I once was attending a conference whose main purpose was to address issues of culture, religion and language. A diverse group from various parts of South Africa got assembled up in Gauteng to come and make and receive input regarding these important and sometimes emotive issues. Over 500 delegates attended and all of us got transported, accommodated and fed because of the generosity of you, the taxpayer.
An impressive panel of experts with an equally impressive array of titles took turns educating us about the need to preserve and respect the diversity that this country offers. At some point we were broken up into different tracts depending on our interests and then later reported back to the plenary. Well that is how most conferences go, you are probably saying. Yes, but something interesting happened here.
You see, in this conference there were delegates from every imaginable religion, belief, ideology, culture and tribe and there were sadly, less than 20 Christians. We, on your behalf of course, got some beating here. Apparently you and I, or perhaps those who brought Christianity to these shores, are responsible for the decimation of indigenous traditions and belief systems. So it was that in the plenary a resolution was taken that a TRC kind of a process must be established wherein Christians must come and apologize for the evils they have done in this country. Apparently the real reason why some cultures, religions and languages were no longer so prominent is because of Christianity.
You are probably wondering now what then did we, the few Christians here, have to say to about this assertion. I have already indicated that the issues under scrutiny in this conference are emotive issues. Did I also mention the fact that we were outnumbered? Let me make it clearer for you. The delegation from the Eastern was 13 individuals. Two were Christians, two were language practitioners and the rest were traditional healers, sangomas and the like. We all used one bus from our hotel to the conference venue and the traditionalists unashamedly plotted together on how they planned to attack Christianity in this conference. They also sang songs that are derogatory to us and our way of belieing. We felt besieged.
They were vocal about their position and distributed themselves to all the tracts to make sure that they all adopted the same resolution. We were told that resolutions from this conference would be passed to the Minister of Arts and Culture so that the government could take a formal position on these issues. When the plenary adopted the resolution, among others, for a formulation of this Truth and Reconciliation Commission I mustered strength to indicate that I had something to say.
I was in the presence of learned and experienced individuals here. I told this conference that we must not have a selective interpretation of history. I reminded the delegates that if our way of belief is to apologize for its evils, so should other religions and beliefs. I reminded them that the TRC was set up so that everyone would own up to their errors. I reminded them that the African way of belief is responsible for the reprehensible practice of patriarchy and that other religions are responsible for such things as slavery, etc.
I told them that in this proposed TRC process, Christianity should receive recognition for its contribution to health, education, agriculture, etc. You see, dear reader the Christianity I know is responsible for the building of hospitals, educational institutions, and is also responsible for the abolition of slavery and other social ills. Church history shows us that we made some mistkes but it also shows us that we have made some good. After all, we invented the printing press, the airplane, nursing profession, etc.This is our heritage but what are we responsible for today? On Monday (July 18) during Mandela Day you will have an opportunity to spend 67 minutes doing some good for others. Do something.