is the stewardship of creation – the preservation of the earth;

• third is the dignity of difference, symbolised in the rainbow.

Let us consider these in turn, addressing some of the specifics of life in South Africa today.

The Sanctity of Life

First – the sanctity of life. The culture of violence pervading society concerns me greatly. Daily accounts of murder and brutality are just the tip of the iceberg. Of course, we are heirs to a violent political past. But still we continue to fuel violence. From TV cartoon characters to computer games, violence infects so much of so-called entertainment – and it scars the children who grow up with it.

We also use the language of violence in politics, business, and across society. We should know by now it is unacceptable to speak of ‘killing’ for your political objectives, or telling your opponents to ‘go and die’. But it is also appalling that we say things like ‘I’d kill for those shoes, this car, that job’; or describe someone smart as ‘dressed to kill’. Or how about ‘I could murder a cold beer …’

Language is used in other ways to demean and diminish human beings. This is the opposite of human flourishing: the opposite of honouring elders; or seeing the divine spark in one another; or upholding ubuntu. In footballing terms, it is the equivalent of playing the man, not the ball – and we should all cry ‘Foul!’ loud and clear!

This applies as much to overheated political rhetoric as it does, say, to the sexual objectification of women – which brings me to wider questions of sex. I’m sure you’ve been wondering when I would get round to this subject!

Of course, it would be easy just to preach ‘no sex outside marriage’: which is what Christians, and others, uphold – and for good reason – as what best makes for strong families and healthy societies. But if my words are completely out of touch with how people actually live, then I risk being dismissed as irrelevant. Let me rather put it this way: promiscuity, unfaithfulness, adultery, unprotected sex that risks spreading HIV or resulting in unwanted pregnancies and the appallingly high numbers of abortions that occur in our country – all of these are offences against the sanctity, the sacredness, of life. They are acts of emotional violence and physical peril, and demeaning to the human dignity of all involved.

Why do we pursue such damaging behaviour? – damaging to ourselves, to those we claim to love, to the stability of society, to future generations? Of course, sex is wonderful – it is one of God’s best gifts to humanity. But the greatest gifts are open to the worst abuses. Let us use the gift of sexuality wisely and well.

Yes, life is sacred, and every individual should live with dignity and be treated with complete respect by everyone else, with no-one marginalised, excluded, or voiceless within society. This must be the bedrock for all government policy-making and service delivery. I should also like greater urgency in tackling poverty, housing, health, education, and the other fundamentals of life. For though we knew that we could not turn round our economy overnight, we have seen a disturbing complacency among those who have found success in economics and politics. Yet what matters is not getting the job – but getting the job done!

I am heartened that some senior politicians have finally begun to address this. I hope this will affirm the thousands of dedicated civil servants, teachers, doctors and nurses, police and other public sector workers, who want to do a good job. I hope this will give them courage to speak out against the lazy and corrupt few. I similarly hope business acknowledges that profit must be balanced against human and environmental realities; and that true growth is not about economic activity but delivering tangible benefits.

Let’s ensure morality and ethics inform every walk of life – for example:

• in staff development from the factory floor to the highest management;

• in schools and at all our universities and colleges;

• and in our faith communities, including madressas, bar mitzvah preparations, and confirmation classes.

Whenever when we feel uneasy about a matter, we should not let ourselves be paralysed with fear. We should speak up, for the good of our society – and make ourselves part of the solution. Together we can overcome the scourge of criminality and corruption.

The media can play their part too. I challenge the writers of our soapies, to make the good guys, the nice people, into the true heroes, the ones we‘d like to be. Don’t present the violent, criminal and corrupt as exciting and glamorous; nor depict abusive relationships as normal and to be expected.

The Stewardship of Creation

Just as we honour the sacred spark in every human being, so we must also honour our planet. Stewardship of creation is our second signpost.

I am glad President Zuma decided to go to Copenhagen. I hope this has whetted his appetite to continue working for a legally binding agreement in Mexico in November, though it will take considerable work!

In Switzerland last week, I was struck by the high level of environmental awareness – from conserving energy, water, and other resources, to recycling everything imaginable. We have a lot to learn – yes, it costs money; but it will cost more if we destroy our environment through short-sightedness. The Archbishop of Canterbury reminded us at Davos that living responsibly means living within ecological limits to ensure the security of work and food.

This vital theme was echoed this week by the new African Union President, the President of Malawi, who put the needs of the neediest at the top of his agenda, prioritising hunger – and with it, agriculture and food security.

The Dignity of Difference

Unjust inequality should not be confused with legitimate diversity – so let me turn to my final signpost, the dignity of difference. Jesus famously said ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ He did not tell us to like each other, or to agree. But, no matter how different, we must live together, and engage with one another, constructively and respectfully.

Let me say that I have received considerable criticism for agreeing to appear on a joint platform with the Chief Rabbi. I do so, conscious that we come from different faith perspectives, and have differing views on various issues – not least on Israel and Palestine, and particularly the Goldstone Report. Yet he, and the Jewish Community, are an important part of South African life. And it is South Africa on which we are focussed this evening. So we are going to keep talking, and work at trusting each other enough to say hard words where we disagree – but also stand together where we have common concern. Today that concern is the morality, the well-being, of our nation.

South Africans need to work at loving one another – by which, I mean getting to know and understand one another sufficiently well to ‘walk in one another’s shoes’. It is said that God made us with two ears and one mouth, so that we should listen twice as much as we speak! We need to be able freely to air our differences, whether within or between religious communities, or political parties, or any other walk of life. This is the way to help one another grow into our best selves, contributing richly to our common life.

I was struck by this at Davos. Global leaders from different faiths held each other in considerable regard, and collaborated in drawing secular leaders into deeper engagement around the current crisis of values and ethics.

Respecting difference extends beyond power, riches and status. In the eyes of God, no individual is more valuable, more important, than any other. Government must therefore respect its citizens – for example, engaging communities in meaningful dialogue about decisions that affect them. Many so-called ‘service delivery’ protests are more about the frustration of not being properly consulted.

Honouring difference also means being prepared to shoulder our responsibilities as well as demand our rights. To put this in footballing terms: different positions require different skills, where each must play to the best of their abilities, for the good of the whole team – and not worry about who scores the goal or gets the glamour! Players also have the right to expect, even demand, that other team members fulfil their own roles fully.

This is the spirit of the sePedi saying: Go botšiša kgoši ga se go e roga – To question a king is not to scold him. In a democracy, ordinary people have a right to ask questions and make suggestions to our leaders – and in response to expect not only words but action. I hope this is what we have been doing this evening.


I began by asking how far we are achieving our dreams of 20 years ago. Let me end with another anniversary – the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, on 30 January 1948 – which was marked by the scattering of the last of his ashes in the sea off Durban. I should like to leave with you Gandhi’s own Seven Deadly Social Sins:

1. Politics without Principle

2. Wealth without Work

3. Commerce without Morality

4. Pleasure without Conscience

5. Education without Character

6. Science without Humanity, and finally

7. Worship without Sacrifice

In other words, there can be no faith – even faith in a new South Africa – without self-sacrifice. We cannot do nothing, and expect to get whatever we want. Are we prepared to give what it takes, to pursue our dreams, and to create a truly moral society – a society where everyone can be fully human, and everyone can flourish?

Let’s rise to the challenge. As the American satirist Felicia Lamport put it


Is nice

But a little virtue

Won’t hurt you.

Thank you.