1 September 2018
To the Laos - To the People of God - Church must be in the forefront over land reform
Dear People of God
The debate over land reform in South Africa came to mind on a trip to Chile recently, where I represented the Archbishop of Canterbury on an Anglican Communion delegation investigating whether to recognise the church in that country as the 40th Province of the Communion.
The Diocese of Chile has for nearly 40 years been part of the Anglican Church of South America, a single Province which covers the whole continent. Now the church in Chile wants to establish four dioceses in place of one, and to form its own Province. While we were in the country, members of the delegation split up into groups to travel to different regions, and I found myself visiting an area in which the Mapuche people – who constitute Chile’s largest indigenous ethnic group – are well represented in the church. Just as in our Province, since the 19th century the church has helped to bring education as well as make converts, and there is as a result respect for Anglicans in Chile. But also as in South Africa, the Mapuche feel to some extent that in the process they lost their language and their land. So, many years later, they are now fighting to reclaim both the language and the land.
At home, we have faced criticism that the church has been quiet in the debate that has been raging over restoring the land to its original owners since the ANC adopted a resolution last year allowing for expropriation without compensation. But I want to highlight the fact that long before the land issue became a buzzword in society, it has been addressed in at least some parts of our church. The example with which I am most familiar is that in the Diocese of Grahamstown, where as a token of our commitment to reconciliation we have given two sizeable pieces of church land to communities, one at St. John’s, Bolotwa, near Komani (Queenstown), and the other at St Luke’s, Nxarhuni, near East London. In conjunction with the relevant government departments and with descendants of the traditional leaders who made the land available to us, we negotiated to place it in the hands of trusts with the aim of benefitting local people, whether in agricultural or other projects.
At a time in South Africa when tensions are building over how we control and manage the land, my call is for parishes and dioceses of our church to be in the forefront of the dialogue over land reform. Right now there are many criticisms of how the State is or will be conducting the land reform process: for example, that greedy farmers are trying to extract too much money from the State in compensation for their land; that traditional leaders are trying to seize control of the land and dispose of it in their own financial interests; that politically-connected individuals will be allocated tracts at the expense of the poor; and others. The church can bring a different approach to land reform. In some rural parts of our Province, we have tracts of land, some given by chiefs, some bought and some inherited because of who we are. Now we want to be a source in our communities which says that, yes, we may have been granted this land legitimately and have looked after it over many years, but now in the interests of reconciliation, let’s talk and work out how best we build the future together. We can influence the process to ensure that land is kept in the hands of community trusts, run for the benefit of all and with particular concern for the poorest of the poor. We can include a provision – as happened in the Diocese of Grahamstown – that if those who take over the land fail to use it properly, it will revert to the control of the church.
The church can bring a different lens through which to focus on the land issue. We can infuse a debate otherwise being pursued for political and commercial gain with the values of the Gospel: values of sharing, reconciliation and healing.
God bless you as we chart our course through this difficult time in our history.
+Thabo Cape Town
by Annemarie Paulin-Campbell
The Grand Jury Report on clergy sex abuse in Pennsylvania was recently released. It details horrific abuse by 300 priests of at least 1000 victims. It exposes an entrenched culture of covering-up such abuse by Church authorities.
These revelations have rightly evoked angry responses globally. Clergy sexual abuse is one of the most psychologically and spiritually destructive things a person can ever experience.
Pope Francis wrote a strongly worded letter to the whole Catholic Church expressing shame and sorrow. He said that no effort should “be spared to create a culture able to prevent such situations from happening.”
However, he says little about what concrete things will be done to change the Church.
This is a Kairos moment for the Church. The time for band-aid approaches is over. Unless we swiftly address the systemic issues that have given rise to such atrocities, we cannot move forward with integrity. The blame-game and scapegoating of some groups must stop. We face a deeply rooted institutional crisis at the heart of Catholicism.
First and foremost, among the issues needing urgent attention, is clericalism and the abuse of power. Pope Francis says: “To say “no” to abuse is to say an emphatic “no” to clericalism.” Priests are part of the community of baptised believers, called by God to pastoral care and service. There are many dedicated priests who are men of integrity; they too are appalled and deeply distressed by the situation. It is when power, status and privilege distort God’s call that terrible things happen. Unfortunately, lay people were taught to put inordinate and uncritical trust in priests, further exacerbating the situation.
The conflation of ordination with decision-making power in the Church is a key problem. Priesthood needs a servant-leadership approach.
We need to rethink making celibacy a pre-requisite for priests. It is a particular call and gift of its own. By linking it with the priesthood, we place unnecessary pressures on those who may have a genuine call to the priesthood but not to celibacy.
The issue of women’s inclusion in decision-making and ministry also needs attention. In addition to the abuse of children, the abuse of women (especially women religious which too has been in the media recently) is, in part, the result of power exercised over them by priests. Women, therefore, are disempowered.
Seminary formation is a key concern. Priests are trained away from the realities of life; they are told they are “set apart” and even dress up to further entrench this. Many start their training immediately after school. They may never have had the experience of adult life in an ordinary context. The psycho-sexual development of students should be a critical part of their formation; currently it is inadequate.
Bishops need to be held accountable. Apart from following protocols, they must ensure that complaints against priests are properly dealt with by civil authorities. We need to expunge the medieval prince-bishop model we still emulate and reject the pomp and ceremony around bishops. They must be shepherds. Lay people must have significantly more say in the running of the Church on all levels.
We must confront this horrific evil head-on. Prayerfully. Discerningly. Courageously. We owe it to those who have been so grievously hurt and to the future generations. Enough is enough. SA.
Southern Africa is a water scarce region. However there are certain factors that make the situation more serious and thus very vulnerable to any chance in climate that affects rainfall.
Rainfall: On average rainfall is low, however this is made worse by geographical factors and high levels of evaporation. Only 10% of rainfall eventually ends up in rivers. In Europe 35% of rainfall ends up in rivers and in USA 45%.
Urban Centres: Most urban centres in Southern Africa were built for mines (eg Johannesburg, Pretoria, Windhoek, Harare). They are situated close to major watershed divides (so the water flows away from the city). This is very different from the rest of the world, where most major centres of development are located on rivers, lakes or the seashore. These centres are far from groundwater and are dependent on dams and pipelines. Water often needs to be transferred from one water “basin” to another.
Sewage: These major centres of development are located upstream of their water storage infrastructure, or crudely put, their sewage flows naturally into their drinking and industrial process-water. We have reached the point where our developmental demands are outstripping our capacity to supply water at the necessary quality.
Industrial water pollution: Historically it is not water scarcity that has threatened major irrigation-based civilizations, but rather a salts build-up. The critical risk that needs to be managed is the build-up of salts, nutrients, heavy-metals, endocrine disruptors, carcinogens and radioactivity in rivers arising from the unregulated use of that water for industrial activities such as mining, industry and commercial farming.
Unregulated mine closures: Mine closure is associated with uncontrolled flow of water from the mine void. This water is highly contaminated, with a low pH (acidic) and a high sulphate content, also containing a complex cocktail of heavy metals and radionuclides. This is known as Acid Mine Drainage.
Urbanization and Population Growth: Infrastructure investment in dams and pipes is being outstripped by demand, or is stunted as a result of insufficient investment in maintenance.
Dr Anthony Turton: the State of Water in Southern Africa.
My name is Barnabas Sibusiso Nqindi, rector of St Barnabas-Bluff. I enjoy a good debate and I love to see people grow in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