How one Afrikaner became an African theologian

June 17, 2009

The reflections of the past few days on my own being an Afrikaner draw to an end… for now. It’s been a week since that transforming moment, when a black Kenyan transformed this Afrikaner into an African theologian.

While some liberal Afrikaner’s would easily identify themselves as being African, I’ve always been a bit cautious. Maybe I’ve seen too much of Africa, to know that in many ways I don’t fit. Maybe it was my involvement with the many philosophical conversations within the Emerging Church conversation, and the realization that these words have little to do with Africa. This was my experience at Amahoro as well. While it is popular for young Afrikaners to reject their past by saying that they had nothing to do with Apartheid, if I want to be in Africa I cannot say this. In Africa I cannot reject my past, I cannot be totally individualistic, what my people did is part of me. This said before I even start looking at all the practical ways in which Apartheid is still part of my daily life, in where I live, how I live etc.

The question that I struggled with was: How can an Afrikaner whose people were responsible for Apartheid become an African theologian? The people with whom I struggles through this was some fellow Afrikaners, but especially some Kenyan friends I made. I felt like I needed to ask permission to take part in constructing an African theology. After telling our story, the story of our people, proud at times, standing guilty at times, one of my new Kenyan friends said these words: “You need to come to Kenya and come tell your story! Our people need to hear that someone can admit that they were wrong.” Those must have been some of the most liberating words I’ve ever heard!

Suddenly our place in this conversation seemed so clear. We do not take part in this African conversation by forgetting Apartheid, by forgetting our past. We do not take part in this conversation in spite of Apartheid. We take part in this African conversation by remembering our past. By telling our story, so that this may never happen again. All over Africa one group oppresses the other. It’s not about white against black, but about the have’s against the have-not’s (as we said at Amahoro). I become an African theologian not by leaving my Afrikaner identity behind, but by taking sides with the have-not’s, with the oppressed, and doing this as child of the iconic oppressor of the past.


7 Responses to “How one Afrikaner became an African theologian”

  1. Mark Long Says:

    Hey, Cobus! It seems Amahoro was challenging and conscientising and liberating for you? Having struggled with a few of the issues myself, but with an English heritage, I can relate to something of your journey, one all “pale” Africans have to walk at some point. My reflections at and may be of interest to you. Blessings, Mark.

  2. Cori Says:

    Cobus, this really, really moved me! I think the stuff you’re working through is great and I love the places its leading you to. The Kenyans are right – we need to hear this story, we need to hear more voices like yours, which are not cheap rhetoric but the result of an authentic grappling with real issues.

  3. cobus Says:

    Thanx Mark and Cori. Mark, I remember reading the one you wrote a few days ago.

  4. Cara Says:

    Totally… I agree. It’s a sentiment I’ve heard echoed among other Afrikaner Christians – particularly my friend Corinne, who discovered the healing and reconciliation God can work when she simply says, sincerely and humbly, “I’m sorry for what my people did.”

    We need a lot more dialogue on this though.

  5. […] writes about How one Afrikaner became an African theologian: my contemplations: We do not take part in this African conversation by forgetting Apartheid, by forgetting our past. […]

  6. […] How one Afrikaner became an African theologian Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)How one Afrikaner became an African theologian Posted by cobus Filed in Journal, South Africa Tags: Afrikaner, Amahoro, racism, whiteness Leave a Comment » […]

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