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Sharing the good news of hope, peace, and justice in South Africa
January 31, 2011
Pietermaritzburg, South Africa — Hungry children are being fed, students of peace are learning non-violent responses to conflict, and ordinary people are making extraordinary sacrifices to bring hope and justice to those on the margins.
These are the good news stories that do not enjoy the same attention in the mainstream media as other, more violent and sensational stories, claims Andrew Suderman, Director of the Anabaptist Network in South Africa (ANiSA). January, 2011, marks one year of ANiSA’s work in bringing alternative, good news stories to South Africans.
While peace and justice projects bring one kind of hope to the vulnerable, in sharing the news of these projects Suderman – an international ministry worker with Mennonite Church Canada – shares a kind of prophetic hope and encouragement with an audience that is in a position to help empower change.
“There are amazing stories about amazing people all over South Africa who can inspire others toward peace and justice,” says Suderman. “There’s a small group of women in Ladysmith with very limited resources who feed hundreds of children every day. Others tirelessly walk with people who are marginalized. Yet others are educating children and adults in the ways of peace and conflict transformation. These are people who make sacrifices so that others can also work for peace and justice, so that all may have a hopeful future.”
Joe Sawatzky, a regular ANiSA columnist, writes, “I hope that someone will read these stories and columns and that it will challenge them to think in a new way… I hope that it can be a voice that offers a different perspective exposed through stories that might not be known or focused on. And I hope that readers will widely share these stories with others.”
Allen Goddard, Director for Theology and Citizenship for A Rocha South Africa and an ANiSA columnist says “South Africa suffers from the psychological and spiritual drag of generational bad news. For decades the media has not highlighted good news nearly enough. Reading contributions by South Africans of all walks of life, including rural pastors or community leaders such as Abahlali baseMjondolo [a shack dwellers movement], or reflections of the more prominent personalities and international theologians from South Africa has encouraged me to catch a glimpse of God’s reign of peace coming into the world where I live.”
“We receive a lot of support from the different online news sources as we gather stories of peace, hope, and reconciliation from all over South Africa – and we are grateful for that. The unfortunate part is that news of this kind does not enjoy the same attention as other stories—stories that tend to be more violent and sensational,” says Suderman. “The news we read shapes our thoughts about the context in which we live and the imagination we have in exploring possible solutions in dealing with the violence, injustice, poverty, and social ills that we face.”
ANiSA, a network of people, churches, and organizations, aims is to walk with, support, and grow reconciling communities of peace and justice that are grounded in the life and witness of Jesus Christ. It encourages and supports South Africans to live lifestyles of peace building and walk the way of peace on a daily basis. ANiSA also brings together those who draw inspiration from the history, teachings, and experiences of the Anabaptist Christian faith movement.
Sidebar 1: Build a Peace Library in South Africa
Peace and justice projects in South Africa are creating a large appetite for the non-violent peace principles of Anabaptist theology. Mennonite Church Canada workers Andrew and Karen Suderman invite you to feed that need by helping them to build the Anabaptist Network in South Africa (ANiSA) Peace Library. This resource centre will provide students and theologians with a wide range of Anabaptist material from academic books and journals to children’s books and music.
Interested Canadians can contribute new or used Anabaptist materials to Peace Library shelves, or provide funds to pay for the shipment of those materials to South Africa.
Mennonite Church Canada Witness workers Andrew and Karen Suderman provide leadership to ANiSA. They say the library recently moved into an office space that once served as home to the library of the Evangelical Seminary of Southern Africa (ESSA). When the library was relocated to a new building, ESSA offered ANiSA the space in exchange for student access to the growing Peace Library and assistance with teaching several ESSA courses and workshops.
“Moving into this new space is an exciting step in the development of the ANiSA Peace Library,” says Karen Suderman. “It's very large, spacious, with lots of room to grow. The books that we currently have, however, do not fill much of the shelves, but we're looking forward to receiving the books that have been donated for this project thus far that we will be shipping from Canada.”
To find out how you can help build the ANiSA Peace Library, see http://www.mennonitechurch.ca/tiny/1470. You can also visit ANiSA’s Peace Library and Resource page on the ANiSA website here: http://anisa.org.za/resources
Sidebar 2: A primer on the Anabaptist movement
Anabaptists emerged during the time of the European Reformation in the 16th century. Historic peace churches such as the Mennonites grew out of this movement. Throughout its history, Anabaptists have worked to be an alternative voice in the face of violence and injustice.
Inspired by their 16th century forebears who suffered for their witness to peace, Anabaptists all over the world – about 1.2 million are represented by Mennonite World Conference today – continue to seek non-violent alternatives to resolving conflict. During the apartheid era, Mennonites were often prevented from entering or staying within South Africa on account of their emphasis on peace and justice and their commitment and willingness to walk with the poor and the oppressed.
Although the Mennonites historically originated in Europe, today there are slightly more Mennonites in Africa than in North America and Europe combined.