Blessed are the Peacemakers



South Africa is a very violent society. This is confirmed every day in the news. It follows that we are a violently traumatised people. This is confirmed by our hyper alertness and the high levels of fear and anxiety within so many of us. Rage and the threat of violence never seem far from the surface in SA. For our own sanity we block out large parts of this traumatising truth. We become numb by necessity. All this is so normalised that we are barely aware of it, yet ask anyone who has had an opportunity to travel outside of South Africa what they most enjoyed and without fail we hear: “It was just so good to walk around freely.”

Sometimes the constant high tide of violence feels like it surges even higher or perhaps we just seem to catch more of the headlines than usual or our own experience and the headlines collide. Like the person who was mugged two months ago. She told me she is so grateful that she was not physically harmed, yet her physical body begs to differ with her: she still cannot sleep through the night and all she wants to do is retreat into her house and never come out. For others their house is no place of safety at all as the statistics around GBV and domestic violence testify. Still others live with low intensity threats on their life every day, like the city fruit seller who must deal with threats of intimidation most mornings while setting up his stall. The threat is: “Let me help you set up your stall, or else…” Just take a moment to mull that over in your mind…

While Martin Luther King jr said: “A riot is the language of the unheard”, violence seems to be the 12th official language of South Africa with just about everyone fluent in it and if not fluent then at least schooled in it Whether it be a university student or a health care worker on strike or a member of the police the message is the same: “Violence is the only language they understand.” Or “Unless something burns no one will take notice.” Even though we have all seen the horrors of violence play out we keep returning to it again and again asking it to be our saviour.

Some argue violence is only a ‘last resort’ but the last soon becomes the first resort. Take for example the horror of a fortnight ago, when Four electricians were killed by Ekurhuleni residents while trying to restore power to their suburb. The community thought they were copper-cable thieves, as if that would have justified their mob murder. Again, mull this over for a moment… How do the families of the killed ever heal from this? And how does the community responsible ever process this?

The most pervasive crime and violence in our country is not actually named crime and violence, and yet this is exactly what poverty is, especially poverty in the presence of wealth. The violence of poverty differs from gun violence in the number of fingers on the trigger. Instead of one finger on the trigger there are many hands on many levers over much time, but the result is the same: death. Poverty is not a natural phenomenon. It is systemically designed. Take the story from two weeks ago: Girl, 4 found dead in pit toilet in Eastern Cape. See how poverty and the neglect of care kills? This particular form of violence repeats itself even though a very simple solution exists:

News24 has reported that, according to the 2021 National Education Infrastructure Management System report, more than 1400 schools in the Eastern Cape had pit toilets. Over the last decade, a number of children have died in pit toilets. In December, the body of a three-year-old boy was found in a pit toilet in a village outside Vuwani in Limpopo. In 2018, a five-year-old girl died after falling into a pit toilet at Luna Primary School in Bizana in the Eastern Cape. In 2014, Grade R pupil Michael Komape died at Mahlodumela Primary School in Limpopo after he fell into a pit toilet.

What we call “service delivery protests” are in fact cries for the means of life. When these means of life are withheld people die. This is violence. This is crime. Poverty is a primary form of violence that is not recognised as violence, yet it begets violence that is recognised as violence.

This cycle of violence is so clearly portrayed in the work of Anthony Collins. He suggests we turn the problem on its head and ask what we should do if we actually wanted to create a violent society. Presented this way, Collins shows that some key suggestions are easily identified:

  1. Teach children violence through observation and personal experience.
  2. Expose the young and vulnerable to overwhelming distressing emotions without appropriate emotional support, so that they develop unstable emotional defenses.
  3. Expose people to stressful situations that they are unable to manage.
  4. Maintain many types of inequality.
  5. Withhold the provision of non-violent skills for resolving conflict and stress.
  6. Normalise violence by maintaining socially acceptable forms of it, and forms that are legitimated by social authorities.


Jesus says: “Blessed are the peacemakers”. Now we know what peace-making means. It means we must address these 6 ingredients of violence.

In grace,



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betrayal | resistance


The betrayal | resistance exhibition will be open today after the service.
You too will be able to write your own Yellow Banner.



