Justice and the gospel probed at Cape Town conference

Afrika Mhlophe newThe Justice Conference in Cape Town last weekend challenged young Christians to address tough and uncomfortable issues in South African society. Pastor, author, columnist  and Gateway News board chairman Afrika Mhlophe shares one of three perspectives we publish on this first-of-its kind conference in SA.

I just came back from attending the Justice Conference South Africa which was held in Cape Town on March 17 and 18 2017.

This was an event that brought together people from all over the country and various other parts of the globe to look at how justice intersects with the gospel.

The Justice Conference is a movement designed to educate and equip people to live justly. It seeks to show that justice is more than a mission but a theological imperative.

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This movement was started in Oregon, USA and it gathers events in cities around the world to highlight specific and relevant justice issues while providing on-ramps for Christians to that something with that knowledge.

In Cape Town, we gathered at His People N1 City and listened to theologians, academics, student activists, development practitioners, entrepreneurs, policy advocates, and those in the field of creative arts.

The audience of 1 000 or so people were a diverse group that represented streams of the Christian community. Together they listened to speakers answer the following questions:

  • What’s Jesus got to do with justice?
  • What does it mean to be a just person in South Africa?
  • Why is the gospel good news and what’s the global story?
  • What are some of the theologies which have rooted and maintained injustice?
  • How then shall we live?

We also divided into electives that looked at issues such as land, decolonization, identity, contextual theology, economic justice, etc.

Afrika Mhlophe (third from right) participates in a panel at the Justice Conference.

I made a small input in two electives. The first one dealt with the subject ‘Black Jesus/White Jesus’ which was an attempt to demystify the racial identities we have created around Jesus. The other elective was about ‘Navigating the Deep Waters of Identity in South Africa’ where five other contributors and I dealt with issues of cultural identities and stereotypes we have of each other.

The Church in South Africa is part of a racially polarised nation but often skids around discussions about race and racial identities. When it comes to racial issues, we seem to follow the mantra that says “see no evil, hear no evil”.

The issue of race
In the Justice Conference we avoided avoiding the issue of race and its impact on justice. We had a cringe-worthy moment where we listened to a talk about the lack of proper sanitation in some parts of Cape Town.

The speakers avoided euphemistic language as they talked about all issues related to toilets and the difficult choices that many people have to make when they need to relieve themselves.

Rene August opened the conference by telling us that what a person sees is not what he’s looking at but what he’s looking with. In other words, we all have certain eyes through which we look at the world, and it is these eyes that determine what we see.

Indeed, our prejudices and preconceptions are the biggest stumbling block in us seeing the world from God’s vantage point. And this accounts for our inadequate response to the cries of the most vulnerable among us.

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