Due to the current situation there will NOT be a service on Sunday 5 January. Please keep all in prayer. Peace, Alan
Thank you for your continued love and care.
We are grateful that all the bodies of those who drowned have been recovered, but the anxious waiting has added to the trauma of the deaths themselves. The refugees staying in and around the church are in great grief. Please continue to hold those closest to the pain in your hearts.
The three remaining funerals may take place on Saturday morning – although this has not yet been confirmed. I have suggested to members of the public who have called to offer assistance to contact the leaders of the refugee group directly. For the sake of clarity please note that the Church is not involved in any financial collections for the refugees.
This morning I was told again by the leaders that they are planning to vacate next week Tuesday to Thursday. I do not know any further details. I can only hope that this will indeed take place for the sake of all involved. Things cannot continue as they have been. People are stressed and exhausted especially the families with young children and especially now after the death of four young people among the community.
The 1st December is the first Sunday of Advent. Advent reminds us of the promise of Jesus’ light-filled presence in the world. The Light that says to the darkness “I beg to differ with you”. The Light that guides us to new Life. We will light the first of four Advent candles in confidence and hope that the Light of Jesus will deepen our living in Truth and Love. May we be given eyes to recognise the Light of Jesus within all.
Alan’s interview with John Maytham (CapeTalk 567) yesterday afternoon 27 November 2019.
2019 11 27 Podcast of today’s interview with John Maytham of CapeTalk 567.
By now you would have heard the tragic news that on Sunday four young people from the refugee community staying in and around the church drowned in the sea (Sea Point area). As of now only three bodies have been recovered from the ocean. The one funeral is taking place today from the Mosque and the others we are trying to arrange for Thursday from the church.
The level of trauma this has caused is beyond description – especially for the families and group of young people (15-20 year olds) who witnessed the drowning. I ask you to hold them in your hearts.
In these times that make each of us feel so helpless – we pray and sing our faith – as we have done since the news. We hug and we hold and we give each other space.
The temptation is always to find someone to blame and when it is not obvious who to blame we may be tempted to lump it onto God – saying things like: “It must be God’s will”. The sentiment behind these words is well meaning, but it paints a false picture of God. If they were true, then God is more cruel than kind! And we should have nothing to do with such a god. From a Christian perspective we believe that God is Christ-like. This means that if we cannot imagine Jesus doing something – then it does not apply to God. Jesus is our God-template. Jesus – the lover of all – would never drown anyone – therefore we can say with confidence that neither would God. Jesus does not cause suffering and neither does God. Rather, Jesus suffers with us and so does God.
In meeting with the leaders of the refugees today they have undertaken to vacate the church next week – between Tuesday and Thursday. This has come directly from the leaders and not via the media. (We engage each other directly and not through the media.) Let us hope that they are able to find a way forward within the time frame they have stated for the reasons that I have shared with you over the past 4 weeks.
Discussions between the leadership of the refugees and the South African Human Rights Commission are ongoing. We must all continue to hope that they provide a way forward as soon as possible. I remind you that I am not part of these discussions.
I have received a number of complaints from business people and traders in the area. Business and trade are suffering. This is concerning especially in the present economic climate and tourist season.
I am therefore putting in writing what I have repeatedly discussed with the leaders of the refugees:
From the beginning the Church’s priority was the safety of people. That is why I tried to get children into the church during the police action on the 30th October 2019.
I have stated from the 30th October 2019 that staying in the church is temporary. Since then I have repeatedly said that the safe space the church is providing is no longer safe. Therefore, I have asked everyone to vacate the church. The reasons for this include:
Continued Fire Risk: The City of Cape Town issued the Church with a NOTICE TO COMPLY on the 19th November. The basis of this notice is that the usage of the building has converted from church to residential usage. This is against the law. In other words, the Church is now in contravention of the law and therefore we would be completely liable should any disaster take place. This is unacceptable. Yet until people leave, I continue to repeat:
i. All people and belongings to be moved from the designated exits and escape doors at all times. This must happen with immediate effect.
ii. Passageways to be kept open at all times.
iii. No smoking, cooking or lighting of matches in the church.
iv. Make sure the plug points are not being overloaded by the boiling of kettles and the charging cell phones.
v. Make sure all the fire extinguishers are visible and easily accessible.
vi. Make sure no-one is sleeping on the landing area up the stairs.
vii. Inform people that cooking with open fires outside the church is not allowed.
