Being in a mixed race relationship is one of the biggest adventures I have ever embarked on. To be honest, I don’t know if I was ever ready for the conversations and struggles that have stemmed from it, but it is one part of my life I have truly come to cherish. It has forced me to engage with issues many other people who are similar to me have never thought of. I have become aware of a whole lot of suffering and injustice. Having said that, it’s also been the coolest celebration of culture.
In South Africa our generation has gone through a rather intense period of unrest. I look forward to the day when economic struggle and race are not synonymous, but the dying legacy of apartheid is still in its last throes. Universities have been the battleground upon which things have come to a head. It is not a new battle. In fact, it is one of the most common issues in this nation’s history – the convergence of education, race and class.
In my search to formulate a perspective that can build positively into this situation, I have prayed more than ever before. It has been something that has brought me to tears and made me angry. Some days it has been easier to ignore the situation, but I am a Christian called to build my nation – as all Christians are. So the question that I have begun to try answer is simply: how do we build from here?
- Listen. The only way we can build is to engage with the realities we all face. We need to understand where every party is coming from. No builder starts the foundations without surveying the terrain he is about to build on. Any system built on pain is going to collapse. With a lack of knowledge (or understanding) people will perish – if not one group, another one will. If you aren’t willing to listen – no matter what side you are on – then we won’t even begin to build.
- Build together. Church that is defined along the lines of race are not a true reflection of Jesus’ mandate. His whole ministry was based on loving those most different to you. Jesus grew up under the oppression of a corrupt king (who tried to kill him as a child and had his cousin John the Baptist executed for no reason). Rome – one of the most merciless and racist powers to ever exist – ruled Israel with an iron fist. Men of war were above the law and able to do anything in the name of Caesar. The Samaritans (considered mixed-bloods) were hated by Israelites as well. The religious leaders of the day were hypocritical and power-hungry as well, resulting in a twisted representation of God’s house. It is fair to say that Jesus lived in a time where hatred was a systemic issue in his nation. Yet he made a point of loving and engaging with all examples of people. He healed and praised a Roman centurion for his faith. One of his disciples was a Zealot – a radical protester that believed violence would bring about change. Jesus rebuked publicly and privately encouraged the leaders of the Temple. If we claim to love Jesus, we as the church need to be engaging with everyone and bringing them together around Jesus – who is the only true catalyst for unity across every demographic.
- Communicate the dream. If we sit around and simply talk about the problems, we can convince ourselves that building is impossible. Action can only be birthed out of a vision. My dream for South Africa (and Africa) is for a nation that represents heaven – every tribe and nation focused on and glorifying God. I believe every person individually has a unique value that society needs. Every racial, cultural, geographical and generational demographic has a strength that can build a quality of life this world has never seen before. If there is a collective revelation of a common dream, then we will build something that will last – something that we could even pass on to the next generation to continue and improve upon.
I am so excited that I get to live in this moment of Africa’s history. Never has there been such opportunity for God’s idea of true life to be expressed through a nation. I truly believe that the struggles we choose to engage with now could be the birthing pains of one of the greatest expressions of God’s Kingdom on earth.
You might not agree right now. You may be struggling to see the hope. Forgiveness may not seem like a possibility for you. Healing from pain that has affected so many generations may seem too much to bear. But I know for a fact that God cares and can do something about it. If you are open to seeing what he can do in and through you click on the link below.