Monday 30 October 2023



The escalating levels of fighting and destruction we have seen in Israel and Palestine since October 7 are fast turning the land we call holy into one of those places in the world where conflict and deep-seated violence is destroying any form of human society based on a sense of the common good and even levels of minimal human decency. The injustices and aggression which characterize the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians tear me apart, forcing me into quiet contemplation of the horrors we are seeing, wanting to cry out for ceasefires and humanitarian corridors, but almost despairing of whether it will make the slightest difference. 

    The rhetoric of the parties to the conflict, demonising their enemies as inhuman, is frightening in its familiarity to South Africans who lived under apartheid. For as our Truth and Reconciliation Commission heard, it gave licence to soldiers on the ground to ignore the professed assurances of humane treatment by their leaders and to commit gross violations of people's human rights. Dehumanising rhetoric leads to crimes against humanity and, in Rwanda, it even led to genocide.

    Just as we condemn Hamas rocket attacks on Israel, and the horrific October 7 attacks on civilians – reminiscent of the pogroms carried out against Jews in the past – so too we condemn the Israeli attacks on Gaza which Amnesty International has documented as unlawful and indiscriminate, leading to mass civilian casualties.

     I stand with the Patriarchs and Heads of the Churches in Jerusalem in their statement that: “We unequivocally condemn any acts that target civilians, regardless of their nationality, ethnicity, or faith. Such actions go against the fundamental principles of humanity and the teachings of Christ, who implored us to 'love your neighbour as yourself' (Mark 12:31)."

     Together with the Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem, Dr Hosam Naoum, I call for:

  • An immediate cessation of violence; and

  • The establishment of humanitarian corridors into Gaza to facilitate the provision of food, water, medical supplies and electricity to civilian infrastructure.

    I also call for the unconditional release of hostages and stand with the church leaders in Jerusalem as they appeal for sincere dialogue aimed at finding lasting solutions that promote justice, peace, and reconciliation for all the people of the Holy Land. The occupation of the West Bank of the Jordan has to be ended and the Palestinians given the right of self-determination there and in Gaza. Equally, Israelis need to be able to live in peace and security. 

    Finally, the international community needs to take responsibility for its role in fuelling the conflict with its weapons exports to the Middle East. Any nation which arms a party to the conflict, whether directly or indirectly, implicitly makes this war its war too. I reiterate the appeal by church leaders in Jerusalem:

    “We call upon the international community to redouble its efforts to mediate a just and lasting peace in the Holy Land, based on equal rights for all and on international legitimacy.”

The Most Revd Thabo Makgoba

Archbishop of Cape Town

Sunday 29 October 2023

“Growing in Christ” - Address to the Episcopal Diocese of West Virginia

“Growing in Christ”
Address to the Convention of
The Episcopal Diocese of West Virginia
Archbishop Thabo Makgoba of Cape Town
Metropolitan of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa

October 27, 2023

Bishop Matthew,
Delegates and Office-holders of the Convention,
Your Excellency, the Mayor of Martinsburg
Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

    I bring you warm greetings from your sisters and brothers in the Anglican Church of Southern Africa where we're moving into summer after the coldest winter we have experienced in a very long time. On Lungi and my behalf, thank you, Bishop and Mrs Cowden, your staff and your teams for your great hospitality. Thank you Revd Tim, Karen and Nonhla for driving us, and Tim, especially for the time we spent together seeing some of the countryside. Thank you all so much for your ministry of welcome and inclusion. For me, the real keynote of my time with you has been your welcome and hospitality, the Bishop's sermons and homilies and the joy of being part of your Diocesan Convention.

Wednesday 25 October 2023

Ad Laos - To the People of God – October 2023

 Dear People of God

Since I last wrote to you, the world has been busy and I have been busy too with the work of the Lord, trying in the midst of a punishing travel schedule to keep focussed on the Lord of the work.

After the September meeting of the Synod of Bishops, I left Provincial Standing Committee early so Lungi and I could travel to the Vatican to attend the consistory at which Pope Francis created 21 new cardinals, including my Catholic counterpart in Cape Town, Cardinal Stephen Brislin. It was a spiritually uplifting service, as were his first Mass as cardinal in St Stephen’s Chapel in the Vatican Gardens and the ecumenical prayers for the opening of the church’s worldwide Synod of Bishops. We also enjoyed worship, and the opening of an exhibition at the Anglican Centre in Rome by Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury.

From Rome, I returned home to preach at this year's Anglicans Ablaze conference in Johannesburg, which as always is a time of blessing and joy. Now led by the Revd Bruce Woolley as director, Growing the Church, which stages these very successful conferences, has since welcomed Bishop Dalcy Dlamini of Eswatini, appointed by the Synod of Bishops as its new Liaison Bishop. During the same weekend, we held a glorious service in the Diocese of Christ the King, where we consecrated Bishop Mkhuseli Sobantwana as their new bishop. Congratulations to both Bishop Dalcy and Bishop Mkhuseli.

