Printer Friendly

Religious pluralism in post-colonial public life.

"The Time has come that we say enough and no more, and by acting to banish the shame, remake ourselves as the midwives of the African Renaissance."

Thabo Mbeki(1)

A widespread public concern with social values and personal virtues is one of the more astonishing aspects of transition in South Africa. I suppose that most transitions, in countries marked by similar large-scale, rapid changes in government and polity from a repressive to a democratic state, generate new enthusiasms and hopes to fuel reconstruction. What seems to be unusual--not necessarily unique--in South Africa is the extent to which these enthusiasms and hopes have been given institutional status or political impetus.

By now anyone who has any interest in the region will know of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) which, despite its many inevitable limitations, has broken new ground in dealing with the memories of terror and the search for amnesty and reparation.(2) Less well known are a range of other initiatives and institutions concerning themselves directly or indirectly with the moral fiber of the nation. These include constitutional instruments (like the TRC itself) such as the Gender Commission, the Human Rights Commission, the Public Protector, and the Public Services Commission.

Less formal but of considerable political significance, we have seen the establishment of a National Religious Leaders' Forum designed to create a framework for interaction with the president and his government,(3) a Moral Summit at which religious and political leaders at the highest level signed a Code of Conduct,(4) a Churches National Poverty Commission, a Poverty Summit called by religious leaders in conjunction with the South African NGO Coalition,(5) a chapter of the Jubilee 2000 debt crisis campaign,(6) and a series of anti-corruption conferences organized either through the Public Services Commission or Transparency International.(7) In addition, a sustained series of events have taken place to enable South Africans to debate the role of religion in public life in this context, including Rustenburg II--a gathering of Christian church leaders ranging from the ecumenical bodies to evangelicals to Pentecostals and African-initiated churches(8)--and the Multi-Event 1999.(9) This process continued at the end of 1999 with the holding in Cape Town of the quinquennial meeting of the Parliament of the World's Religions.(10)

If, therefore, we may regard South Africa as now being in a "postcolonial" condition, then it may be said that religion and its concern for human values and virtues has a high place on the agenda. The adoption of that political instrument of modernization which we call democracy,(11) with its formal separation of the state from religion,(12) has not meant the decline of religion at all, nor the removal of religion from the public sphere.(13) The irony, in fact, is that the issues previously identified are driven more by the state than by the religious communities of South Africa in general. It is the state, particularly President Mbeki himself, which repeatedly pushes for a stronger response from religious communities to the challenges of our transformation out of apartheid to something more hopeful and just.

In what follows I shall, first, indicate in what sense I speak of a post-colonial context by defining the contemporary meaning of the colonial legacy in South Africa. Second, I shall elaborate on our religious context and explore something of the content of the current interaction between religion and the state, pointing to the way in which various protagonists are defining the territory. Finally, I shall develop particular themes which offer a prescriptive proposal for understanding religion in public life from a South African point of view.

What I offer here is a broad analysis rather than a detailed case study; and a general proposal rather than a sustained argument--with footnotes providing much of the detail. This will provide one description of the place of religion in public life in an African context at the end of the twentieth century. Perhaps there will be sufficient information in it to allow for a wider comparative dialogue regarding other African contexts.


The image of the African was inscribed in the history of the colonial powers as the contorted face of the savage, the primitive half-human who had no religion and knew no god. "Savage systems" of imperial control either destroyed or reconstructed the identity of the "native" African.(14) So deep-seated was the ideology of race supremacy that as late as 1906, Sir Godfrey Lagden, chair of the Lagden Commission of 1903-05 which laid down the "native" policies later formalized as "apartheid," found it possible to view indigenous Africans as "being not unlike baboons" who, even after working for Europeans for ten years or more, manifested only "slight improvements in appearance and apparent intelligence."(15)

Contrary to Lagden's worldview--and many like him who still view Africa with prejudice--Africa, of course, has a long, rich, and deep social history.(16) Evidence continues to grow, in fact, that Africa was the cradle of humanity, the most recent find of "Eve's footsteps" along the Atlantic shore north of Cape Town providing a stunning example.(17) Yet the late colonial "scramble for Africa," in particular the rapid rate at which it occurred through the technological and industrial revolutions which drove it, made for a particularly disastrous entree into the emerging global economy.(18)

A dual policy of colonial rule separated urban (civic) and rural (tribal) authority and law, allowing for direct rule by the metropolitan powers where they needed it and indirect rule where they did not.(19) This powerfully effective version of imperial governance divided African territories externally (split between a number of European powers, and geographically determined) and internally (fractured along lines of ethnic and economic divisions). In the process, African custom, law, and religion were altered irrevocably, at varying rates of change, giving rise to new constructions of tradition as chiefs were incorporated into the colonial pattern and magistrates set above them.

Conquest and colonization, of course, was not a simple process: Indigenous peoples fought back, sometimes successfully, or found ways to accommodate themselves to the new forces, to their advantage. Nor was it a linear process, a matter simply of the dominant ideas and practices of the conquerors and colonizers replacing African thought and action. It was, and still is, contested territory, a struggle producing a wide range of subtle shapes and flavors in its political, social, and cultural outcomes.(20)

A provisional resolution of this dramatic history of conquest and colonization came with the spate of national rebellions and revolutions which provoked the decolonization movement of the middle of this century, giving rise to a great many of the African states we now have. Whatever the details of this history, it was a common claim that the process could not be considered complete, Africa not free, until the last bastion of white rule fell--South Africa.

Before it fell, White South Africans managed to invent controls and establish mechanisms which gave to the general form of direct and indirect rule characteristic of colonized Africa a sharper, more extensive character than anywhere else.(21) It was sufficient to make South Africa, after the decolonization of most of the rest of Africa, the "polecat" of the world among nations, a bizarre nation which overtly used race and ethnicity to organize itself in favor of whites and their surrogates at the very time that Nazi Germany had made such principles internationally abhorrent.

In this context, religion--in the form of people and institutions--has had an ambiguous history. It would be inappropriate here to recap the history of religion in South Africa.(22) Instead, what might be emphasized is the public character of religion in the second half of this century, the period associated with the rule of the Afrikaner National Party and the formal policy of apartheid.(23) In fact, it is important to emphasize one aspect of the public character of religion during this time, namely, the way in which the apartheid system defined the terms of its engagement.


Transition in South Africa has meant many things for various religious communities. What it has brought to the fore, above all, is the longstanding and increasing religious diversity and plurality in the land. It is not as if this diversity is new, but a more open society has allowed it to show. And it shows in the equally diverse reactions to post-apartheid transformation.

