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

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