Last week a group of 34 senior church leaders from all the mainline and large independent churches of Nelson Mandela Bay (Port Elizabeth, Uitenhage and Despatch) spent three days at Carmel Retreat Centre near George, unpacking racism, privilege and prejudice.
The leadership group felt it should get its house in order before it embarked on a citywide healing and reconciliation initiative.
The “What’s your Story” workshop was conducted by facilitators from Heartlines, a Johannesburg based “centre for values promotion”. The objective of the workshop was to build understanding, trust and reconciliation through a sharing of our stories. It deals with taking storytelling into your family, workplace, schools, churches, campus and communities.
Not talking about the real issues
Black and white South Africans are not talking to each other about the real issues on the ground. They are becoming more and more frustrated as a number of desperate radical politicians kick us around like a racial rugby ball.
Max du Preez and FW de Klerk tell us that most whites are unaware of the road our black brothers and sisters had to travel from 1652 to 1994 and just don’t know how to start unpacking the past.
Blacks appear to think that whites are in denial and are reluctant to deal with the past or embrace the new South Africa.
Whites on the other hand, like RW Johnson, think that the current government has destroyed 14 sectors of our economy. My problem is why people get confused and paint all black people as if the belong to the same party.
A storytelling revolution
The NM Bay Church Leadership have decided to partner with Heartlines in launching a “storytelling revolution”. The objective is to invite three million South Africans to start sharing their stories.
White and black folk don’t appear to know what to say to each other. The “What’s your story” approach gets people talking to each other. It is the old story about you know my name but you don’t know my story.
Carmel gave us an opportunity to listen to each other, realign our beliefs to what others really think. We learnt that not everyone is looking for a handout but would rather that we walked side by side in tackling the pain of the past, present and possible future of inequality, unemployment and poverty.
The church leaders then focused on how best the church could play an effective role in the following five areas:
- Healing and reconciliation — healing the past, and engaging the challenge of gender, ethnicity and race;
- Restoration of the family fabric — facing up to the tattered family fabric which has been caused by the impact of transition of especially the African family life, in order to nestle a reconciled existence for future generations;
- The destruction of poverty and inequality, addressing the need to reverse poverty and inequality in order to reconcile the yearnings of marginalised poor people with the fortunes of the country;
- Economic transformation — dealing with the long-standing need for economic transformation and identifying the trade-offs necessary to address the fundamentals that result in a reconciled economic dispensation;
- Anchoring democracy where corruption, maladministration and the decline of trust in public institutions is interrogated to promote a transparent and functional democracy.
The Church should play a leading role
We are of the view that the Church either plays a leading role in facing these challenges, encourages all its members, wherever they find themselves in the workplace, to participate in being part of the solution, or some desperate politicians will continue to try and win election points by seeing who can be the most radical or who can kick the racism ball the hardest.
Let’s not leave everything in the hands of the radical politicians!
We invite you to join the “storytelling revolution” now! Let’s start healing our land by listening to each other’s stories. Many may be surprised that we have the same goals for ourselves, our children and our grandchildren. We need to “show” each other that we do care, we are prepared to walk together.