Among the very large Christian community,(24) evangelicals, who were largely hostile towards the ecumenical movement and the various communities espousing anti-apartheid "liberation theologies," have found a new lease on life, often enthusiastically embracing new opportunities to build non-racial congregations and establish mission activities which directly address needs on the ground.(25) The ecumenical movement, on the other hand, along with many para-church NGOs whose identity was closely knit with the anti-apartheid era, has emerged considerably weaker. This has happened in part because senior leadership was lost to new institutions of state or other secular organizations and business, in part because the shift from the key of resistance to the note of cooperation with government has proven very difficult, in part because the identity of these organizations could no longer be the same and their raison d'etre was no longer obvious.(26)

Besides these major blocks of the Christian community, the African initiated churches (AICs), the largest grouping of them all (numerically and demographically),(27) evidence an especially interesting response. Emerging shortly before the end of the last century,(28) for a while threatening white security and raising fears,(29) and growing rapidly in various directions,(30) the AICs have since the late 1920s either been virtually ignored by the rest of the Christian community, or regarded as apolitical and socially impotent,(31) if not reactionary.

Yet when it came to making representations at the TRC faith community hearings, the picture began to change. Two of the oldest and largest AICs, the Zionist Christian Church (ZCC) and the Shembe Church (Ibandla lamaNazaretha), appeared before the commissioners. Unlike any other religious community during the three days of hearings, both took the view that they had nothing for which to apologize, and both rejected the longstanding view that they had been apolitical or apathetic. Indeed, the ZCC spokesperson argued that it had "taught its people to love themselves more than ever, to stand upright and face the future, to defy the laws of apartheid," and "not to hurt others, but to refuse to be hurt by others." Petersen describes this as a "remapping and remaking of the conceptual tools of resistance" at some other level than direct political action.(32)

And now that apartheid is gone, the ZCC is making clear that, far from being isolated from the public sphere as struggle analysts had supposed, it considers itself to have held on to, and now be in a position to offer, precisely that moral and cultural foundation which others now so desperately seek. Silence, the ZCC seems to say, under particular conditions, is a rite of resistance, a way of refusing the language, the idiom, the discourse of the dominant. Self-reliance and simplicity, they argue, enables economic independence to emerge even among those who are shut off from mainstream sources of wealth and power. Space was created where people could be more human, where a communitas could be constructed, in sites and locations of prayer, retreats, shrines, and worship.

Other groups outside the "mainstream" include the so-called "rightwing" Christian groups that during the latter years of apartheid played a strong role in the public sphere, fighting (often quite literally) on the side of the white regime,(33) These groups have not disappeared. Not surprisingly, they now find a new basis for action, this time against most of the more progressive, liberalizing elements of the new South African Constitution and the policies that flow from it. Some of their prime targets are pieces of legislation which reduce censorship over what adults may see or hear, legalize abortion, disallow discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, outlaw capital punishment, and seek to restrict the availability of guns to the public.(34)

A further interesting development concerns two large bodies who worked closely together in earlier years: the South African Council of Churches and the South African Catholic Bishops Conference. Though their relationship has in no way ended, they do frequently end up on opposite sides in policy debates, particularly on issues such as abortion, euthanasia, birth control, and the like. In other words, classic divisions between largely Protestant Christians and Catholics are now part of our public life. On the one hand, this is a comforting sign of a more normal society; on the other hand, it emphasizes my basic point about the diversity and contested plurality of our current religious context.

What of other religious traditions? There are several with deep roots in South Africa. Not least among these, and enjoying new freedom to develop, is African traditional religion.(35) Some argue that the changes of the last hundred years of more in South Africa have made impossible any return to what African traditional religion may have been. Particularly pertinent here was the spread of an industrial and commercial economy built on mass-scale migratory labor patterns, and the institution of extensive state bureaucratic controls over the population as a whole. Others argue, however, that African traditional religion has been subjugated and silenced rather than having withered away or been destroyed. It is culturally embedded, and because African culture cannot be rooted out of most South Africans, it should therefore arise again, breaking its shackles in order to move from "an underground praxis to recognised religion."(36)

Another version of this claim may be found in the field of health care. Here traditional healers too are being given new freedom to operate, and there remains a reasonable chance that their practices will be formally legalized in the same way that "Western" medical practices are.(37) These practices are inherently a mix of physiological and spiritual or psychic treatment, directly confronting the dominant paradigm in "Western" medicine which separates spirit and body and instrumentalizes medical care.

Other strong traditions in South Africa include Islam, Judaism, and Hinduism.(38) All of these traditions are not only minority religions, but they have been specific targets of discrimination during previous regimes under the sway of the conservative, Calvinist Dutch Reformed churches. Not surprisingly, all of them can count many individuals among them, as well as organized movements, who were deeply involved in the struggle against apartheid. At the same time, one must be cautious: Religious communities generally are unlikely generators of powerful forces of resistance where they are a minority, except in their most sectarian forms. Moreover, religious traditions are not monolithic, of course, and this applies as well to South Africa as anywhere else.

Thus the Muslim community in South Africa is a fractured one. Its various elements are disparate, with differing historical and geographical origins,(39) some were deeply involved in the struggle against apartheid while others are far more cautious;(40) some are openly opposed to others within their broad tradition.(41) The battle for authority over the Muslim community is thus part of our current context, most evidently in the way in which a populist movement, People Against Gangsters and Drugs (PAGAD), has become a fulcrum for mobilizing more militant elements against more conservative or liberalizing ones.(42)

This battle plays itself out through understandings of society as well. In particular, the more militant elements (but not only they) remain suspicious of democracy as such, on the grounds that the will of the people cannot override the will of Allah. Yet others believe that "such an authoritarian and mechanical approach to enforce compliance [to Islamic tradition] falls in the face of the ethical teachings of Islam and that there should be no difficulty in marrying Islamic faith, already an internally diverse ummah (community), with building a pluralist nation.(43)

To a lesser extent, the same sorts of things may be said of the Jewish community in South Africa, while the Hindu community, of course, is inherently diverse. In fact, religious plurality in South Africa, as elsewhere, is shaped both by internal and external boundaries, fractions and contradictions. What took this fact out of the public mind to a significant extent was simply that apartheid became an overwhelming social focus, nationally and internationally, forcing everything and everyone to define themselves in relation to it. Its going has allowed the resting Hydra of religion to raise itself, showing us a great many more than nine heads.

The loss of a single enemy (apartheid, or communism) and the emergence of a plural, constitutional democracy has blown the lid off the Pandora's box of religion in South Africa. Christianity, shorn of past privilege, faces emboldened "minority religions," a crisis of identity, a collapse of old movements, isolationist tendencies, and some reactionary triumphalism. The question now for most religious communities, particularly Christians used to past hegemonies, is how, on the one hand, to come to terms with the Hydra, and how, on the other hand, to enter into a legally secular and plurally defined public square. The demise of apartheid, of the last surviving colonially determined regime,(44) has turned religion on its head. It is no longer clear to many just how to re-calibrate their tools for engaging (or not engaging) in public discourse, or even whether there is any credibility in doing so. As Frank Chikane puts it, "We got beyond our differences ... to get rid of Apartheid," but this task preoccupied us to the point "that we did not know what to do after Apartheid was gone."(45) The heads are trying to find their feet.


