Friday 1 October 2010

Archbishop’s concern for white South African men sparks emotional debate

The continuing damage done to both white and black South Africans by the “dehumanizing” effect of the struggle against apartheid led to an emotional debate at the triennial Provincial Synod of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa today (Friday 1 October 2010).

The synod was discussing a resolution arising out of concern expressed by Archbishop Thabo Makgoba of Cape Town for white South African men who were conscripted to fight for apartheid. Opening the synod, he described the issue as an “unmentionable area that we must dare to tackle,” and added: “Many are still wounded from that time, and need to be able to speak and find healing.”

During debate on a resolution supporting his concern, a number of white male priests, sometimes struggling to speak through tears, said they had been surprised by the intensity of their responses to an issue they had long thought something of the past. Bishop Jo Seoka of Pretoria added that “there are many black boys and girls who are still suffering as a consequence of their experience, not forgetting the young ones who went through June 16 [1976].”

Proposing the resolution arising from Archbishop Makgoba’s expression of concern, Dean Andrew Hunter of Grahamstown said of those conscripted: “All of us were shaped, marked and scarred to a greater or lesser effect… For some there has been long-term damage.” Although he welcomed the Archbishop’s initiative, he also said he wondered: “Are we ready for this? Are we big enough as a church for this? Should we also link this to the effects of belonging to MK or APLA on young black men?”

Full texts:

Archbishop Makgoba told the synod in his opening Charge:

“I want to name one unmentionable area that we must dare to tackle: the dehumanising effect of conscription on a generation of young men – barely more than boys. Many are still wounded from that time, and need to be able to speak and find healing. Our society makes this almost impossible. But before Jesus there are no taboo subjects.”

Dean Hunter’s resolution:

“The Dean of Grahamstown, seconded by Bishop R Hess, gave notice in terms of the rule for motions arising from the Archbishop’s Charge:

“Noting the Archbishop’s call for the Church to tackle the effects of conscription, THIS SYNOD welcomes this initiative, and prays for the healing of all those who were involved or impacted in any way.”

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