Continued Health Risk: The City of Cape Town has reported the health risks in and around the Church.
i. The overcrowding contributes to the spread of diseases.
ii. If there is a sudden rush of people – children and babies may be crushed in a stampede.
iii. The limited toilets and bathroom facilities are totally inadequate for the large group of people.
iv. There is not enough fresh air circulating throughout the building.
v. They have also mentioned that cooking outside in close proximity to mattresses and blankets (fire risk) and rubbish bins as well as people urinating in and around the area in against the law.
Women and Children: The most vulnerable are our highest concern.
i. No men are allowed to sleep inside the church at night.
We hope for a speedy, just, respectful and peaceful resolution. We pray too that all hearts, including our own, do not harden, but ever remain open to the priceless worth of all involved.
This morning a group of us met with the refugees in the Church. The group included the South African Human Rights Commission, Africa Diaspora Forum, More than Peace, The Archbishop of Cape Town and a few Pastors to the refugee community.
The hope was to inform everyone of the discussions that had taken place over the last week that had been facilitated by the South African Human Rights Commission as well for me to request that people begin to vacate the Sanctuary.
The chair of the Human Rights Commission and myself were able to speak to everyone. But when one of the Pastors (known to the refugees) tried to speak – some people refused to allow him to do so and thereafter the Pastor and other members of the above-mentioned group were assaulted.
A semblance of calm was restored with the help of some refugee leaders and many of the refugees intervening to protect people. Thereafter we were able to get members of the group out of the sanctuary into safety. It is very concerning that three people of this group were injured while everyone else is obviously in shock.
The whole situation is very sad and troubling, not only because of where it took place or who was hurt, but because any violence anywhere against anyone is self-defeating. Violence does not solve anything. It just causes more hurt and more problems.
From my previous communications I reiterate our safety and health concerns and I’m continuing to request the refugees to vacate the church with dignity and peace. I call on the relevant agencies to give support.
I call all to be calm. To respect people – even the people who have done this. We will continue to talk. We will continue to expect the best from people. All of us have the ability to be patient and peaceful and I call on all of us to activate that ability now.
15 November 2019
The latest sermon:
The last few days have included many discussions regarding the refugees staying in and around CMM. These dialogues have been hosted and facilitated by the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC). They have included the leaders of the refugees at the church as well as a large number of other stakeholders including: UNHCR, Government: Department of Home Affairs, Premier’s Office, Department for Social Development, Department of Health, Police, and many civil society organisations intimately involved with refugee concerns. I am not personally involved in these discussions.
We must remember that though the problem of the present situation demands an urgent solution – it is itself a symptom of much larger and equally urgent problems. It is these systemic problems that must be urgently addressed for there to be a lasting solution for all refugees in South Africa and not only the people in and around CMM. So, it is a balancing act of dealing with both the immediate and the long-term issues.
I trust the people involved in the facilitation of these discussions and hope that a way forward will soon become clear.
My first hope is that the way forward will secure protection and justice for refugees across this country. In the very least, the treatment refugees receive from Home Affairs must improve drastically to become just and compassionate. Let every official at Home Affairs remember: “When a foreigner resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the foreigner. The foreigner who resides with you shall be to you as a citizen among you; you shall love the foreigner as yourself…” Leviticus 19: 33-34.
My second hope is that the way forward includes the vacating of CMM. There are a number of reasons for this, but please note it is not “so the church can get back to normal” as some people suggest. As church we exist to care for the vulnerable and persecuted. Caring is our normal. This does not mean we are setting up a shelter – we are not – everyone is aware that this is a temporary situation. A temporary situation that resulted from the violent dispersing of protesting refugees by the police.
