“The theologian Karl Barth once remarked,
“God is so unassuming in the world,” which may be the only way
those who grieve experience the presence of God. Nobody’s grief is characterised by sudden movements or dramatic reversals.
Grief does not “break” like a fever.” ~ Richard Lischer
On Thursday I attended a meeting at the Church of Reconciliation in Manenberg. Faith leaders and civil society groups were addressed by Fr. Donovan and other community leaders about the gang violence in the area. The complex web of interlinked causes was despairingly heavy to hold.
A trauma counsellor spoke of how in the upcoming school holidays they will take 120 learners out of Manenberg for trauma counselling. She said, “But when we ask principals to send us learners who are traumatised the principal says, ‘take everyone in my school’, so we have to limit it to the extremely traumatised.” In the recent exams used to evaluate schools (for future state support and funding) teachers have noted that learners cannot concentrate for longer than four minutes, “so how is this going to affect the schools in the future?”. While listening to the trauma counsellor all I could think of was that she herself was traumatised and should be booked off, but instead she will be with the “extremely traumatised.” In this context there is no such thing as “post traumatic”, only “continuous traumatic”.
Another leader responded to the suggestion about “getting together to talk” with, “but what if they don’t know how to express their emotions? On a scale of 0-10 the anger levels are at 9.9. All you have to do is look at someone in the wrong way and it can trigger off a fight. We need to be taught how to express ourselves without violence. We have to be taught how to channel our anger.” He spoke about how some school playing areas have been re-fenced and in the process made smaller, “so now if there is no room for them to kick a ball — who’re they going to kick?” And what is one meant to do with the staggering figure of over 60% learner dropout in some schools — especially grades 5 through 9?
We heard how the gangs have divided the community but were also told in no uncertain terms how the faith communities don’t help matters because of how divided they are themselves. We learnt how some faith communities bury their heads in the sand while others take sides in the conflict.
What should haunt us is the fact that if even a tiny proportion of the violence in Manenberg (and other areas) had taken place in one of the table-mountain-hugging-suburbs it would have resulted in a national emergency. How violence is seen to be “normal” in some areas is for us to shamefully confess.
As the depths of deathliness was being shared with us — I noticed the banner on the wall above where we were sitting. It read: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you”. So aware of our own powerlessness this was a welcome word. And when I think about it I already saw hints of the Spirit’s empowering in the fiery passion of a community leader deeply ‘in love with’ and ‘in grief for’ his community and his powerful refusal to settle for what is instead of for what should be.
Palestinian Poet, Remi Kanazi, on tour in South Africa
Remi Kanazi is a New York-based Palestinian poet, spoken-word artist, activist and author who is a guest of the Tri Continental Film Festival (TCFF) and whose work includes being the Author of Poetic Injustice: Writings on Resistance and Palestine (2011), and Editor of The Anthology of Hip-Hop, Poets for Palestine (2008). He will be in Cape Town on Heritage Day.
Date & Time: 24 September at 18:00
What: Poetry Session
Where: Lookout Hill, Khayelitsha, Cape Town
Directions: Head towards airport along N2, take Mew Way off-ramp from N2, turn right at the top of the off-ramp (to go over the bridge) you will come to a set of robots at the entrance to Khayelitsha, continue until you reach four way stop, turn left into Spine Road, on the right hand-side is the destination (Lookout Hill yellow-brownish face brick complex with a City of Cape Town logo.)
Hosts: Open Shuhada Street South Africa
Contact: 082 042 6120
Twitter hashtags: @OpenShuhada #RemiKanazi #Palestine
For more information: Luzuko Pupuma on 021 423 3089 / 081 504 4970 / e-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org