Then it was back to Europe for a “Mining and Faith Day of Reflection”, a 10-year-old initiative I have been part of which creates safe spaces for courageous conversations to discuss how mining can best serve the common good and to commit to practical action. The event comprised faith leaders from across the world, also including Ghana, Brazil and Zambia, who met with leaders from some of the world's largest mining companies. It was good to connect there again within the space of a week with Cardinal Brislin and Archbishop Welby.

As we prayed and shared fellowship together, in St Peter’s in Rome and Westminster Abbey and the Charter House Chapel in London, the sadness and hurt of the violence in many parts of our world intruded on us, especially when the true horror of the killings and abductions perpetrated by Hamas on Israeli civilians began to emerge. In my own moments of prayer, I could not help but think of the first century killing of Jews in Rome, of pogroms down the ages in Europe and genocide in Germany.

Thirteen years ago, at a United Nations meeting in Morocco convened to discuss Africa’s stance on Palestine, I appealed for faith communities outside the region to draw on their various religious traditions to help find a just, sustainable and lasting peace in the Holy Land. In the last few days, I have prayed over the situation created when Britain was given a mandate to rule Palestine after World War I, and then gave 55 percent of Palestinian land to Israel after the Holocaust of World War II.

Just as we need sensible land reform in South Africa – something I told the General Synod of the Dutch Reformed Church a few days ago – we need to find a solution which brings justice, safety and freedom for all in the land we call holy. The occupation of the West Bank of the Jordan has to be ended and the Palestinians given the right of self-determination, but the horrific attacks on Israelis by Hamas will intensify the conflict, not help to resolve it. Equally, Israelis need to be able to live in peace and security, but neither will the air strikes which bring horrifying death and destruction to civilians in Gaza achieve that end.

Let us continue to pray for those caught up in all places of conflict, also thinking especially of Ukraine. The five biggest exporters of armaments in the world are the United States, Russia, China, Germany and France. Let us pray that they will promote diplomacy instead of peddling weapons of death and destruction. As we approach the Season of Advent, I ask that we turn our prayers to all victims of war, for those without food, water, warmth and shelter, and for those who have had to bury their loved ones.

Closer to home, we urge our leaders at various levels of government to intensify efforts to resolve our transport crisis, especially the passenger rail service. In the Western Cape, the collapse of much of the commuter railway system is a scandal which hits workers and the poor hardest.

In the church, the graduating class at the College of the Transfiguration deserves special mention this year. They are a unique class, who began their formation and studies as Covid-19 struck and faced all the challenges associated with it. Congratulations to them all. Congratulations also to Mama Leah Tutu, whose 90th birthday we celebrated with a special service in the Cathedral in Cape Town on October 14th.

We will soon be focussing on the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence – may this focus not be drowned out by global war.

Finally, may you be still and know that God in Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit is in each and every situation. Our hope is founded on Him.

God bless

††Thabo Cape Town

Thursday 19 October 2023

2023 Algemene Sinode van die Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk


Address to the 2023 Algemene Sinode van die Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk




Algemene Sekretaris,

Addisionele lede van die Moderamen,

Geagte Afgevaardigdes,

Broers en susters,

Ek groet julle in die heilige naam van onse Here en Verlosser, Jesus Christus: Goeie Dag!

Baie dankie vir die uitnodiging wat oorspronklik deur my vriend, Dominee Nelis, uitgereik is; ek en my kerk waardeer die baie en dit is 'n besondere groot voorreg om hier te wees. Ek is net jammer dat ek nie persoonlik saam met julle kan wees nie. Soos ek vir die Sinode Wes Kaapland vroeër in die jaar gese het, alhoewel die nuwe tegnologie ons help om meer verpligtinge in ons skedules in te pas, kan dit nie persoonlike kontak tussen ons vervang nie.

As 'n mens die geskiedenis van ons twee kerke inagneem, is my teenwoordigheid hier as 'n verteenwoordiger van die Anglikaanse Kerk miskien 'n historiese gebeurtenis. In die vroeë twintigste eeu het baie mense die Anglikaanse Kerk as die kerk van die Britse "establishment" in Suid Afrika gesien; later het hulle die NG Kerk as "the National Party at prayer" gesien. Nou beklee nie een van ons daardie posisies nie, en ek waag dit om te sê dat dit ons in staat stel om die Evangelie baie meer effektief te verkondig.

Dit is ook belangrik dat ek hier staan as President van die Suid-Afrikaanse Raad van Kerke. Vyf-en-viertig jaar gelede het wyle Biskop Desmond Tutu, destyds die Algemene Sekretaris van die Raad, en wyle Dr Frans O'Brien Geldenhuys, die direkteur van ekumeniese sake van die NG Kerk, 'n gesprek begin in baie moeilike omstandighede. Ek hou daarvan om te dink hulle sou opgewonde wees om die uiteindelike resultate van hul toenadering te sien.