The most important reason why the way forward must help people to vacate CMM is safety.
The risk of a fire in the sanctuary remains. Plainly put: if there is a fire, people will die. There are simply not enough exits for the amount of people inside the church to vacate fast enough. This is especially since so many of those inside the sanctuary are young children and babies. Furthermore, the pews act like crowd barricades making quick movement impossible. It is a dangerous situation, and people don’t think it will happen until it does! The City Fire Department did an inspection on the 12th November. No doubt we will hear from them soon – but one doesn’t need to work for the Fire Department to know what their instruction will be.
I also share the concern of the many traders in the area who are experiencing a loss in business, especially the traders on Greenmarket Square itself. This is another reason why a speedy solution be found. These are people who themselves can least afford any loss of trade.
Finally, thank you for your continued care and concern regarding those sheltering in and around CMM. Forgive us for not being able to give a neat list in response to your question: “what can I do to help?” Things are more complicated and nuanced than a list is able to capture. For example: There is a fine line between providing caring hospitality on the one hand and running the risk of setting up a “permanent shelter” on the other hand. Likewise, we need to respond to health care needs, yet at the same time avoid setting up a “clinic”. To this end, regarding health care – St John’s have been providing care at the Church while also enabling people to have easy access to a local government clinic. This access is made possible by the direct intervention of the District Six Community Day Care Centre and the Province’s Head of Community Health for which we are very grateful. In this way we don’t duplicate services already made available by the State. But as I have said, it is a fine line to walk.
13 November 2019
The latest sermon:
Grace and peace to you,
Thank you to all of you who have assisted over the last couple of days at CMM – making sure that the people who have sought refuge in the sanctuary since Wednesday 30th October have been cared for. (I am sure by now you have seen many of the reports – there are a few links below.) The wounded, injured, traumatised and sick have been attended to with respect and kindness.
CMM’s gratitude to the many individuals and a number of different organisations, both religious and civil society who have responded generously and thoughtfully. Gift of the Givers have been amazing. Health services have been coordinated and stabilised. CMM is grateful for the donations that people have made, enabling us to provide necessities.
But please note: Though we are grateful for the initial response of generosity we want to be clear that CMM is not asking for any donations and nor are we raising any money on behalf of anyone or any organisation. For the moment we have what we need due to the fact that the load is shared among a number of different organisations. We must also be careful not to be naïve “do-gooders” removing agency from people and creating unhelpful dependency. This can be a fine line to hold. As we offer solidarity and support, we must respect people enough to carry the struggles of their own lives.
As CMM we are also very clear that this is a temporary “safe place” and we hope and encourage all role players to seek a solution that will include vacating CMM. We are very aware that we are not the solution to this crisis. At best we offer a moment of calm in which we hope people can find one another to talk, listen and negotiate. As I said on Sunday, it takes courage to protest, but it also takes courage to negotiate. This is needed at all levels of this dispute. Refusing to talk and negotiate is never helpful.
Together with the leadership of CMM I am very concerned that though CMM may have been a safe place last Wednesday from the police violence – it is increasingly becoming unsafe, mainly due to the health risks naturally associated with an over-crowded and under-ventilated space – not to mention our complete lack of adequate toilet and bathroom facilities. The health risk is especially high among the young children, including many babies, as well as pregnant mothers. And of course fire risk is heightened by the over-crowding. For this reason, it has been clearly stated that no one is allowed to sleep in any of the upstairs areas of the sanctuary and there is strictly no cooking or smoking allowed inside the sanctuary at any time. It has also been repeatedly made clear that the doors of the Sanctuary on the Longmarket Street side must remain open at all times.
We are trying as best we can to listen carefully and respond thoughtfully to the many concerns and challenges. These matters are never simple. There are layers within layers being played out. We must be able to hold more than one truth at a time. In short, we need the gift of discernment to navigate it all.
Sunday services and all other church activities continue as usual. For the sake of people’s dignity, we ask again that you please do not take photographs or videos.