As noted earlier, the debate on religion in public life in post-colonial South Africa is alive and well. What I would like to capture here are some of the terms of this debate as they have recently been spelled out by leading religious, political and academic commentators in a major series of events held recently in Cape Town.(46)

We should not be surprised that certain themes emerge repeatedly in the interchanges between religious and political leaders. Dominant among them is poverty and inequality.(47) It is widely recognized that poverty and inequality, still strongly defined along racial, gender and geographical (rural) lines, represents the greatest threat to the successful entrenchment and survival of a democratic state as such. Allied issues often receive significant attention too, including unemployment, job creation, crime, and corruption. Gender discrimination and oppression also feature high on the agenda,(48) which is not surprising given the Constitution's emphasis on gender equality and gender rights.(49) To this catalogue we must add the challenge of HIV/AIDS--as a threatening disease (especially among the poorer strata of society),(50) as an ethical and cultural issue,(51) as an economic burden in its destructive impact on human and financial resources,(52) and as a major factor in the future capacity of the society to develop.(53)

At root, one may describe these concerns as being primarily focused on the social values needed to construct a sustainable society, and the personal virtues required to develop integrity and allow for a growing trust to shape the interaction of citizens with each other and with institutions and organizations. Thus the demand to contribute to the shaping of the necessary moral fiber of the nation has grown to the point of becoming a clarion call. Inevitably, political leaders look to religious communities to do something about this.

Pre-eminent among them is Thabo Mbeki. He argues that faith communities must join in the battle of ideas, or the debate, about the set of values needed to guide public policy if it is to be humane and just, honest, and accountable.(54) Speaking from the perspective of governance, Jakes Gerwel, currently a distinguished professor in literature and one-time director general to President Mandela, concisely describes the need for "a convention of public conversation" that is "caring and open to different possibilities," that "entrenches civic faith in the organs and institutions of the state" through partnership and cooperation and "establishes a culture of critical vigilance." In this regard, Gerwel calls for religious leaders, besides their "primary intrinsic institutional duties," to fulfil the mandate of a "RDP (Reconstruction and Development Programme) of the soul."(55)

Precisely at this point the question is begged: Are religious communities capable of delivering the goods at this level? Carl Niehaus, for example, himself trained as a Christian theologian and now South African Ambassador to the Netherlands and the International Court, notes that "if it were left up to the formal structures of religion to end apartheid, we would still have it." He adds, in regard to the vital need to help beneficiaries of apartheid to understand the evil of it and be prepared to make a commitment and some sacrifice to building the new South Africa, that "Religion has dismally failed to bring this message to the white community."(56)

The capacity of religious communities to deliver to society what it might need or want has been under question for a long time. The sociology of religion suggests that established faith communities generally will tend to conserve values and traditional practices rather than restructure them or generate new ones.(57) Under modern conditions, particularly with an increasingly dynamic economic and political environment,(58) such conservation may be especially important in humanizing life and protecting lifeworlds from the negative impact of both markets and bureaucracies.(59) But it also inhibits precisely those transformations that might be needed in a plural society that requires a social consensus which is both inclusive and respects particularity.(60) Indeed, some reigning elements may well actively work against the reigning social consensus or vision, for reasons which are narrow and exclusivist.

That religion in a plural society therefore must itself be held to account for its claims and activities seems certain, and the accounting may not be pleasant.(61) As Ebrahim Rasool, a committed Muslim and Western Cape Leader of the ANC, puts it, the relevance of religious communities "must be a matter of continual debate and questioning." It is neither helpful nor honest, in his view, for religious people to work with the assumption that "government is weak and corrupt on the one hand, and that religious communities are innately good and moral on the other." Instead, he asks for a good dose of "mutual humility" in the process of social transformation, and an accompanying "courage" to shun both populism and absolutism as the basis of this engagement.(62)

In concluding the Multi-Event 1999, Frank Chikane had several pertinent things to say about the relationship between religion and the public sector, particularly government, drawing on his own rich history in both spheres.(63) His basic methodological point draws on the history of liberation theology in South Africa and the way in which Christians in resistance against Apartheid carried out their theological task: Theory must be informed by praxis. In our new context, this means joining a struggle to "reconstruct the kind of society we want." Even if "religious vision goes beyond political vision" and must therefore engage critically with the state (or the powerful leaders of the economy for that matter), the government--the state--is no longer the enemy.

In accompanying this process of building a new society, religious institutions, Chikane suggests, must participate in defining a vision about key issues, on the basis of which they need to be involved "in the formulation of policy perspectives."(64) He gives an example concerning the failure to deliver on the first promises to build a million houses. Two years were spent primarily on debating with banks in regard to the financing of low cost, low interest housing loans. Says Chikane, "Now, why didn't religious communities engage in the debate with banks, since the debate is also a moral one?" A seemingly innocent point at one level, at another it places before religious communities profound questions about their nature in a society, their responsibility for the spiritual questions underlying the moral vision of institutions of society and the material welfare of their people,(65) and their awareness of the complexities of constructing or reconstructing a whole and healed human community.

The final point Chikane makes has to do with the implications for faith communities of their location in a democratizing society. The issue is the inevitable distance between government and local communities. A great deal of good policy may be put in place at higher levels, but even if it is, "things naturally work against the poor in favour of the advantaged," notes Chikane. The latter, for example, have the resources to monitor policy, to use it, to contribute to it directly, to manipulate it to their own interests. "The ordinary community member" often cannot do any of these things, particularly where poverty is rife, resources are thin, and basic social institutions are weak or even absent.

The key challenge here, Chikane insists, is the role of religious communities--no, their responsibility--in empowering ordinary people, using their organic networks and their centers of worship of whatever kind: "Give the people where we are the capacity to make life better for themselves. Teach them to access resources that are available to them." And, I would add, thus see faith communities as precisely those places, that kind of environment, in which agency, autonomy, accountability and integrity--the marks of citizenship and the strength of any democracy--are enhanced by the very act of participating in worship and entering into the responsible moral life that virtually all religious visions project in their own particular way.


Perhaps it is appropriate at this point to ask what religious leaders think of all this? Some familiar themes reappear. Generally speaking, religion is analyzed as being about the transcendent, in some form or another. Without the presence of transcendent visions, impulses, and imaginative acts, society is seriously diminished. Indeed, without this transcending dynamic, we are at the mercy of instrumental, manipulative consciousness, as evidenced in much of the logic of markets and bureaucracies; or we remain trapped in actual existing conditions, lacking the capacity to criticize them deeply or overcome them practically where necessary. If you like, our material embedding in reality must be matched by a spiritual penetration of that reality--and that, in fact, is what it means to be human.(66)

The most poignant statement of this dialectic, or at least the failure of it, comes from Jose Chipenda in a telling anecdote. After recounting the deep pain through which his native Angola is currently going(67)--to a large extent because of a fight over resources which has international overtones--Chipenda tells of entering an "open-to-the-public" exhibition in New York, to be greeted at the door with the question: "Are you a producer or a consumer?"(68) Not only is this a signal of the character of "globalization" in as much as the god of the market dominates; and of the challenge that an ideology of consumerism presents to any religion which asserts the dignity of the human being as an agent of history. It is also a question to Africa as such.