Before I continue, please allow me to speak briefly of the situation in the land we call holy, the place where Jesus was born, nurtured, crucified and raised, and the place which Judaism and Islam also call holy. We all agonise over what is happening there, shocked and disturbed at the levels of hatred we see, where Palestinians are oppressed in ways we once experienced here and where Israeli civilians are brutally attacked and killed in scenes reminiscent of the anti-Jewish pogroms of Europe in the Middle Ages.

Last week the Anglican Church sent to our parishes a prayer for the Holy Land, in which we asked God to grant the people of Palestine and Israel – and I quote from the prayer – we asked God to grant them:

Wise leadership,

Gentle hearts, and

A new beloved community, embodying

love, truth, justice, peace, forgiveness and reconciliation.

Last Saturday we celebrated the 90th birthday of Mama Leah Tutu, and I told them that I am sure that at this moment, ninety-nine of every one hundred Palestinians and Israelis would say that anyone who believes that God will grant us that wish of a new beloved community is crazy. But we in South Africa have shown the world that it is not crazy to envisage a time when, in that beautiful biblical phrase, common to both the Jewish and Christian scriptures, “The wolf shall live with the lamb,” and “the leopard shall lie down with the kid”. (Is. 11: 6) It might be hard for us to imagine today, but just as it was possible for us in South Africa to overcome the hatreds and bitterness of the past, it is possible for Israelis and Palestinians to do the same, and all people of faith need to work and pray tirelessly to that end.

Turning back to South Africa, ek hoop die afvaardiging van Wes-Kaapland sal my vergewe as ek hier – en ook later – verwys na wat ek 'n paar maande gelede aan hul Sinode gesê het. I read that passage in Chapter 28 of Matthew's Gospel, which tells us how, on that first Easter, after Mary Magdalene and the other Mary had found Jesus's grave to be empty, an angel appeared to them and said: “Do not be afraid... he has been raised from the dead.” The women then left the grave, and hurried to tell the disciples the Good News. In one translation, it says that they left the tomb “met vrees en groot blydskap”, but in the translation I preferred, it says, “Hulle het toe haastig van die graf af weggegaan, bang maar baie bly...”

I told the Western Cape Synod that as we contrast what is happening in our beloved country today with the joyful message of Easter, we too can feel, “Bang, maar baie bly” – alhoewel ons is bly vir die opstanding van ons Here en Verlosser, Jesus Christus, ons is ook bang vir die toekoms van ons land.

And indeed, there are many reasons to be afraid for the future of our land. Although we have a Constitution and a Bill of Rights which are the envy of the world, the promises of our Constitution have not been fulfilled. We are a country scarred by the most glaring inequality experienced anywhere in the world, the gap between the rich at one end of the spectrum and the poor at the other end being wider than in any other country. We are mired in the mud of corruption. Services we built for our people have collapsed in some areas and money budgetted for new services and infrastructure is too often stolen, misdirected or inefficiently spent. Too many public servants have forgotten they are servants of the public.

Recently I have joined other religious leaders in what we call “Walks of Witness” to areas in which people are suffering because of government failures. I first went to the site of the gas explosion in the Johannesburg city centre. A few weeks later, I was at building, also in the Joburg city centre, where nearly 80 people died in a terrible fire. Black South Africans like me who grew up in Joburg under apartheid knew that building, number 80 Albert Street, as the Johannesburg pass office, where, at the thump of a stamp in your “dompas”, you were either allowed to stay in the city, or were endorsed out to try to eke out a living in your rural Bantusan. To see one kind of suffering in that building replaced by another kind of suffering under democracy made me want to weep.

So we face crises on every side, almost too many to count. But we should remember that church leaders warned us that this might happen. Back in the early years of democracy, Desmond Tutu said: “Even a freely-elected democratic government is still made up of frail, vulnerable human beings who may or may not succumb to the blandishments of power.” Our Oom Bey, Dr Beyers Naude, alerted us to the danger of complacency in 1996, when he said: “People tend to say that now that we have a new government, now that we have a new Constitution, now that we have solved our political problems, for the time being, there is no prophetic role for the Church at the moment. I think such a perception is a very serious mistake.”

Back in the 1990s, we avoided what could have been a bloody war, the likes of which we now fear seeing in the Middle East. That was due to the efforts of many South Africans, with Nelson Mandela and FW de Klerk of course playing the central role, but the churches also played an important role, both at congregational level and through leaders like Dr Johan Heyns. Like Moses and the children of Israel in that great story of the exodus, we liberated ourselves and escaped the bondage of Egypt. But now we have to make sure we don't spend the next 40 years wandering in the wilderness. The church has an important role to play if we are to reach the promised land.

