Experiencing the holy in South Africa

May 20, 2008

At a number of moments today I had experiences which I can only describe as holy. And for those who know me, you would know that I don’t easily say things like this. We met up with a group of American students from West-Chester university (I think), but it started out earlier. At 13:30 a group of Dutch Reformed theological students, and a group of Presbyterian theological students went on tour with them today, so we got together beforehand to talk a little.

First we talked about what we will sing when they arrived. The Afrikaner students said lets sing Shoza Loza, the black students wanted to sing something Afrikaans – already an interesting development. Then we started discussing the current South African situation, xenophobia and violence, and black and white were talking about how churches should help, what we should do…

So, the American students came. We sang Sarie Marais and Shoza Loza, and then it was their turn. They started singing our national anthem, and we joined in. Already it felt like a praying moment, and it was amazing how the singing of the national anthem joined black and white Africans, who do not know each other, within a few minutes.

We went to Freedom Park. Partly I didn’t like the experience; I thought the guides were not really trained well enough, and didn’t always like the way they explained South African history. But when we got to the 11 rocks, our universal spiritual place; when we took of our shoes, held hands, and went silent for a moment, when I started praying, and I think together with a number of other people in the circle, for a country being ripped apart by violence, I experienced something of the holy.

When tonight we started singing songs to each other, American songs, South African songs, and all of us together started singing Amazing Grace, then I experienced something of the holy. And when tonight, after the Americans left, when we stood in a circle, when someone gave us the latest in the xenophobia, and when we stood together praying for our country, then I experienced something of the holy.

It’s difficult times in South Africa. But amidst all of this moments of the holy are happening…

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