[notice]Neziswa Kanju attended the Ellis Park Pentecost prayer rally and Africa Day celebration on Pentecost Sunday. It was disappointingly more political and interfaith than she expected from a recent pre-event report in Gateway News. But it did conclude with heartfelt Christian prayers for the continent.[/notice]
Different religious groups gathered at Ellis Park Johannesburg for an Interfaith Prayer Day on May 24, 2015. Members of various faith groups including Muslim, Hindu, traditional churches such as Zion Christian Church (ZCC), St Johns and others came to this African National Congress (ANC) hosted event. The Tshwane, Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni metropolitan municipalities were among the metros that were represented.
It was a day of celebration, commemoration, repentance and jubilation as speaker after speaker reiterated the need for Africa to unite. Dressed in their different religious regalia thousands filled the Ellis Park stadium with two common goals: to celebrate Africa Day by emphasising their support in fighting xenophobia and to remember the day of Pentecost. Various mayors from the metros were among the attendants. Leaders of churches, archbishops, bishops, leading musicians such as Abigail Bukheka and Gospel singer Kholeka were among those who lent their voices to fight the war against xenophobia.
Participating artists and groups kept the crowd entertained while they waited for the dignitaries to arrive. The formal proceedings began with the singing of both the South African national anthem Nkosi sikelela iAfrika and the Africa Union (AU) anthem after which representatives of different faith groups, including Muslim, Hindu and Traditional African Religion offered their prayers. Pastor Ray McCauley, Senior Pastor of Rhema Bible Church and co-chair of the National Interfaith Council of South Africa prayed on behalf of the Christian faith.
The police band marched around the stadium followed by teams of people holding up the different flags representing 55 African countries. Gauteng Premier David Makhura, whose idea it was to host the event welcomed the gathering. The minister of Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa introduced the main speaker for the day, the Deputy President of the Republic of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa. When he took to the podium Ramaphosa greeted the crowd by saying: “I greet you in the name of Africa. I greet you in the name of South Africa!” He then sang the well- known old Gospel hymn “If you believe and I believe and we together pray. The Holy Spirit must come down and Africa shall be saved!”
The Deputy President implored South Africans to choose peace and tolerance. He said: “Today we confront conflict with tolerance. Today we confront racism with harmony. We must create a society where there is no place for xenophobia. The anthem of the AU [African Union] calls on the sons and daughters to dedicate ourselves to fight for justice and peace. It is in our hands to remake and to reshape this continent to make it the dream of our forebears. Millions of South Africans were blessed to be brought up with the teachings of “Ubuntu ngumuntu ngabantu” which is translated to mean “A person is a person through other people”. He continued to emphasise that the beginning of wisdom is the reverence for God. He reminded us by quoting from 1 Corinthians 13: Love is not easily angered. Love does not keep a record of wrongs.
Ramaphosa thanked the church for being a place where the sick are comforted! Where the unskilled are nurtured! He said that faith based leaders show us the care they have, to build an Africa that is more caring. “South Africa is humbled by the task that they have taken. Through their work they are showing us how to build Africa brick by brick. Together with the faith based we are building a country that is void of poverty! We are a community. We carry Africa in our hearts. We debate fiercely. We refrain from being hurtful. We celebrate our differences. We celebrate our diversity. We thank God for He has made us different. This is a South Africa we are building. A South Africa that is welcoming, that is kind, that is prosperous, that is diverse; that is warm; that has a good heart. We are Africa! Africa is our identity and Africa is our home. Let us make a proud home for all of us. WE ARE AFRICA!!”
The Deputy President shared some of the goals of Vision 2063. Vision 2063 is an AU initiative that has its beginning at the 50th anniversary of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) that was celebrated in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia in 2013. 2063 is a 50 year plan by the AU to achieve some of the goals that were outlined at Addis Ababa. The objectives of the AU are: To achieve greater unity and solidarity between the African countries and Africans; to promote peace, security, and stability on the continent; to promote and protect human and peoples’ rights in accordance with the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and other relevant human rights instruments.
According to Wikipedia: The African Union is a continental union consisting of 54 countries in Africa. The only African state that is not a member is Morocco. The AU was established on May 26, 2001 in Addis Ababa and launched on July 9, 2002 in South Africa with the aim of replacing the OAU.
After Ramaphosa’s speech Ray McCauley and a minister from one of the traditional churches lit 55 candles symbolising the countries that make up the vast African continent.
The scripture reading for the day was taken from Joel 2:15-16! It reads: 15 Blow the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly! The scripture reading was read by Bishop Ziphozihle Siwa, Presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church of SA. Referring to xenophobia, Siwa said: “South Africa offers an apology to the whole continent! We hang our heads in shame and we say we are sorry” A pastor from Kenya joined him at the podium and accepted South Africa’s apology by saying: “As a Kenyan and a minister today in the spirit of Pentecost we accept your apology. We love you South Africa! We forgive you South Africa!
Pastor Linda Gobodo then led the gathering into a time of prayer. Heartfelt prayers were heard all through the stadium. With arms lifted up to heaven people were praying in their own languages and crying out to God to save Africa. They were unified in their prayer: GOD BLESS AFRICA!