We need to take the warnings of Desmond Tutu and Beyers Naude to heart. We still have a prophetic role to play, and as people of faith we need to work out, here and now, how best to mobilise our energy, our courage, our imagination, our skills and our political will, and channel them into a coordinated effort to support those in our society who are committed to fulfilling the promises of the Constitution. We need to work together to answer the cries of the poor, to complete tasks half-done, and to respond to new obstacles that have emerged.

Returning to my message to the Western Cape Synod, let us consider again the response of the women at the empty grave that first Easter morning. Despite their conflicting emotions of grief and joy, despite their confusion and fear as they tried to take on board the meaning of what they had seen and heard, they summoned up the courage to move forward. Faced with the might of the religious and political establishments which had crucified our Lord, they were not intimidated. They faced down their fears, and went out bravely to proclaim the Good News of the Risen Christ.

As the Christian churches of South Africa, we need to summon up the courage shown by those women, summon up the courage displayed by Desmond Tutu, Beyers Naude, and Johan Heyns, and take the lead in setting an example of moral courage to our people and our political and community leaders. As a nation, we face probably the biggest challenges of the democratic era. But just as the disciples on Lake Galilee were reassured by Jesus in the middle of a terrifying storm, we too can be reassured by his words to them: “It is I, don’t be afraid.” He will be with us, strengthening our resolve.

Many of you may know that since the failures of the Zuma administration in South Africa, I have been repeatedly calling on all South Africans to join what I call the New Struggle, a new struggle for a new era, a new struggle for a new generation, a struggle to regain our moral compass, a struggle to end economic inequality, and a struggle to ensure that the promises of our Constituion are kept. And I am hopeful that if the churches, other religious bodies and civil society join this struggle, we can succeed in turning South Africa around and putting us back on the path on which Nelson Mandela set us.

For if we compare ourselves to many parts of the world, and especially to regions such as West Africa, we come to this struggle with advantages that others don't enjoy. We have a strong and independent civil society, we have an independent media, we have term limits for our presidents and, very important, we have a democratically-elected Parliament.

That is why I have been using whatever influence I have to urge all South Africans, and especially young South Africans who have never voted before, to register to vote in next year's elections. As I have said often this year, I understand why many, many young South Africans, both white and black, are disillusioned with politics. The behaviour of our politicians discourages them from joining the political process and they can't see a way of making a difference in public life. But if they register to vote, then go out and vote in their numbers, they can and will bring about change.

And a number of us, including former President Mbeki and the SACC General Secretary, Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana, are concerned that white South Africans – and especially the Afrikaner community – are becoming alienated from our national life. It is very important that you exercise your rights to speak out, to join debates on our future and to organise politically if we are to secure our future. Don't be silent because of concern you will be called a racist; every single one of us, black and white, has the same rights under our Constitution, and we all need to exercise them if our democracy is to truly reflect the concerns and wishes of all our people.

I am sure that many of your members are concerned about land reform. As I told the Western Cape Synod, we need sensible policies of land reform which will not prejudice our economy. The government's land reform programme is clearly failing, and my own belief is that we need to introduce Gospel values into the debate around it: sharing, reconciliation, healing and taking care of our neighbours.

A fully-developed policy of redistribution needs both to take into account that there is more demand for urban than for rural land, and to provide an economic model for developing rural land, including education and practical help for those who want to work the land. We should decentralise the process by allowing people to work out local solutions appropriate to local situations, and it should be a tool for real transformation, to address the inequality of opportunity and the high rate of unemployment from which we suffer.

In summary, as I said in the Western Cape, sensible land reform policies can find compromises which both protect our economy and meet the most urgent needs of those who want to farm the land and produce food for our people.

I conclude by urging you to claim the place in our society which our Constitution guarantees you, namely one of critical participation in our democracy. Jesus tells us in John's Gospel (10:10): “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” It is my prayer that as we walk together into the future, we will build a South Africa in which all will have life, and have it abundantly.

God bless you, and God bless the deliberations of this Synod. 


Archbishop Thabo Makgoba 

Monday 16 October 2023

Archbishop's comment on violence in Israel and Palestine

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba has condemned the violence seen in Israeli and Gaza in the last week.

He was asked by the newspaper, Rapport, on his response to "the violent attacks on Israel by Hamas" and "Israel's violent retaliation in Gaza".

The Archbishop said the Church's position was reflected by the prayer he issued last week: A Special Prayer for Palestine & Israel

He added: "I condemn all violence, whether the horrific attacks on Israelis which are reminiscent of the European pogroms of the past, or the indiscriminate bombing of Palestinian civilians. Both are contraventions of international humanitarian law."

Link to the Rapport article, which mainly concerned the Dutch Reformed Church's forthcoming General Synod: