Friday 17 November 2023

Ad Laos - To the People of God – November 2023

Dear People of God

I write from the Eastern Cape, where amidst the challenges faced by our country and our world, we held a joyous celebration of the 100th anniversary of the building of All Saints Church, Mbokotwana, in the Diocese of Mthatha, a church built to commemorate the martyrs of the same name.

In my sermon, I asked for prayers for the places in the world, more than 40 in all, where people are in armed conflict with another, and especially for Sudan, where 9,000 people have been killed in civil war this year, and for Palestine and Israel. After the service a nun – the Mother Superior at a convent in nearby Tsolo – came up to me and appealed, “Arch, we dare not give in to evil and war, please let's pray without ceasing.” In similar vein, the former Eastern Cape health MEC, Dr Bevan Goqwana, spoke of how fear leads to hate, and that we dare not give up love. Their words, the worship of the congregation, and the example of the Martyrs of Mbokotwana, all helped to reinforce my determination to continue praying and speaking the truth in love as best I can.

In that spirit, I call upon all to pray and work for a solution to the crisis in the Holy Land which will bring justice to the Palestinians and security for all who live in the region. The cries that are coming from Palestinian mothers in Gaza – “I have nothing, I have no hope either, all I know is that I won’t die alone but will die with my family” – are deeply distressing. Are we deaf to the sounds of grenades and blind to how power is being exercised? Are we hearing the cries for life, for the silencing of guns and missiles so they can be turned into ploughshares?

The tensions which the conflict is generating in South Africa – and especially in Cape Town – are worrying, and I appeal for magnanimity and tolerance from everyone who is expressing varied views on the violence in Gaza and the West Bank of the Jordan. In a message to a Palestine solidarity rally read for me last week by Dean Michael Weeder of Cape Town, I said the war crimes in which children, women and men are killed indiscriminately, no matter who commits them, must stop, and stop now, not just for a ceasefire but forever. I also called for hostages to be released and for us all to learn the painful lesson of the last month, which is that war does not resolve human conflict.

So please, help me elevate the call to stop this war, and all war! Even as we go on our knees to pray, we need to boycott those who supply arms to the Middle East, including those in the West who are fuelling this war by providing weapons even as they pursue partisan diplomatic initiatives. Help our church to move beyond calling only for ceasefires in situations of conflict, but to elevate the need for peace anywhere and everywhere war occurs, so that the world will instead focus its energies and its passions on fighting inequality, hunger and poverty.

Meanwhile, in parishes and dioceses across our Province, pastoral work continues. After the service in the Diocese of Mthatha, I travelled to Makhanda to attend to issues at the College of the Transfiguration and for the funeral of a dear former parishioner, Colleen Rippon. There I also interred the ashes of Canon Suzanne Peterson, formerly Sub-Dean of the Cathedral in Grahamstown Diocese and later my Public Policy and Advocacy Officer at Bishopscourt. As this issue is published, I am heading for Nigeria for the 12th General Assembly of the All Africa Conference of Churches, which this year also celebrates its 60th anniversary.

As we enter Advent, may our prayers be of repentance, forgiveness, healing and reconciliation. And as we prepare to celebrate the coming of the Prince of Peace, be assured that ultimately we are destined to live in the salaam, the shalom, the peace which our God promises us. 

God bless

††Thabo Cape Town


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