Africa faces the forces of globalization at a significant disadvantage, just as it did in respect of the forces behind slavery and colonization.(69) The bifurcated form of colonial rule in Africa, developed by the colonial powers (England and France in particular) on the back of what they had learned in early colonial ventures in other parts of the world, did much to create the conditions which we have not yet escaped.(70) This in turn, coupled with the weaknesses of post-independence rule in many African states (particularly where dictatorships and corruption have fed on the skewed social structures that colonial powers left behind), exposes Africa now to global economic and political instruments which we are not well-equipped to resist, or able to join on African terms. Hence Thabo Mbeki's persistent call for an "African Renaissance."(71)

Not surprisingly, the theme of an African Renaissance has been taken up by religious leaders as well.(72) Quite often they turn it into one which is essentially cultural, however. Perhaps this is inevitable, given that religion under modern conditions generally has little sway over either political or economic power (except in countries where a large majority of the population can be mobilized behind a particular trajectory of a single religious tradition). In South Africa in particular, in part because of its relatively long history of industrialization and its powerful and deeply entrenched ideology of white superiority, the search for a reborn African identity and culture is strong. The claim to possess cultural resources which are capable of humanizing society at the end of this century is one element of that search.

The clearest African metaphor which captures the required sense of humanity lies in the Nguni term, ubuntu--best translated as "being a person through other persons."(73) To this African term Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane brings the theological claim that "We are created for fellowship with one another, with an imperative to care for one another and for our world in mutual interdependence."(74) The social significance of the accompanying dignity and integrity we seek for ourselves, and accord others, lies in the capacity of society to develop those relations of trust upon which the efficacy and integrity of its institutions also depend--from the Constitution down to an exchange between a local shopkeeper and his or her customer, from the legitimacy of government leadership down to healthy interaction in a single family.

To this vision of humanity we may add experiences captured in stories. The role of narrative in our constructions of self and world need not be defended. But the challenge to "keep our story alive" is another matter. This is the call made by Mvume Dandala, currently president of the South African Council of Churches and presiding bishop of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa:(75) To keep alive the memory of the straggles that have marked the journey to nationhood, to remember the key figures--both South African and African who have inspired that straggle, to capture liturgically "our experiences in prisons, in exile and in our general life" even if they might appear to undermine traditional orthodoxies.

This story, Dandala argues, includes the production of the Constitution itself, and the common Bill of Rights that is part of it. Ethos gives rise to ethics. To propagate morality in sermons and statements is one thing. To help shape the ethos that allows for a common public morality is another. This requires that religious communities take on a great deal more responsibility than they have done in promoting dialogue about the Constitution, in communicating and teaching about it. For what purpose?

Given "our differences as religious communities" and the resultant incapacity of religious communities in the aggregate to "give a common normative truth to our society that would be the primary governing truth," Dandala believes that religious perspectives may nevertheless enter into the dialogue about our founding national documents "as a means for the exposition and undergirding of the common good." This would mean to "assert the primacy over the technical, of the person over things, ... of the spiritual over the material."(76) William Everett, known for his work on religion and the ideals of a federal, democratic republic,(77) puts it most pragmatically: "It means that religion shares the responsibility to ensure that people have the cultural tools, the economic base, and the public platforms needed to participate in the forming of a common life."(78) This is to carry the agenda of liberation to a new stage.

Of course, founding documents, stories, memories, and traditions generally are not innocent. As Bernard Lategan succinctly states, "The need for roots can be both enslaving and liberating."(79) A critical appropriation of tradition is vital, as is a recognition of the permanence of ambiguity in all of our religious claims. Both these points arise repeatedly in the South African debates. They need to, for only with this kind of consciousness will it be possible for religions in their singularity to live "well and justly"(80) with religion in its plurality, in the same society.

A self-critical assessment of religion among many religious leaders and thinkers is hard to avoid in South Africa given the way in which religions have been implicated in dominating, divisive, conflictual, and exclusionary practices. Yasmin Sooka, a TRC Commissioner and senior figure in the World Conference on Religion and Peace, in asking whence politicians derive their credibility and whether they will do justice to those from whom they get it, turns the question on to religious leaders too. She wonders whether they may claim the voice of morality either: "I am saying that I am sceptical of self-ascribed moral authority.(81)

Similarly, Smangaliso Mkhatshwa, a Roman Catholic priest and Deputy Minister of Education, notes that since 1994 one discerns a narrowing denominationalism and a lack of any clear agenda among most, if not all, religious communities to support the democratic dispensation.(82) Chirevo Kwenda describes the credibility crisis within religion itself as "a gap between principle and practice, doctrine and deed and, quite frequently, between tradition and the exigencies of the present."(83) In a particularly apt phrasing, Denise Ackermann, a leading feminist theologian, suggests that "Only the vigilance of those that care can make a difference. And such vigilance starts with ourselves."(84)


All of the debates touched upon raise questions about the proper relationship between religion and public life in a "postcolonial" era; about the place of religious authority in the generation of law and policy; about the role of religion in dealing with crises of values and virtue; and about the relationship between different faiths in a religiously plural world. I have articulated them by drawing on a series of discussions and events in South Africa.

The consensus among those cited, all of them leading figures in various religions of southern Africa,(85) can be briefly summarized. We have seen a shift from the single key of liberation to the mixed chord of a plural, complex agenda for reconstruction. The older key was easier to deal with. The mixed sound we now have is less clear, more confusing for most religious communities and leaders, and it has multiple keys no longer in harmony with each other (if they ever were, of course, except in the minimal sense of a negative response to apartheid). The history of apartheid taught those who resisted it or wished it over to be careful of government, to keep their distance. The demands of the present require something else.

The tension between cooperation and criticism remains. State co-option of religion or religion as a legitimation of a particular state is feared, given the history of such practices in South Africa.(86) Inevitably, the model of religion in society which emerges in this context now is one which favors some notion of civil society as the location of faith community voices in the public sphere. Yet, as Everett's analysis tells us, the form of religious organization best suited to an interaction with government, law, and public life under such conditions is associational.(87) From the point of view of government, religious organizations then become voluntary associations, like any other, with no special treatment accorded them. Democratization, in this sense, tends to reshape the relationship between religion and the state, and it may emasculate religion in the process.(88)

The most fundamental challenge that religions face is that of reinventing themselves in ways that enable them to function as "little publics" or "proto-publics" by which they may enter into and shape the society as a whole. Noted earlier, religious leaders regard the category of transcendence to be definitive for the contribution of religion to society, hence to the shaping of public life and the maintenance of publicity. Whatever a particular faith community may take this to mean, it will have to develop patterns of discourse which seek to persuade others in the public sphere rather than attack, sideline, or eradicate them. It will have to engage in strategic actions which enable its own members, through their faith and its fundamentals, to develop that capacity in themselves. And it will have to do so in a manner that respects both the founding consensus of society--acknowledging the importance of an ongoing critical assessment of this consensus--and fellow citizens and guests.

In effect, these demands can be met by paying attention to what faith communities do for themselves. In their own life together, the virtues, values, and kinds of interaction that they promote may model for their members, and for the wider public, that responsible, respectful, ethical way of being upon which a healthy, functioning democracy depends. This probably happens in many places already, as a spin-off if you like, of religious activity and commitment. The challenge to faith communities is to turn what is a spin-off into a conscious contribution.

As Ann Loades has suggested,(89) perhaps we would then have, to use a Christian term, a "politics of grace"--a political dispensation in which we accept the "pain of understanding religious difference," drawing on "all the resources of imagination and sympathy we can muster," to impel us to meet and embrace each other in our differences for the sake of that which binds us as a society. Religions are not benign in and of themselves, as much as political or economic organizations are not inherently benign. Women, in our time, testify as strongly as anyone to this fact.

To understand this is to see both the self-critical task and critical task for religion. To imagine, and to anticipate, ways in which the malignancies of our life together in society may be transcended, are the constructive tasks of religion. It will require the crossing of boundaries(90) and the building of networks.(91) It will require that we pay attention to those who live out their faith in direct confrontation with the poverty, the disempowerment, and the marginalization which our society generates, for it is there that religion enables new possibilities, if it does at all.(92)


The picture painted in the end is programmatic and hopeful. Given what religion actually means for so many people on the ground, not least those who most bear the brunt of the evils of our time, we cannot discount its actual public significance or its potential. Neither, unfortunately, can we discount the forces that make the picture less hopeful.

Even as religious communities contribute to and build civil society, other forces erode it. State power is massive, heavily resourced in comparison to civil society organizations and movements. Economic power is widely dispersed and deeply clouded in mystification, even as much of it is wielded by a remarkably small percentage of the human population. Globalization and the religion of overabundant consumerism threaten to dissemble human imagination and consciousness and reassemble it in ways we have not fully grasped as yet.(93)

Religion in Africa will not, and does not, escape these forces. A short while ago, near the turn of the second Christian millennium, archaeological discoveries in South Africa were made which raise once again the question of the origins of the human being. Africa--perhaps quite specifically South Africa, some now think--is probably where, with the emergence of Homo Sapiens Sapiens, the first stirrings of imagination and experience we might call religion began. Is it conceivable that Africa might re-create that honor, to return to the world a complex, rich grasp of religious imagination capable of igniting the forces which would re-humanize our time? It is a rhetorical question, of course. But rhetoric is the art of persuasion, and the art of persuasion is profoundly democratic.

(1.) Thabo Mbeki, "The African Renaissance Statement," 13 August 1998. See http://www.

(2.) It must be said that the vexed question of reparation has to date not been adequately addressed in any practical way, a flaw currently giving rise to growing internal criticism of the government in its failure to act on the TRC recommendations. For full details of the process, see the Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, 5 vols. (Cape Town: Juta or London: MacMillan, 1999). An electronic version of the report can be found at A much wider range of literature--descriptive, analytical and critical--on the TRC is already available, and much more is still in the pipeline. A very recent assessment of the process from its chairperson, Desmond Tutu, is No Future Without Forgiveness (London: Rider (Random House), 1999).

(3.) The NRLF arose at the initiative of President Mandela because he chose to deal with South Africa's religious community on the basis of a pluralist, interfaith engagement rather than via individual faiths, denominations, and persons.

(4.) See Challenge 51 (December 1998/January 1999) for a brief report and the Code of Conduct. Challenge is South Africa's premier, commercially available ecumenical magazine, edited by well-known theologian Albert Nolan.

(5.) Government interest in this process was also relatively strong, with the minister of finance seconding one of his key advisors to the Steering Committee. The process also linked to SANGOCO's Poverty Hearings, which took place throughout the country over a period of several months in 1998. An Executive Summary is available at docs98/sa9810.htm.

(6.) For a recent discussion, see New South African Outlook 1 (January 1999).

(7.) The first of these (in 1998) focused on the public sector itself, that is, government bureaucracies and agencies; the second (in 1999) drew in all major players in South African society, including religious communities; and the third was the 9th International Anti-Corruption Conference organized by Transparency International and held in Durban, South Africa, at which President Mbeki was a keynote speaker alongside people like James Wolfensohn, president of the World Bank. In each case, the South African interest has been strongly oriented towards practical measures to combat corruption in various sectors of society, both public and private.

(8.) This second meeting of the National Conference of Church Leaders took place in February 1999 in Rustenburg, South Africa.

(9.) The Multi-Event 1999 (ME99) consisted in a series of activities beginning in August 1998 and climaxing in February 1999 with a seven-day series of seminars, workshops, and public events, all on the theme of religion in public life. Leaders of religious communities, of government (including Thabo Mbeki), of NGOs and CBOs, and of the academy participated in a range of debates on a variety of issues. Full details, including all public documents, papers, and addresses, are available from the Research Institute on' Christianity in South Africa (RICSA) at Many of the papers have been published either in the Journal of Theology for Southern Africa 104 (July 1999), the Bulletin for Contextual Theology in Africa 6 (March 1999), or the New South African Outlook 1 (April 1009).

(10.) A nine seminar series on religion in public life in South Africa was held over five days at the PWR meeting, an event which included many key South African figures, approximately four hundred senior religious leaders from around the world, and thousands of other delegates. The focus of the PWR itself was on a "Call to Our Guiding Institutions," an attempt to raise the question of the role of religions in the face of globalizing forces. For details, see the PWR website at

(11.) By "modernization," I refer here not to the flawed and discredited dualist notion by which "the modern" is contrasted with "the primitive" in terms of "less and more advanced" cultures. I mean instead the process which produced a high level of differentiation (specialization and segmentation) in society and economy on the back of the industrial revolution, including the separating out of state, business and civil society. Another shift characterized as "postmodernization" is now occurring, according to Stephen Crook, Jan Pakulski and Malcolm Waters, Postmodernization: Change in Advanced Society (London: Sage Publications, 1992), which sees us on a collision course between dramatically increasing levels of differentiation on the one hand, and a contradictory process of increasing levels of organization (centralization and control) over social life by government and business on a global scale on the other hand.

(12.) The Constitution (1996) ends its preamble with the phrase "Nkosi Sikelel'iAfrika" (God bless South Africa), taken from the National Anthem, but its "Founding Provisions" (Chapter 1) make no mention of religion. Clause 9 of Chapter 2 ("Bill of Rights"), however, forbids "unfair discrimination" on the grounds of religion, conscience or belief, while Clause [5 protects the "right to freedom of conscience, religion, thought, belief and opinion," and allows for religious observances at state or state-aided institutions provided these are "conducted on an equitable basis" and attendance is "free and voluntary." In addition, this clause allows for legislation which might authorize traditional marriages and systems of personal and family law, as long as these are not inconsistent with the rest of the Constitution. Clause 31 protects the right of people to belong to "cultural, religious and linguistic communities" and "practise their religion," consistent with other provisions of the Bill of Rights. Finally, Chapter 9 on state institutions, allows for the establishment of a "Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities," though this Commission has yet to come into being.

(13.) This would support Jose Casanova's analysis of the secularization thesis of modern sociology in his Public Religions in the Modern World (Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press, 1994).

(14.) See David Chidester, Savage Systems: Colonialism and Comparative Religion in Southern Africa (Charlottesville, Va.: University of Virginia Press, 1996).

(15.) See my Servants of Power: The Role of English-speaking Churches in South Africa, 1903-1930 (Johannesburg: Ravan Press, 1987), 151; see also 72, his comment on migrant labor policy and the need to establish rural reserves (the basis for later apartheid Bantustans): "Every rabbit has a warren where he can live and burrow and breed, and every native must have a warren too."

(16.) UNESCO, General History of Africa, 8 vols. (Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press (abridged), 1989-).

(17.) The find was made near the Langebaan lagoon some 100km from Cape Town, ostensibly of a young woman, reputedly the oldest known evidence of late Homo Sapiens.

(18.) Franz Fanon's Wretched of the Earth (Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin, 1967).

(19.) See Mahmood Mamdani, Citizen and Subject: Contemporary Africa and the Legacy of Late Colonialism (London: James Currey, 1996).

(20.) A seminal analysis of this kind of process is found in Jean and John Commaroff's two volumes, Of Revelation and Revolution: Christianity, Colonialism and Consciousness in South Africa (Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press, 1991); and Dialectics of Modernity on a South African Frontier (Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press, 1998).

(21.) This occurred in part because of the unusually large number of white settlers in South Africa, the relatively long time over which this settlement took place, the penetration of settlements deep into the interior, and the discovery of diamonds and gold which provided the economic and financial base for sustaining control and domination. The policies that emerged in the process were extended through large bureaucracies and efficient policing to every corner of the country in a way seldom seen and certainly not duplicated in Africa. These policies both severely damaged or inhibited traditional communal and kinship bonds through the imposition of a widespread "forced" migratory labor system, and made it very difficult for new communal and family institutions to be established or to survive. The legacy for black South Africans? One hundred years of persistent social disintegration.

(22.) For some recent interpretations of this history, see David Chidester, Religions of South Africa (New York: Routledge, 1992); John de Gruchy, The Church Struggle in South Africa, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1986); Martin Prozesky & John de Gruchy, eds., Living Faiths in South Africa (Cape Town: David Philip, 1995).

(23.) I refer here to "the formal policy of apartheid" because, as any student of South African history now knows, the building blocks of the apartheid system, and many of the details of its policies, were put in place over a much longer period, beginning at least in the middle of the nineteenth century with the Glen Grey Act, and continuing with the recommendations of the Lagden Commission in 1903-1905. For much of this period and for many of these policies, it is not the Afrikaner but the Brit whom we have to "thank" for apartheid. The best general introduction to this history, surprisingly perhaps, remains Christopher Saunders, Colin Bundy, et al, Reader's Digest Illustrated History of South Africa, 2nd ed. (Cape Town: Readers Digest Association of South Africa, 1992).

(24.) The most recent census shows that some 68 percent of the population claim allegiance to the Christian tradition in some form or other, with around 20 percent claiming no religious affiliation whatsoever.

(25.) The most dramatic expression of this shift lies in the formation of TEASA, The Evangelical Alliance of South Africa, which brings together evangelicals of many strains, including the radical black evangelical movement of the 1980s known as Concerned Evangelicals, and the more Pentecostal Rhema Church which those same black evangelicals had heavily attacked previously.

(26.) One might add, not insignificantly, that the generous external funding upon which most of these organizations heavily depended has no longer been readily available at the same level, or even at all, given the end of apartheid.

(27.) Census figures show the AICs constitute just over 50 percent of Christians, equivalent to approximately one third of the total population of South Africa. New statistics (1996) show that 28.5 percent of the population claim some form of African traditional religion; this is a massive increase over any previous census, and is accounted for largely because such claims are now publicly legitimized.

(28.) For what is still the best overview of this anti-colonial "Ethiopian Movement," see Erhard Kamphausen, Anfange der kirchlichen Unabhangigkeitsbewegung in Sudafrika: Geschichte und Theologie der Athiopischen Bewegung (Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 1976).

(29.) For elaboration, see my Servants of Power, ch. 3.

(30.) One of the best analyses of this development in relation to changing economic conditions, is Glenda Kruss, Religion, Class and Culture: Indigenous Churches in South Africa, with special reference to Zionist-Apostolics, unpublished diss., University of Cape Town, 1985.

(31.) Even in large measure by many Black theologians who hoped for something more from AICs; see the discussion on this by Robin Petersen, Time, Resistance and Reconstruction: A Theology of the Popular and the Political (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis, in press).

(32.) Robin Petersen, "The AICs and the TRC," in James Cochrane, John de Gruchy and Stephen Martin, eds., Facing the Truth: South African Faith Communities and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (Athens, Oh.: Ohio University Press, 1999), 118.

(33.) See Paul Gifford, The Religious Right in Southern Africa (Harare: University of Zimbabwe Press, 1988). For a more recent assessment, see Roger Arendse, "Right Wing Christianity," in Cochrane, et al., Facing the Truth, 91-100.

(34.) Prominent among these groups is a coalition going by the name of United Christian Action. Their strongest political support comes from the African Christian Democratic Party, with members in the National Parliament.

(35.) Besides being an oral tradition, analytical or descriptive literature on ATR is relatively scarce in South Africa, although there is a recent work produced by the Institute for Comparative Religion in South Africa which provides a comprehensive bibliography of what is available (up until 1995): David Chidester, Chirevo Kwenda, Robert Petty, Judy Tobler and Darrel Wratten, eds., African Traditional Religion in South Africa: An Annotated Bibliography (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1997).

(36.) See Nokuzola Mndende, "From Underground Praxis to Recognised Religion: Challenges Facing African Religions," in Abdulkadar Tayob and Wolfram Weisse, eds., Religion and Politics in South Africa: From Apartheid to Democracy (New York: Waxmann Munster, 1999), 91-98.

(37.) Consultations between traditional healers and legal policy officers concerning possible legislation have been in the pipeline for a while now.

(38.) The province of Kwa-Zulu Natal, for example, with the largest population of South African provinces, has among the most diverse concentrations of religious traditions in the world, including significant centres for Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, a broad variety of Christians (AIC, Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical, Pentecostal), Zulu traditional religion, Baha'i, and Zoroastrianism.

