In the Wake of a Miracle: Being 'Real Christians' in the Post-Apartheid Era

Article excerpt

The South African church was brought to its knees in the months leading up to the country's first democratic elections in 1994, when the African National Congress won an overwhelming victory and Nelson Mandela became the first black president.

There were calls for repentance and forgiveness. There was crying out for God to protect the nation from civil war. Tensions between the ANC and the Inkatha Freedom Party reached overwhelming proportions. Right wingers threatened to cause major disturbances--the stage was set for bloodshed, and the church (including the previously sleeping limbs of the body of Christ) was awakened to fervent prayer. The world watched as millions of South Africans stood patiently in unbelievably long queues to cast their vote, then trickled back to their homes and communities to celebrate. Even the secular press called it a miracle.

Recently, rumblings in interdenominational leadership circles highlight the concern that the church may be growing apathetic because the struggle against apartheid is over and even the rocky transition to democracy has been accomplished. Apartheid's aftermath is the evil the nation now faces, and the church's role in the next steps toward real freedom is crucial.

When more than 4,000 Christian leaders met in Pretoria in July, their core message was "being real Christians in the real South Africa." The last time a similar gathering was held, during the apartheid years, special permission had to be granted by the prime minister for black and white people to travel in the same buses and stay in the same hotels.

The South African Christian Leadership Assembly is the joint vision of Methodist Bishop Mvume Dandala, president of the South African Council of Churches, and Michael Cassidy, founder of African Enterprise, an organization committed to transformation in Africa. The gathering was a call for the church to join together in tackling the giants facing our nation, including HIV/AIDS, crime, poverty and unemployment, families in crisis, violence, racism, and sexism.

IT WAS NOT a meeting taken lightly by the secular media, nor the presidential office. In the midst of other issues of national significance, including George W. …