SOUTHERN AFRICA: Archbishop calls for reconciliation in the Holy Land

June 5, 2007

Drawing on experiences of reconciliation in his homeland, Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane, Primate of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, has added his voice to the call for justice and a lasting peace in the Holy Land.

"It is impossible to remember events of 40 years ago in the Holy Land, and reflect on all that has happened since, without being deeply moved at the scale of this human tragedy and the continuing heartbreak across the region," Ndungane said in a June 4 statement.

"Our God is also the God of hope -- so we dare to pray for a future where Jews, Muslims and Christians enjoy peace as brothers and sisters together, where occupation and oppression cease, where violence and fighting end, and where everyone can live without fear, in security, and experience the true freedom and abundant life for which we were each created," he added.

Ndungane has been one of the Anglican Communion's leading voices on issues of justice and reconciliation since he was elected to lead Southern Africa's Anglican Church in 1996.

"If we have learned anything at all from our experiences in South Africa, surely it is this: that the only lasting solution to any conflict must come through a process of reconciliation that paves the way for a future built upon justice, where former antagonists can find true freedom, peace and prosperity together, and where each is served by, and therefore promotes, the flourishing of the other."

This, he said, "is our hearts' desire for the people of Palestine and of Israel."

Ndungane acknowledged that such reconciliation is not easily won. "South Africans know that full well," he said, referring to the years following the end of the oppressive apartheid system in his country. "But it is the only prize worth fighting for. Anything less feeds the continuing cycles of oppression, injustice, and destructive violence. The only truly rational human solution is for people to wage reconciliation together."

Ndungane was imprisoned on the notorious Robben Island under the apartheid regime, where he was made to build the prison that would later house Nelson Mandela. It was during this time that Ndungane was called to Christianity and he entered into the priesthood shortly after his release.

"As Christians we follow one who is called the Prince of Peace, who calls on all his followers to be agents of his Gospel of Reconciliation," he said in the June 4 statement. "This responsibility is not to be taken lightly. That is why I am glad that Christians from this country continue to serve with the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel. That is why it is vital that we share our own difficult journey, and our experiences of God's inexhaustible grace in the face of what seemed an intractable conflict, where a bloodbath appeared unavoidable."

The oldest and one of the largest Provinces on the continent, the Anglican Church of Southern Africa includes 24 dioceses throughout Angola, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Saint Helena, South Africa and Swaziland.