(39.) The best and most recent work on this faith community and its history is Abdulkadar Tayob, Islam in South Africa: Mosques, Imams and Sermons (Gainsville, Fla.: University Press of Florida, 1999).

(40.) Muslims in South Africa, generally, are not white, and they have been victims of apartheid rule and its hegemonic view of Christianity; they have therefore had little stake in the previous regime.

(41.) The more conservative Muslim Judicial Council in the Western Cape, for example, and pivotal members of the more radical Islamic Unity Convention (particularly Qibla, which draws its inspiration from the Iranian revolution) are at loggerheads with one another.

(42.) This is no mere ideological struggle, however, but one which has seen much physical aggression, many serious threats issued, and even the loss of life. My colleague in Islamic studies at the University of Cape Town, Dr. Ebrahim Moosa, was forced to flee South Africa last year after a powerful pipe bomb exploded at his home and threats against him and his family were issued by the militant elements, largely, it seems, because, he publicly criticized their narrow, undemocratic impulses and actions.

(43.) See Abdulkadar Tayob, "The Function of Islam in the South African Political Process: Defining a Community in a Nation," in Tayob and Weisse, eds., Religion and Politics in South Africa, 15-27.

(44.) I mean this in the sense of a system overtly predicated upon what Mahmood Mamdani, Citizen and Subject, has described as the distinction, under one authority, between direct (racially defined) rule in urban contexts under civil law wielded by colons, and indirect (ethnically defined) rule in the rural areas under customary law wielded by administratively-appointed chiefs. For Mamdani, this makes apartheid in South Africa the generic form of power in colonial Africa, rather than an exceptional case.

(45.) Frank Chikane, "Looking to the Future: `Religion & Public Life' in Perspective," in James R. Cochrane, ed., Religion in Public Life: Multi-Event 1999 Conference Proceedings, University of Cape Town, 1999, 60.

(46.) I will depend to a large extent here on the materials of the Multi-Event 1999 (see fn. 9). All further references in this respect are to Cochrane, Religion in Public Life (hereafter listed as RiPL). The Proceedings are available in printed form from RICSA or on the web:

(47.) South Africa swaps places with Brazil on a regular basis as the most unequal country in the world where there are measurable statistics, with a Gini Coefficient of about 0.58 (1995) to 0.62 (1993); see the Deininger & Squire Data Set of the World Bank. While South Africa has a relatively large and affluent middle class (with the black middle class now outnumbering white), it also has a high percentage of the population living under the Minimum Effective Level. For example, ca. 75 percent of all farm workers' income is estimated to be below the Poverty Datum Level, which is lower than the MEL.

(48.) The abuse of women is extremely rife, with rape statistics often being described as the highest in the world. See New South African Outlook 1 (July 1999).

(49.) The establishment of a constitutionally instituted Gender Commission reflects this, and in turn, the nature of the Constitution has a lot to do with the progressive position on many such matters taken by the ruling African National Congress.

(50.) Conditions related to poverty and unemployment play a large role in the rate and incidence of the disease, as well as in an individual's capacity to resist the virus.

(51.) AIDS workers report, among other things, a high level of deliberate infection out of anger, a low level of protection because condoms are "not culturally acceptable" for many, and a high rate of multiple infections from one person because of a widespread belief that men are entitled to gratuitous sex.

(52.) The Ministry of Education, for example, has recently suggested that South Africa faces the loss of 45,000 teachers over the next ten years from AIDS-related deaths.

(53.) Recent reports suggest that South Africa currently has the highest rate of HIV infection ever recorded, while in some areas--notably Kwa-Zulu Natal--approximately one in two women in maternity wards is found to be HIV positive.

(54.) Thabo Mbeki, "Religion in Public Life: Engaging Power," in RiPL, 50-52.

(55.) Jakes Gerwel, "The Question of Religion in Public Life: An RDP of the Soul?," in RiPL, 18.

(56.) Carl Niehaus, "Ethical Challenges of the Present," in RiPL, 20.

(57.) Still useful in unpacking this dynamic is Francois Houtart & J. Rousseau, The Church and Revolution (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis, 1971).

(58.) Described by some as the "New Economy," it is digitally driven, with information and services as its main activity; it operates at high speed, continuously (24 hours a day, every day); it includes virtual companies, customers and employees, thus breaking the link with physical space upon which the industrial economy depends; and it requires that its agents are highly flexible, readily adapting to rapid change in all aspects of their working life (jobs, skills, technologies, and thought-processes). See background/default.html for a more detailed discussion.

(59.) I take this to be the political import of Gadamer's hermeneutics of tradition, even though I adopt Habermas's formulations regarding the "colonizing" effects of markets and state bureaucracies under conditions of advanced capitalism. Gadamer criticizes Habermas's reliance on essentially Enlightenment notions of critique, while Habermas reinscribes tradition in terms of the category of "normative claims" which must be defended, with good reasons, in discourse. The best resolution of this standoff, upon which I depend, is provided by Paul Ricoeur, Hermeneutics and the Human Sciences (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1981), ch. 2, on "Hermeneutics and the Critique of Ideology."

(60.) It is this context which gives rise to proposals for a "discourse ethics" in our time. See particularly the many works of Jurgen Habermas,

(61.) Thabo Mbeki, for example, in his response to the debate on his first presidential address to Parliament earlier this year, made a particular point of attacking the theology of a small opposition party, the African Christian Democratic Party, calling its theology "a mean, angry, vengeful, soulless and retributive theology." See New South African Outlook 1 (July 1999); also see Mbeki's speech, at: tm0630.html.

(62.) Ebrahim Rasool, "Humility and Courage: A Challenge to Religion," in RiPL, 38.

(63.) One time struggle leader and General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches, an Apostolic Faith Pastor, Chikane is now director general of President Thabo Mbeki's office and secretary to Cabinet. The references that follow are all from Frank Chikane, "Looking to the Future: `Religion & Public Life' in Perspective," in RiPL, 61-62.

(64.) Elsewhere Chikane makes the point that people caught in the business of governing are constrained by external forces such as markets and corporate interests, the logic of bureaucracies and their instrumental rationality, and the interests of political parties and constituencies. Such pressures make it difficult to think freely about "policy perspectives" (as opposed to policy instruments) and governing values. This point is central to those who represent the more recent wave of hermeneutically aware policy theorists (in contrast to the earlier ideal of an `objective policy science'); see, for example, Bruce Jennings, Confronting Values in Policy Analysis (Newbury Park, Calif.: Sage, 1987).

(65.) In seeing spirituality as integrally related to social, economic, and moral life, I represent something of the resistance to separating these things that is characteristic of much African religion and to African understandings of the real. In terms of "western" theology and philosophy, a most important recent foundational argument in this direction comes from Douglas McGaughey, Pilgrims and Strangers: On the Role of Aporiai in Theology (New York: Walter De Gruyter, 1997). McGaughey powerfully attacks western nominalist metaphysics (and much orthodox theology) at this point, but he does so on a re-reading of its own history.

