Tuesday 26 June 2012

To the Laos - To the People of God, June 2012

Dear People of God

On the day of Pentecost, recently celebrated, St Peter recalled words of the prophet Joel, and God’s promise that where he pours out his Spirit, our sons and daughters will prophecy, our young men – and, I’m sure, young women also – will see visions, and old men (and women too!) will dream dreams. Our church structures tend to be dominated by those more likely to be older ‘dreamers’ than younger ‘visionaries’ – but of course we need both! This month, when South Africa marks Youth Day, it is timely to remember that between a third and half of our Province’s population are under 15, and, I am sure, a clear majority is under 25. God calls all his people to share in ministry together, directed by his Spirit, and while those with more age and experience have a responsibility to nurture the young, this is not a one-way street. Within the body of Christ, all must be open to learn from everyone else. There are certainly some dioceses within our Province where young people form the backbone that sustains the life of faith, and takes it forward. We thank God for all our youth.

For many young people today, the challenges are vast: poverty and its many consequences, access to good education and training, unemployment, HIV and AIDS, and the moral confusions and crises of so many of our communities. It is tough and frightening out there. Those of us who were young in the 70s and 80s will remember well how, in our own very different context, the world often seemed threatening and hostile. Yet we came through – and for many of us, the church was our haven.

Our responsibility towards today’s young people begins within the church, and extends far beyond our walls. Within the ACSA Vision, we identified ‘protection and nurture of children and young people’ as a priority for provincial action, to support and resource the objectives and priorities of dioceses and parishes. We have a wide range of structures and activities within our Province, Dioceses and Parishes, from Sunday schools and church schools, through to the Brigades and other organisations. All our young people are automatically members of the ‘Anglican Youth of Southern Africa’ movement, coordinated by the Provincial Youth Council (see www.aysa.org.za), with the work headed up by the Provincial Youth Officer, Tony Lawrence, and the Provincial Youth Chaplain, Revd. Tom Tshiponyane. We also have chaplaincies in some schools and universities, and the Anglican Students’ Federation, with president Tshepo Mokoka. We have a lot going on! The Ven Xolani Dlwati, with his team, is the Coordinator for the Vision work that supports for the whole breadth of this activity.

There is also much we can do as individuals. Perhaps we can offer financial or other support to young people attending church and youth conferences. I am encouraged that many young people have signed up for October’s Anglicans Ablaze Conference – perhaps you could sponsor someone to attend? I myself will always be grateful to the opportunities I had when young. They helped me grow in faith, and formed and shaped my character and values. Indeed, my involvement in ASF is largely what set me on the path that led to ordination and finally to Bishopscourt!

Key individuals also mentored me at various stages along the way. This is something else we can do – to ‘adopt’ a young person and make a commitment to keep walking with them over several years, on that journey each must take as they grow in faith and find their way in the adult world, and as maturing members of the church. Some may well become clergy, nuns and monks, or lay leaders. Others may find their primary calling as God’s salt and light in his world. All need our support.

One of the greatest contributions we can make is to train young people in negotiating the moral and ethical issues of contemporary society. They should not fear the secular world, but be encouraged by wise church people in how to apply living faith within the complexities of today’s world, and to pursue God’s justice in all situations. Some of you may have the capacity to mentor young people through giving them experience of the world of work. Youth unemployment is one of the greatest challenges across our entire Province. Alongside skills development, giving young people, even for a short while, exposure to what it means to be in work, developing necessary habits of self-discipline, time-keeping and so forth, as well as understanding what it means to have a work ethic, can make all the difference in giving them a solid stepping stone when applying for jobs, or to encourage them in setting up their own businesses.

One initiative that is just beginning to find its feet is ‘the Archbishop’s Global Economic Indaba’. Through local and international partners, this aims to foster a global network not only for dialogue on economic emancipation of the poor, but for practical means of empowering them to participate in economic activities, particularly through small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs). We hope this will have a greater social impact, improving health, education, and access to skills, and will be of especial help to young people, who often have such great potential and initiative.

In Gauteng, we also have the Y-AGE (Youth and Graduate Entrepreneurship) development programme for training and mentoring. Our own Hope Africa is working with the Department of Economic Development and private sector partners. I encourage young people in Gauteng to consider this (see http://www.y-age.co.za/).

I am also glad to lend my support to other initiatives, such as the NGO Equal Education, which works for quality and equality in South African education, linking research and analysis with targetted activism. I am proud to associate myself, as a ‘friend of court’, to their legal action to ensure there are norms and standards for school infrastructure. The conditions under which far too many schools are forced to operate are disgraceful. I shall also be speaking at the Congress of their members next month, as they debate how best to focus energies and resources, prioritising the needs of the poorest and most disadvantaged communities and young people.

