Tshego Motaung sees beyond the dark clouds of corruption, division, and brokenness hanging over South Africa.
While South Africa is grappling to come to terms with many of our social ills and leadership crises affecting our society, I have been encouraged by Christian community efforts to bring unity and reconciliation in the nation.
It is very clear that business and politicians have come to their wits end — employers and employees are constantly at loggerheads with each other, resulting in violent strikes over wage increases and improvement of working conditions.
On the other hand, the legal profession has come into the limelight as a result of the increasing number of high profile court cases, including senior government officials and big business.
These tensions, together with the constant media reporting of all the negative things that are happening in the nation, have the potential to completely discourage and destroy any hope one can have of a better tomorrow in South Africa.
Constant reports of murders and hijacking can instil terror that completely immobilise anyone from starting a business or even making new friends.
But I believe that truly a new season has come for our nation. I have had the privilege to witness a number meetings and events by the Christian Community that have given me new hope despite the reports I hear.
There is a saying that it gets the darkest just before dawn. Perhaps the crises and gloom over our nation are just a prelude to the light that’s about to break out in South Africa.
The Christian community has played a critical role in transforming nations through the course of history. The social ills that were brought about by the industrial revolution, saw the Christian community at the time rise to bring about solutions.
Organisations such as the Salvation Army were initiatives by the Christian community, responding to the challenges of the day.
The Church also contributed to economic development at the time, by teaching biblical principles that developed a good work ethic — which to this day is one of the reasons behind the success of businesses and development in those nations.
While the history of Christianity is not perfect, and in some instances Christianity has been used to justify atrocities, the Christian faith remains key to the transformation of nations.
In South Africa, many want to rubbish Christianity as the cause of losing land and bringing apartheid, but I believe this is a mistake.
Pastor Zerubbabel Mengistu, in his book called Africa Arise, explains that there were three “ships” or categories of Europeans who came to Africa. Firstly, there was the missionary ship, that brought devout men and women who were driven by God’s love for people and came to share the gospel. The second ship was full of merchants — these were shrewd businessmen like Cecil Rhodes who came to make a profit. The the last ship was those who were neither hot nor cold, and a mixture of the other two.
These distinctions were also prophetically dreamed about by King Somhlobo of Swaziland, who foresaw white-skinned people coming to bring a book and a coin; he urged them to take the book. This premontion is similar to what is attributed to Ntsikane, a Xhosa prophet known as the first Xhosa Christian who came to Christ through a divine encounter.
Whites indeed came but it is unfortunate that the agenda of those who brought the coin overtook that of the missionaries.
It is for this reason that I believe it is a great error to blame Christianity for the sins of our past, and fail to acknowledge the influence of other less honourable people like Cecil Rhodes who were not Christians and who had a different mission altogether.
Unfortunately, our history of injustice has continued to plague the Christian community in South Africa. While blacks and whites profess to be a royal priesthood, a holy nation and one body, the reality does not reflected this at all.
Blacks and whites continue to live in separate communities, except for small pockets where a rise in the black middle class has seen some movement of black people into the suburbs. White churches are more wealthy than black churches — a reflection of the state of the economy. These divisions have weakened the voice of Christianity in South Africa.
One cannot explain how in a country where Christians are a majority, laws that are contrary to Christian values were passed. Or how food manufacturers forgot about the Christian majority when they decided to make nearly every food item halaal. The halaal issue is concerning because money has to be paid to either the Muslim Judicial Council or Islamic Council for certification of the food.
The “halaalisation” of consumer products has been criticised within the Muslim community as well. Shafiq Morton refers to it as “an industry of doubt preying mercilessly upon the ignorance of its subject, at the same time creating a billion-dollar industry across the world”. Sadly, the Christian community in South Africa is also part of the ignorant, but I am convinced that that season of ignorance has come to an end.
Over the past year alone, I have witnessed gatherings of Christians from different provinces of South Africa coming together across denominations and races, and beginning to prioritise nation building.
There is recognition that the time is over for building congregations, while the nation is lost. Christians make up approximately 80% of the country’s population and it is a no-brainer that if this community can unite and take responsibility for lives of all Christians, the country’s problems will be resolved.
If the rich Church can come together with the poor Church, the country’s overburdened social welfare system will be relieved. The Church could also mobilise funds from its community members to finance small business development projects.
If the Church begins to drive this process of self-reliance, citizens will be free to vote into power those they believe and no longer be manipulated.
All these things, are being talked about by Christians in South Africa, and many strategic plans are being initiated by Christians. Intercessors for South Africa (Ifsa) recently mobilised the Christian Community to pray a blessing over South Africa for 50 days.
In a recent Ifsa conference in Bloemfontein, delegates held a mirror up to the emotional state of the nation and the Church. There was a sincere acknowledgment that there is a continuing problem of racial pride and superiority that hinders unity, bitterness and unforgiveness due to past injustices, and feelings of rejection that need to heal.
After discussions andprayers of repentance the conference resolved to mobilise the Church to use the upcoming Day of Reconciliation (December 16) to begin to cross all divides by embarking on deliberate actions at individual, family and congregation levels to reach out in order to facilitate a process of reconciliation. While this might seem like a small step that will not change much, I believe that by committing to do something we begin to change our hearts and if our hearts can turn, our lives will change.
Healing is not an event, it is process and a journey. We have travelled some miles on this journey and perhaps we are at the steep part of the road, that difficult part that makes us wonder if we should continue or not.
I believe we have turned the corner and out of the pain we will be model to the world or reconciliation, of justice and peace and the Christian community will lead the nation on this path.