Comparative Analysis: The churches and their affect on society and politics in the cases of South Africa and Namibia.
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Dept. Peace & Conflict Research Uppsala University BICS - 2002 Comparative Analysis: The churches and their affect on society and politics in the cases of South Africa and Namibia. In this essay I aim to throw light upon the topic of interaction between the churches, society and politics in South Africa and Namibia and the effects of the liberation events of 1990 upon this interaction. First I will give and introduction to the focuses of this essay. Then I will illustrate why I feel the effectiveness of the churches as a force for socio-political change in the cases of South Africa and Namibia varies. Next I will present a theory that will attempt to explain this variation. Following that I will discuss the two cases individually, giving empirical data to illustrate how the two cases apply to the theory. Finally I will make a comparative analysis of the empirical data, to see how it corresponds to the theory. Introduction 1990 was a landmark year in the histories of both South Africa and Namibia. In both countries huge yokes of oppression were cast away. In South Africa apartheid legislation was repealed, while South African occupation in Namibia finally ended. However, despite the 'official' end to these conflict situations, their legacy is still present and threatening to peace. Following the end of repressive South African governance in both countries, the problems of poverty, disease (viz. aids) and persisting inequality are still present, and in the case of South Africa these problems are growing especially acute. Such problems unless adequately tackled, are not conducive to a peaceful society. Despite uncertainties about peace, what is certain is the significant effect that the activity of the churches has had upon the spheres of politics and society in both cases. While other religious institutions have had a role in bringing about liberation from the apartheid government1, I want to focus specifically on the activity of the churches.
Such action, especially towards to the end of the 1980s did weaken the government and coupled with military failures in Angola and escalating unrest in Namibia, the apartheid regime was beginning to lose its control. At this time the rising levels of violence and unrest caused the churches to draw closer to one another. Ecumenism grew from strength to strength and more and more churches openly criticised apartheid. Examples of such criticism were the Institute for Contextual Theology's Kairos Document in 1985, and the Call for Prayer to End Unjust Rule by the SACC26. By 1986 the DRC began to question its own theology27. The crescendo of church criticism, representing a polarisation of opinion against apartheid among the majority of South Africans, created a tense atmosphere, where the government grew to see that no matter how much violence it used to bring order, there could be no stop to civil unrest until apartheid ceased. When apartheid did cease in 1990 and the country moved towards democratic elections, the ecumenism that flourished in the late 80s ceased to mature. With the disappearance of the common evil, which apartheid represented, the churches had no clear or coherent strategy for the future. The possibility of such a strategy was rather unlikely due to the problem of racially structured congregations, which existed in some form within most of the churches. Even though apartheid ceased to exist the DRC did not unite with the rest of its family of segregated churches, although it claims to be open to the idea. 'Since 1994 the ideal of unification with the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa, the Dutch Reformed Church in Africa and the Reformed Church in Africa has gathered momentum although a lot of work still has to be done'.28 Clearly for there to be a peaceful and just society, there needs to be reconciliation between the races. However due to their different social composition different churches had different ideas about what reconciliation meant.
cit. p40 16 ibid. p23 17 The results from 1960-1980 are taken from G.C. Oosthuizen, J.K Coetzee, J.W. de Gruchy, J.H. Hofmeyr and B.C. Lategan, Religion, Intergroup Relations, and Social Change in South Africa: Humans Sciences Research Council, op.cit., p27. The estimated results for 2000 are taken from 'The Land and its People: Religion', Government of South Africa, 09/05/02, <http://www.gov.za/yearbook/2001/landpeople.html#religion> 18 The reason for the large dichotomy between the results in this case is because the 1984 survey did not include any specific African Independent Churches (AICs), while the 2000 survey includes a number of specific AICs as well as having a more generalised group for the smallest AICs. 19 Sheena Duncan, '"In Humble Submission to Almighty God" - Church, State and Conflict in South Africa, in eds. Hallencreutz and Palmberg, Religion and Politics in Southern Africa, op.cit. p27 20 Cochrane, de Gruchy and Martin, Facing the Truth: South African faith communities and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, op. cit. p38 21 ibid. p40 22 ibid. p50 23 ibid. 24 ibid. 54f 25 ibid 56f 26 ibid. p51 27 ibid. p36 28 'An introduction to the DRC' Ned Geref Kerk, 10/05/02 < http://www.ngkerk.org.za/index_eng.htm> 29 Carl Niehaus, 'Is religion really relevant?', in Eds. Cochrane, de Gruchy and Martin, Facing the Truth: South African faith communities and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, p88 30 Philip Steenkamp, 'The Churches', in Eds. Collin Leys & John. S. Saul, Namibia's Liberation Struggle: The Two-Edged Sword, op.cit., p94f 31 ibid p95 32 ibid. 33 ibid. p96 34 ibid. p102 35 ibid. p99 36 ibid. p99f 37 ibid 98f 38 ibid p103 39 ibid 40 ibid 41 ibid p106 42 Christo Lombard, 'The Role of Religion in Namibian Society', in Eds. Thomas G. Walsh and Frank Kaufmann, Religion and Social Transformation in Southern Africa, op. cit. p104 43 Philip Steenkamp, 'The Churches', in Eds. Collin Leys & John. S. Saul, Namibia's Liberation Struggle: The Two-Edged Sword, op.cit p105 44 ibid. p110 45 Christo Lombard, 'The Role of Religion in Namibian Society', op. cit. p114 46 ibid. p122 47 See above no.8 Alex Rush Page 1 10/05/2007
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