As I travel around the Province, I sometimes feel that we are on the verge of a ‘youth spring’. The challenges are great – but the energy and courage of our young is greater! Let us be energised by them, as we commit ourselves to pray for them, nurture them in the faith, and mentor and support them in whatever ways we can, so that they may fulfil their potential as children of God, living as his beacons of hope for our future.

I have just had a wonderful, joyous time sharing in the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Diocese of Johannesburg. 5000 people were packed into the University of Johannesburg indoor amphitheatre, and we were forced to lay on a parallel service for the many others for whom there was no room. I congratulate Bishop Brian and the Diocese of Johannesburg on this wonderful experience – I am so proud! Please continue to pray for all our Dioceses and their structures and governance. Some face serious challenges, and the hard work of tackling these needs the support of your prayers.

Yours in the Service of Christ,

+Thabo Cape Town

Sunday 10 June 2012

Walking Together for Education

The following Welcome and Introduction was delivered at the 'Walking Together for Education' summit organised by the Citizens Movement for Social Change, at St John's College, Houghton, Johannesburg, on 6 June 2012.

Dr Ramphele – or shall I say, dear friend, Mamphela! – Educators, Ladies and Gentlemen, friends, it is a great pleasure, and considerable privilege to welcome you all here this morning, and to share some opening reflections on the day before us.

Let me begin with some words of thanks. First, on behalf of us all, let me thank Roger Cameron, and everyone at St John’s College, for hosting us today. St John’s, I am glad to underline, is of course an Anglican School, founded in 1898. While honouring the heritage it received from England, it is firmly rooted in the soil of this land, defined by its African identity. It is committed to producing leaders who are ‘rightly trained in body, mind and character’, and ready ‘to serve God in Church and State’. Roger, thank you for providing such a context in which we can meet.

I also want to thank Roger for the wider role he plays in heading the organisation that brings together the Principals of Anglican Schools across South Africa. Last September, I met with this network, and offered a challenge: the challenge to consider how they – with all their expertise, experience and resources – could best ‘walk together’ with the Government education sector. I asked them to look at ways they could constructively engage with National and Provincial education departments. And I asked for their advice on how I personally could use the opportunities that come my way; and how the Anglican Church in this country, from national to local level, could also realistically, and practically, become more fully ‘part of the solution’ that we need in education.

So I am glad to tell you all today, that I am able to thank Roger for taking up this challenge, and beginning this process, with further serious discussion planned for the meeting in KwaZulu Natal later this year. I am sure we send you there, Roger, with our wholehearted encouragement.

But now that these wheels are in motion, let me offer you a further challenge! I would love to see an ‘alumni society’ of retired Principals and Heads of Anglican Schools – and perhaps other senior teachers too – who can come together to ‘give back’ to our nation. We know the needs are great – but we also know that the freshly retired are still so often full of energy, enthusiasm and ideas! So let us release and channel at least some of this potential towards strengthening the educational capabilities of South Africa!

Well, after this, Roger, my friend, you may well be wondering whether being thanked by me is something of a double-edged sword since it comes with so many requests attached! But never fear, because now I shall focus my thanks on Mamphela! Thank you, my friend, for your great energies at a time when others might be beginning to look longingly to the retirement I seem so keen to deny them! I’m am sure I speak for a great many, here today and across our nation, when I voice my gratitude to you for your persistent commitment to promoting a better future for us all; and especially for your initiative in launching the Citizens’ Movement for Social Change.

From the perspective of the Anglican Church – of which I am glad to note you are such a faithful, longstanding, member! – and from the perspective of the Christian faith (as indeed many other faith traditions), it is clear that we can only flourish as individuals, if we are committed to the flourishing of all our neighbours. Jesus’ call to ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ is, to a very considerable degree, a charter for active, constructive, engaged, citizenship!

My hope and prayer is that the Citizens’ Movement will be able to make a significant contribution at the cutting edge of change in South Africa. I hope also that this contribution will cut across all the political, religious, cultural, linguistic, class, and other lines that we are too often tempted to draw between us in our rich and diverse nation. In contrast to such lines that can divide, our common citizenship should be a powerful tie that binds us to one another. We should not be afraid to acknowledge, and indeed joyfully affirm, that we share together one over-riding common interest: to bring about a flourishing future for us all, through the flourishing of all the promises our constitutional democracy offers to us.

