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,



Psalm 32

Psalm 32

Blessed is each one whose wrongdoings
have been forgiven,
whose shame has been forgotten.
Blessed is each one in whom Love Divine
finds a home,
and whose spirit radiates truth.

When I acknowledged not my shortcomings,
I became ill through all my defences.
And day and night, guilt weighed heavy in my heart;
My spirit became dry as desert bones.

I admitted my faults to the Most High,
and I made known my regret;
I cried out, “Forgive me, O Comforter,
for those times I have sinned in
my thoughts, my words, and my deeds;”
And the Beloved created a clean heart within me.

Therefore, let everyone who is sincere
give thanks to the Beloved;
For whenever we feel overwhelmed by fear,
we shall be embraced by Love.
Dwelling in the heart of the Beloved;
we are free from distress,
free to live more creatively.

O my Beloved, you are my guide and my teacher;
Be watchful of me, give me your counsel.
I pray for the gifts of inner peace and wisdom,
For the gift of reverence for life.

Many are the heartaches of those
separated from Love;
Steadfast love abides with those
who surrender their lives into
the hands of the Beloved.
Be glad and rejoice, all you
who walk along the path of truth!
And shout for joy, all you upright of heart!

~ Nan C. Merrill, Psalms for Praying

Be Salt & Be Light

Grace and peace to you and through you

I am sure you have been called many names in your life. Some you would probably prefer not to remember, while others you hang onto for dear life as they anchor your depths. Well, I want to remind you of an occasion when Jesus called you two names. Jesus said you are “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world” {Matthew 5:13-20}. Pause a moment to absorb the amazing affirmation and responsibility of these names. First, you are the salt of the earth. Jesus calls and trusts you to bring flavour to the world – his flavour of gentleness and justice. As salt you don’t do everything but you make everything you mix with more tasty. Yes you are tiny, yet your power is not connected to your size, but rather how willing you are to lose yourself for the sake of the whole – for the sake of the common pot – the common good.

In a world where power loves to be “on show” your power is only released and experienced to the extent that it is hidden. You know not to stand out. You are called to humbly hide. You spoil the taste when you can be seen shining on the surface, but you exquisitely enrich the taste when no one can see you. You are called to make that which surrounds you flourish with flavour. There is no limit to what you can achieve for good if you are willing not to take credit for it.

Second, you are the light of the world. At first this may sound like it contradicts the non-attention seeking salt, but think about it: who ever turns on a light in order to stare at the light? To do so is pointless because to stare at the light makes one blind. We turn on the light not to see the light but to see what the light reveals. Light is not the creator of what is but rather the revealer of what is. You are the light of the world says Jesus and as light the focus is not on you but on what you enable others to see because of you. True light, unlike the limelight, deflects attention rather than seeks it. Some things can only grow in the light while other things cannot survive in the light. What grows and what dies in our presence is a question worth carrying.

Now just to spin things around for a moment, the psalmist reminds us that “the darkness is as light to you O God” {Ps 139} and the prophet Isaiah states ‘I will give you treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places that you may know that I am the Lord…” {Isa 43:3}. So as we wrestle with what it means to be called the salt of the earth and the light of the world we do so not on a crusade to extinguish all darkness but with an inquisitive spirit open to discover the treasures of darkness. To help us do this here is a poem by David Whyte:

Sweet Darkness

When your eyes are tired
the world is tired also.

When your vision has gone,
no part of the world can find you.

Time to go into the dark
where the night has eyes
to recognize its own.

There you can be sure
you are not beyond love.

The dark will be your home tonight.

The night will give you a horizon
further than you can see.

You must learn one thing.
The world was made to be free in.

Give up all the other worlds
except the one to which you belong.

Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness to learn

anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive

is too small for you.

Grace, Alan

Coming Home

Seven Degrees of Separation

What does it mean to come home? Literally, for me, it means walking across the street to the Market House building and riding the elevator to the seventh floor. Yet, the question is deeper than the logistics of my steps. Living where I live is a wonderful gift and a privilege that keeps my mind awhirl with questions. So many around me in the world do not sleep in their own room, nor do they have the luxury of living alone. My flat is small, but it is also more than I need. There are seven degrees of separation between myself and so many in this world. Coming home, I have learned, is what I do when I ride the elevator down and walk out and see the world for what it really is. It is a home we are called to share in beloved community.

How amazing is Table Mountain? How alive is the sea here? There are trees that demonstrate the notion of resting under the shadow of so brilliantly. These truths can draw from us a common united sigh in our recognition of God’s handiwork. Yet, please don’t invite a move closer to the ground to see the beauty in the others that live under our feet. I wish the answer to coming home to beloved community were as easy as where we live. It makes a difference where we locate ourselves, but it is not as easy as moving from the seventh floor to the first. I wish it were. Privilege is a tricky thing. It is not something we can erase. We can shed it a bit at a time, but the more privileged you are, the more access you have to always return.

Jesus was questioned about who he shared meals with, who he spent time with, and he was known to always be on the move. So, coming home for Jesus was a weaving sort of thing. His heart was always with those who live closer to the bottom floor, the poor. His voice shook the halls of places where the powerful make their beds. His presence was for all. Jesus’ life was about weaving together a people into beloved community. We find our way home when we learn to truly live into the privilege of our humanity. What a gift it is to be full of breath, life, and the gift of opportunity to live life in ways that begin to erase the seven degrees and create circles where our eyes truly see the others in God’s community. Coming home is when we learn to live God’s dream as if it were the very air we breathe.

Desmond Tutu shared this in his book God’s Dream, “I have a dream God said. Please help me to realize it. It is a dream of a world whose ugliness, squalor, and poverty, its war and hostility, its greed and harsh competitiveness, its alienation and disharmony are changed into the glorious counterparts, where there will be more laughter, joy and peace, where there will be more justice, goodness, compassion and love and caring and sharing. I have a dream that swords will be beaten into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks, that my children will know that they are members of one family, the human family, God’s family. My family.” The view from the seventh floor is stunning, but life on the ground, it is where we learn how to come home to God’s dream.

With you on the journey,