As a nation how many times do we need to be reminded that:

  1. A society is as healthy and educated and secure as the most marginalised and vulnerable of the society.
  2. The truth will be revealed. That no amount of oppressive censorship and violent intimidation is able to keep a lid on the truth eternally.
  3. Corruption collapses on itself. That anything built on injustice and inequality has within it the seeds of its own destruction.
  4. Denial delays healing. Denial of lesson 1-3 leads to sickness and possible death.


For the biblical prophets these lessons were the Law. The Law of the Lord. According to the prophets the Law of the Lord was as firmly fixed as any law of nature. Therefore, to reject them would be as futile and as reckless as rejecting the law of gravity. The prophets would constantly remind the powers that be and society at large that these Laws are not negotiable. A government decree cannot make them cease to exist. Even if everyone decides that these Laws don’t apply, they do not disappear. They remain active. If we transgress them we will find out the hard way. We may find out after three days when the stone is rolled away or after forty years of wandering through a desert, but the point is we will find out. And here is another Law. The longer it takes for us to find out that no society is exempt from these Laws the more extensive our destruction will be.

As a result of our Apartheid past one would think that we would have learnt these lessons once and for all but sadly it seems every new crop of people in power must to learn them for themselves.

In the last number of years and even in the last few weeks we have seen these Laws apply:

  • State-Capture as a whole and the Zondo Commission of Inquiry is the overarching example of this;
  • Mafia-like cartels fleecing State owned entities slowly coming to light;
  • Bullying by management in an institution of higher learning and assassinations in another institution of higher learning;
  • A tourism board into English league soccer;
  • A JSC listed International Holdings company that is more like a Ponzi scheme than business now bankrupted;
  • An individual flipping a housing estate with government partnership for millions in profit;
  • The LOTTO board mansions;
  • PRASA derailment of Metrorail, etc. etc.


In each case marginalised and vulnerable people have been left more marginalised and vulnerable while a tiny number of people have become filthy rich. But the truth always stretches towards the light of day. Sure it does not do this on its own. It takes convicted and courageous people to draw open the curtains – even just a crack – to let a slither of light in to pierce the darkness. And soon the flow of truth is unstoppable.

The first reaction by the powers and benefactors of the corruption is to accuse the truth-tellers of wrongdoing. To huff and puff. To fire, dismiss, and intimidate and sometimes even assassinate. Their denialism and violent reaction eventually is their undoing – exposing themselves to be exactly who the whistle-blowers said they were.

When it comes to holding onto the truth, investigative journalists in SA are like a dog with a bone. They simply do not let it go. We owe so, so much to these journalists. By joining the dots of the corruption they help us as a nation to short circuit our denialism, and lessen the time we live with the lie which in turn limits our own self-destruction.

Jesus said: “…Nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be proclaimed from the housetops.” [Luke 12:2-3].

For this reason regardless of the steep headwinds of resistance that whistle-blowers and journalists face in the field, the wind of the Spirit of Truth is always at their back. And this ultimately makes the difference. Truth alone is able to carve out a free future.

With grace,

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betrayal | resistance


On the cover of this bulletin is my colleague Leon Klein’s prayer (as best I remember it) that he prayed at the beginning of our District gathering two weeks back. I invite you to adopt it as your own Lenten prayer this year. As I mentioned on Ash Wednesday, what makes Leon’s words so powerful for me is that he prays as one recovering from long COVID. His unprepared prayer was spoken slowly – by one who has had to literally teach himself to speak again. He has also taught himself to walk again. So, from one who has lost so much control of movement and independence over the past 2 years, to be praying for the ability to “sacrifice our comfort, need for predictability and control” is nothing short of remarkable. As we make Leon’s words our own this Lent, may we embody his humble and courageous spirit.

This coming Thursday in the gallery on the corner of Church and Burg Streets we will be exhibiting CMM’s Yellow Banners. The exhibition is called betrayal | resistance.

The exhibition makes three things clear: the betrayal by the powers – the resistance of the people and how these issues are sadly as relevant today as they were when they were first raised. I hope you will attend on Thursday.

Grace, Alan


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