(66.) The point is argued forcefully by Chirevo Kwenda, "Ethical Challenges of the Present," in RiPL, 22-24.

(67.) Chipenda's moving description of the situation is summarized in his view that the way ahead "is full of potholes," coupled with a deep hope: "Angola is like a precious golden jar, broken several times over the years, whose pieces must now be brought together." See Jose Chipenda, "Moral Leadership and Cultural Values," in RiPL, 66.

(68.) Ibid.

(69.) The issue of globalization was the focus of a special two-day workshop within the Multi-Event 1999, with contributions from an economist (S J Terreblanche, "The Ideological Journey of South Africa: From the RDP to the GEAR Macro-economic Plan"), the ANC chair of the Parliamentary Finance Portfolio Committee (Ben Turok, "On RDP and GEAR: Governing Under Constraints"), a key figure in the Jubilee 2000 Campaign (Mike Pothier, "The Poverty of Policy"), African woman theologian Mercy Amba Oduyoye ("Reducing Welfare and Sacrificing Women and Children"), a Reformed theologian (Russel Botman, "On Faithful Citizenship in a Global Context"), and a social work academic and secretary of the National Religious Association for Social Development (Lionel Louw, "The Challenge of Globalization: A Response"); all in RiPL.

(70.) I refer here to the persuasive analysis by Mahmood Mamdani of the incorporation of African colonies under a dual system of direct (urban) and indirect (rural) control mentioned earlier. See fn. 19.

(71.) Mbeki's interest in this catch phrase is fairly longstanding and enters into many of his more recent major speeches in both national and international forums. See in particular, "The African Renaissance Statement, August 1998" and "Speech at the Launch of the African Renaissance Institute, October 1999," both available from the African National Congress website:

(72.) For this reason, a workshop in the Multi-Event 1999 was given over to the topic: See RiPL, 113-15.

(73.) A recent investigation and analysis of the notion of ubuntu, which otherwise has tended to become something of a slogan, is Augustine Shutte, Philosophy for Africa (Cape Town: University of Cape Town Press, 1993).

(74.) Njongonkulu Ndungane, "A Role for Religion in the Public Square?," in RiPL, 14.

(75.) Mvume Dandala, "A Call to Harness the Spirit of the Nation," in RiPL, 53-57. Ibid., 55. Dandala specifically mentions Shaka, Nkrumah, Kenyatta, Nyerere, and Mandela.

(76.) Ibid., 56.

(77.) See William Johnson Everett, God's Federal Republic: Reconstructing Our Governing Symbol (New York: Paulist Press, 1988); also Religion, Federalism and the Struggle for Public Life: Cases from Germany, India, America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997).

(78.) Everett, "Religion in Democratic Transition," in RiPL, 33.

(79.) Bernard Lategan, "Complexity, Consciousness and Values: A Response to Jose Chipenda," in RiPL, 69.

(80.) This phrase plays on Paul Ricoeur, s summary aphorism for his philosophical ethics, namely, the goal of "living well together in just institutions." See his Oneself as Another (Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press, 1992).

(81.) Yasmin Sooka, "Let us Examine Ourselves: A Response to Jose Chipenda," in RiPL, 70.

(82.) Smangaliso Mkhatshwa, "Assuming Responsibility: A Response to Jose Chipenda," in RiPL, 67.

(83.) Chirevo Kwenda, "Ethical Challenges of the Present," in RiPL, 22.

(84.) Denise Ackermann, "Humanity, Ambiguity, Vigilance and Difference," in RiPL, 47.

(85.) They are, variously, from traditions representing Christianity (Catholic and Protestant, Reformed and AIC), Islam, African Traditional Religion, Hinduism. Similar views may be found, in other documents not cited, from Jewish, Baha'i, Buddhist, and Zoroastrian believers, among those I know of.

(86.) See Rashied Omar, "Does Public Policy Need Religion: The Importance of the Inter-Religious Movement," in RiPL, 26-29.

(87.) Everett, "Religion in Democratic Transition," 31.

(88.) As Everett notes, in ibid., 31-32, in South Africa--as would be the ease in many African countries--communal and institutional forms of religion also have significant presence. Communal religious organizations tend towards little differentiation in society, are conservatively traditional, and usually blind to religious pluralism; they are most likely to find themselves in conflict with democratic patterns of governance and citizens rights (e.g. of women or of property). Institutional forms of religion allow for some social differentiation, tolerate other religions in part, and seek to entrench their own religion as hegemonically related to the state; they too will generate a conflict between institutional claims and the rights of citizenship for individuals.

(89.) Ann Loades, "The Politics of Grace and the Pain of Difference," in RiPL, 35-37.

(90.) Jose Chipenda sees hope in this kind of vision of religious responsibility as exemplified by organizations such as Medecins sans Frontiers, who have just been awarded the 1999 Nobel Peace Prize. See "Moral Leadership and Cultural Values," in RiPL, 65.

(91.) See Jean Zaru, "Affirming Life, Challenging Death," in RiPL, 45.

(92.) See Welikazi Sokutu, "`A Voice from the Periphery': A Community Groups Perspective on the Role of Religion in Public Life," in RiPL, 58-59. This brief speech was given in the presence of President Mbeki, and represented the voice of eleven community based religious groups from around South Africa who participated in the Multi-Event 1999 process over five months. The groups emphasize that they are deeply engaged in various transformative public activities in their local contexts, that religious conviction drives this engagement, and that government should take notice of their voices, as should religious leaders "at the top" because they represent the majority of the people in the country and because--by their very location--they hear "the groaning of creation" and seek to heal it.

(93.) See Michael J. Schuck, "Re-Imaging Church and State in the Twilight of Modernity," in Religion and Education 24, no. 2.

* JAMES R. COCHRANE (B.Sc., University of Cape Town., M.Div,. Chicago Theological Seminary; Ph.D., University of Cape Town) is a professor in the department of religious studies at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, and director, Research Institute on Christianity, in South Africa. He is author of Circles of Dignity: Community Wisdom and Theological Reflection and is co-editor of Facing the Truth: South African Faith Communities and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. His articles have appeared in Journal of Theology for Southern Africa, Scripture, Evangelische Theologie, Bulletin for Contextual Theology, and Journal for the Study of Religion. Special interests include comparative studies in the impact of globalization on religious communities and faith, and forms of religious challenge of resistance to the forces of globalization, with South African and Eastern Europe as two areas for case studies.
COPYRIGHT 2000 Oxford University Press
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2000 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Cochrane, James R.
Publication:Journal of Church and State
Geographic Code:6SOUT
Date:Jun 22, 2000
Previous Article:Completing the constitution: enforcement of the religion clauses against the states under the Fourteenth Amendment.
Next Article:Late and never: Ronald Reagan and tuition tax credits.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2020 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters