By Hannah Broadwell
Although the country of South Africa has experienced incredible growth over the years, it has a long history of hardship. During our last few weeks here, our team has gotten the opportunity to interact with South African culture in many different spheres. Hospice. School. Vacation Bible School. Youth Group. With the routine of ministry, it is easy to forget the painful past of this region. But, just this past weekend, our team got to gather and spend time looking at the issues this country still faces today.
We call it our ‘Social Action Night.’ A night set aside for learning, discussion, and prayer. It takes form in various free-flowing stations each paired with recent articles about differing current social issues here in South Africa. Race relations, poverty, HIV/AIDS, and human trafficking were just a few of the topics discussed. It was empowering to see the eyes of our students opened during this time. They were given a new lens to see the ministry we do here. Through this night, they gained more understanding minds and empathetic hearts.
Here is an excerpt from one of the articles our students read called “Why South Africa is Still Dealing with Segregation and Poverty” written by Craig and Marc Kielburger.
“Sisters Abigail and Jocelyn Gqadu, aged 13 and 15, attend high school in Cullinan, outside Pretoria. They are both from the Xhosa clan, like Nelson Mandela, and should be living the dream of post-apartheid South Africa.
But they told me that many of their classes are segregated, not by race, but by language. The white students attend classes taught in Afrikaans, their mother tongue, while the black students, who speak a variety of different languages and dialects, are taught in English. All the teachers are white, they say, and can’t teach or answer questions about black African culture. The team sports offered by the school are field hockey, rugby and cricket — sports black South Africans don’t like to play, the sisters say.
“There are two classes of white students, and one class of black students in my grade,” explains Jocelyn. “We have almost nothing to do with each other.”
The South African Reconciliation Barometer, a survey of racial and social attitudes, consistently finds a deeply divided nation. Less than 40 per cent of South Africans socialize with people of another race, while only 22 per cent of white South Africans and a 20 per cent of black South Africans live in racially integrated neighbourhoods. Just 11 per cent of white children go to integrated schools, and 15 per cent of black children.”
Although these topics were jarring for some, I was encouraged by the ways they came together in prayer. Our students are learning that we have a God who goes across culture. A God who cares for His people. A God who is good, even when it is hard for us to understand.