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Apartheid Tests the Soul of the Just

October 01, 1987|SELWYN GROSS | Father Selwyn Gross, OP, writes from the Dominican House of Studies, Blackfriars, at Oxford.

OXFORD, England — What it is that constitutes a Christian (or, for that matter, a Muslim, Jewish or Hindu) perspective on, and approach to, the future of South Africa is a live question for many South Africans. A large number of South Africans are devoutly religious; most are black, and all are affected by the untrammeled violence of apartheid, which mauls the oppressed and brutalizes the oppressor.

Many of those whose mass mobilization against the regime constitutes the greatest challenge ever mounted against apartheid are people in whose life religious aspirations and the struggle for freedom form a seamless whole. I am one of these. As a South African, as a Jew steeped in the tragic history of my people, as a Christian and as a priest of the Dominican Order of Preachers, committed to the active propagation of the Christian gospel of justice and love, my Christian faith and the struggle against apartheid and for justice in South Africa are inseparable.

As a South African, I am committed to the future of my Motherland.

As a Jew, with the specter of the Holocaust ever before me, I have learned the necessity for struggling against racism wherever it rears its ugly head. I am also bound to remember that the leaders of the Afrikaner nationalism that now oppresses my sisters and brothers at home gave support--often overt, sometimes passive--to the Nazis during the war, and that there are close affinities between the ideological traditions of Nazism and apartheid.

As a Christian, I am committed to radical equality in the sight of God--equality that brooks no difference in civil standing based on race or sex and abides no significant economic inequities or class oppression; in this respect "there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female."

My vocation of preaching commits me to active participation in the struggle of the vast majority of my compatriots against the conspicuous injustice that is apartheid and for a just social order in our country. Like many other religious South Africans, I am an active member of the African National Congress, the leading organization in our struggle. In common with all ANC members, I support the Freedom Charter, which, alone among all programs now floated in South Africa, enjoys overwhelming popular support and is fully consonant with the demands of Christian love.

Partition of South Africa along racial lines, cosmetic reforms of the regime, the proposal for a set of racial checks, balances and "group rights" advocated in the discussions between Zulu and white politicians, which would do no more than consolidate racial categories, interests and antagonisms--these are just some of the programs tossed about by various unrepresentative groups in South Africa at the moment. All shy away from the unitary, staunchly non-racial democracy that both popular aspirations and Christian love demand.

The Freedom Charter, by contrast, takes up these demands. Adopted in 1955 by the most representative gathering ever held in the history of our country, it has become a basic part of the culture, both political and general, of the majority of our people. Its demands are taken up in popular songs and literature; it informs the perspective of the largest legal mass organization in South Africa today, the United Democratic Front, and it has been adopted by the Congress of South African Trade Unions. Its radically egalitarian vision, opposed to any and all forms of racism, its assertion that there is a place in South Africa for all who live in it, black and white, is the only vision of our future that offers real hope of peace and justice in our land. It is the commitment to this vision of the forces of liberation in our land, whose vanguard is the ANC, that constitutes the best guarantee for our country's secure and just future.

The African National Congress mirrors the South Africa that it struggles to build. Its membership and leadership reflect the full diversity and wealth of experience of the South African people. African, Indian, colored and white; Afrikaans-speaking and non-Afrikaans-speaking; chiefs, Christians and Communists; Muslims, Jews and Hindus--all part of the rich fabric of our movement, and all united by a common commitment to struggle for the realization of the Freedom Charter in our land. All have attested to the firmness of this commitment by countless sacrifices made and hardship endured even to the point of death.

This unity of purpose has been tried and tested time and again in the course of the struggle; it always has resisted, and will continue to resist, all attempts by our enemies to dissolve it. In it, at the end of the day, is the greatest hope for our country's future, for it is our movement's "unity in diversity" that now gives physical expression to the vision of the Freedom Charter and bears in embryo the equality, justice, freedom, peace and unity that our people so desire and our country so badly needs.

Christians and non-Christians everywhere are conscience-bound to agree with our aspirations, respond to the call that we make and confound the efforts of those who would give succor to our enemies and to the oppressors of our people. Support our struggle, heed our call to isolate apartheid South Africa, so that justice may more speedily be restored to our land.

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