Thank you for your willingness to be on this journey as we seek to do to others as we would have them do to us.
6th November 2019
Evictions from the Waldorf Arcade
I recently participated in CMM’s Manna & Mercy course. It was an eyeopener. We learned new techniques to interpret the Bible, which included spending time understanding the context and asking more questions when we encounter things that we don’t understand. We learned to wear our Jesus lenses when reading the Bible. It gave love a whole new meaning. The perfection of God’s love is the choice not to love was a key sentence that stuck with me. In other words, true love can only happen when we have the choice not to love. Seeing God’s love in this way is very powerful and made me reflect on the parent-child relationship, which often lacks the choice not to love. Let me explain.
It is natural for us to think that children must love their parents. Parents are the ones that bring children into the world. They raise them, feed them, give significant financial resources, sacrifice time and other things. Furthermore, we grew up with the belief that the Bible told us in the ten commandments to ‘Honour your father and your mother’ which was used in particular by our parents and society when we misbehaved or seemed disrespectful.
Applying the newly learned Bible reading skills, we learned, that the commandments were written in the context of a vulnerable and traumatised society that was trying to protect in particular the vulnerable. It is therefore not helpful to think that honouring your parents refers to a little child (who is already more vulnerable than any adult) asking it to honour their parent. However, if this commandment relates instead to the adult-child and old-parent, it matches the context. It relates to the construct when parents get old and vulnerable and need the protection and support from their children. Seeing it in this light enables us to free the parent-child relationship from guilt and compulsive thankfulness.
On 2 November, we celebrated International Children’s Day, and I would like to encourage us to reflect on the burden parents and society put on children. Instead of liberating their love and enabling and empowering children to live in love, by love and for love – we put a compulsion into the parent/caregiver-child relationship. In most instances, children do love their parents. Even neglected or abused children love their parents. The obligation to love or not having the choice not to love often plays a part in why abused children find it difficult to be angry with their abuser parent. We should not be driven by our fear of losing the love of our children or becoming less important in their lives or fearing that after ‘all we did for them’ we get nothing back. We should rather have sleepless nights asking ourselves how do we teach them love that comes without expectation? How do we teach them the unconditional Jesus way of love? Surely not by filling our relationships with expectations and obligations. I know many people who in their adult life have challenging relationships with their parents. They might ‘get along’, but the relationships are marked by a lot of anger, hurt and misunderstandings. Let’s give the children generation of today a chance to learn free love by allowing them not to love us. Our children (biological or related) do not owe us anything. But we owe them the choice to love and not to love – enabling true and free love.
Thursday, 31 October is World Cities Day. By 2050, cities will be the ‘natural habitat’ for most of humanity, so how we build sustainable and inclusive places is important.
In SA, and particularly Cape Town, we have a dual challenge: not only do we need to plan innovatively for a better life for future generations of city-dwellers, we also need to redress the legacy of Apartheid cemented into our urban fabric.
Affordable housing in well-located areas is regarded as one of the keys to begin to undo this problem. However, cries for affordable housing close to the city is often met with the excuse that “there is no available land”. Yet on a little reflection it is easy to see that this is not true…
A report from the civil society organisation Ndifuna Ukwazi “City Leases” shows the lack of change is not for a lack of available land but rather that there is no political will to allocate public land for public good:
“We see golf courses on some of the best public land serving a few residents; parking lots that sit empty for sixteen hours of the day; bowling greens used once a week; and empty uncared for sports fields.
The City of Cape Town continues to lease well-located public land for next to nothing to private companies and associations. How is this use of land more important than a home? How is it prioritised over the rights of thousands of residents living in backyards and informal settlements? How can it stand in the way of bringing working-class people back into the areas from which they were violently evicted?
And yet, hundreds of leases of public land are renewed every year. These skewed priorities are being implemented, without thought, by city administrators and politicians.”
Golf courses must be the worst utilisation of inner-city land. Large, environmentally costly spaces reserved for use by a privileged few.