All of us yearn for a South Africa of which we can be proud: a place in which – to borrow your own words, Mamphela – we ‘lay to rest the ghosts’ of our past! Above all else, we do not want the pressure of these ghosts to fall upon those too young to have any personal experience of those difficult and divisive years. We want them to be free of the heavy and dehumanising hand that lay upon us all, and which demeaned and diminished so many. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that education must be one of our highest priorities. Thank you, Mamphela, for making it so within the Citizens’ Movement.

When Archbishops ponder education, it is not long before their thoughts are drawn, as they were with citizenship, to Jesus! For it is crystal clear that he was a remarkable teacher:
• a teacher who cared for everyone;
• a teacher who educated by walking with humanity in the ups and downs of our lives; and by walking with each individual he encountered, in their own uniqueness;
• a teacher who encourages and delights, with his vivid, thought-provoking parables; and
• a teacher who models by the example of his own life.
And he is a teacher who calls us all to follow in his steps. So I am doubly grateful, Mamphela, that education is one of the key areas on which the Citizens’ Movement for Social Change has chosen to focus.

So let me now, briefly, make some comments about education, as a means of helping set the context of today’s Summit. What is the task of education?

A rather simplistic response is that its role is to disseminate learning. But, more than just communicating information – facts and figures, opinions and arguments, practices and procedures – it must equip us for living in today’s world. And today’s world is complex, pluralist, and multicultural world. For many of the questions that we face, there are no neutral answers to the moral and ethical challenges to which all our contexts give rise. This is true of all of us, young people included: from the choices we make within our families and closest relationships, to the careers young people aspire to pursue, and the influences that all have, in big ways and small, in shaping our nation.

Education must therefore include enabling individuals to become competent and skilled in engaging well with life. It must prepare young people to tackle wisely and well the ethical and moral questions that endlessly arise in every area of human activity; and so to play a constructive role in wider society. Education must help us all become committed, constructively engaged citizens, who understand what it means to be part of the solution, not part of the problem, in South Africa and the wider world.

Questions of good judgement face us at every turn: from how we utilise the finite resources of our planet through to the way we live as spouses, parents, neighbours, colleagues, employers, employees – every choice has consequences, for ourselves, for others. And it is not enough merely to speak broadly of seeking a world of justice and fairness for all, which moves towards overcoming inequalities, and strives to promote conditions in which all may have the opportunity to fulfil their potential. We also need to have sharp mental tools that help us analyse more specifically what it means in practice, so we may discern what is tangibly possible and how we can achieve it.

The task before us is great. Alongside the legacies of the past are new challenges, not least increasing economic disparities and the inequalities that flow from these. Further, as we have seen in vivid ways in the last two weeks, we have not yet learnt enough about how to live with one another’s different and distinctive cultural norms, in ways that affirm all that is good, and that express mutual respect and uphold the dignity of everyone. We do not do ourselves any favours if we pretend these challenges are less significant, less serious, than they are; or that there are simple and easy solutions. But to name the challenges is the first step in facing them, and overcoming them.

Jesus said ‘You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free’. And above all else, education is in the business of helping us know what the truth is, and responding with honesty, and justice, and all that is good and right and true. So may God bless you all, richly, in today’s meeting – so that you, and all with whom you engage, through the Citizen’s Movement, and through your hopes for education: so that you may be a blessing to others and to this nation. Thank you.

Friday 8 June 2012

Call for South African Government to work with Russia and China on Syria

This media release was issued on 8 June 2012.

The Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town today called on the South African Government to increase its efforts to promote a solution to the violence in Syria. ‘As members both of the UN Security Council, and the BRICS partnership, we have particular opportunities – and therefore responsibilities – to work urgently for human rights to be upheld in Syria’ said Dr Thabo Makgoba. ‘And while all members of the international community must throw their weight behind Kofi Annan’s efforts to produce a peaceful and just solution to Syria’s problems, we must also do everything possible to bring an immediate end to the terrible atrocities that are being reported. With our partners – and here I am particularly thinking of China and Russia, we must do all we can to bring a halt to the spiralling violence.’

The Archbishop also called for fervent prayer that peace will prevail. ‘Our hearts are more than sore when we see the pictures and hear the reports of the appalling suffering inflicted on the civilian population, especially women and children’ he said. ‘We hold the country and its people in our prayers, asking for God’s comfort and strength for all who are bereaved and injured, and all whose lives are being devastated by this conflict. May God encourage all who work for peace and justice, and prosper their efforts.’

Issued by the Office of the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town
Inquiries: Ms Wendy Tokata on 021-763-1320 (office hours)