Similarly, inner city parking not only prioritises space for cars over people, but future generations will be aghast that we persisted for so long to let a major contributor to emissions dictate the shape of our city.
Even more distressing is the Philippi Horticultural Area, which provides up to 30% of Capetonians’ fresh vegetable and fruit, as well as livelihoods for many, is under threat to be rezoned for “development”. This is currently being challenged in the High Court.
Faced with the choice between recreation for a few vs. water and housing; carbon-dioxide-spewing cars vs. space for people; “development” vs. food and jobs, what would Jesus want?
As the prophets said: “They say that what is right is wrong and what is wrong is right; that black is white and white is black; bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter.” Isaiah 5:20.
To mark World Cities Day, and in recognition for the struggle for housing, land and environmental justice in our country, we hoist another Yellow Banner on the CMM Steeple on Thursday at 13h00.
See you then,
Grace to you
The Bible is a love story. A love story about the Great Lover of the Universe who is in love with every particle of life. A love story about those who carry the potential to love just as the Great Lover of the Universe loves, yet who sadly settle for substitutes that promise nourishment but leave us more hungry. A love story about the radical interconnection of all that is alive, reminding us that if one part suffers, then all parts will eventually suffer. Sadly this love story has been interpreted by some throughout the ages in ways that lead to the diminishment, destruction and death of Life, rather than the Great Lover’s hope of this story guiding us all to an abundance of Life in all its fullness.
Instead of affirming the sacredness of all of life, the Bible has been interpreted by some to proclaim the superiority of some aspects of life over others. Think of how some have turned to the scriptures to support the supremacy of “their group” over another: White people superior to black people. Men superior to women. Colonial nations superior to invaded nations. Straight people superior to LGBTI people. Healthy people are superior to people who are ill. Christians superior to people of other religions or no religion. The list could go on! In each case scripture is used to validate discrimination and bless the lie that some are superior and others are inferior, normally for the sake of securing unjust privilege and power.
In each of these cases the struggle for justice and equality (which is how love is incarnated in a society) is made all the more difficult to attain because the perpetrators or beneficiaries of the discrimination believe they are being obedient to God and therefore acting righteously rather than sinfully. History has shown that eventually the Christian Church is called to humble itself in confession and declare: “we were wrong when we thought we were right”.
Another such interpretation of Scripture that may well be the most sinful (read: deathly) of all interpretations is that humanity is superior to all other creatures and life forms. This interpretation has served to validate humanities exploitation of all life on the planet. Calling what is selfish greed a divine blessing. It has promoted the lie that we are independent from the rest of life on the planet. This interpretation has also blinded humanity from the gruesome truth that we are the most destructive animal that has ever existed on the planet and that if we ceased to exist tomorrow, all of life would flourish as a result thereafter.
In this light I refer you to an article that hopefully will humble our opinion of ourselves as a species:
“The bees have been declared the most important living beings on this planet, the Earthwatch Institute concluded in the last meeting of the Royal Geographical Society of London. However, according to wildlife experts and scientists, the bees have joined the endangered species long list.
The recent studies show a dramatic decline of the bees’ number as almost 90 percent of the bee population has disappeared in the last few years. The uncontrolled use of pesticides, deforestation or lack of flowers are the main reasons for their extinction.
However, why would such a little being be named the most important creature on Earth? Well, the answer is actually more simple than you ever thought. Seventy percent of the world’s agriculture depends exclusively on bees. Needless to mention the pollination is the bees’ job, although the plants would not be able to reproduce, therefore the fauna would have been gone in a very short time. More than that, a study … concluded that the bees are the only living being who does not carry any type of pathogen.
After all, Albert Einstein’s say about bees has never been truer. “If the bees disappear, humans would have 4 years to live,” the famous physicist said.
Since the bees’ importance is crucial in our planet’s ecosystems and they’ve also been declared an endangered species, we really need to be as careful as possible on the matter. And we need to act quickly as we still have some solutions.”
The Science Times July 2019, by Chardynne Joy H. Concio