The voice of a prophet
As I’m writing this, I’m sitting in a hotel room in Durban, where I’m attending the 4th South African AIDS Conference. Today has been the opening day and we’ve been promised 95 sessions over the next few days that we will be able to choose from to attend.
Today we had the chance to listen to Dr John Hargrove who made a case for much greater availability of ARVs and sooner than at present, where ARVs are only prescribed when a person’s CD4 count is below 200. He also argued that HIV testing should be compulsory.
The next speaker was Emeritus Archbishop Desmond Tutu. This is the first time that I had had the privilege to hear him speak in person, but it is someone for whom I have a great deal of respect. (I was able to get his signature, through a contact, in a book about the Truth and Reconciliation Committee of which he was the chairperson and which was established after Apartheid came to a fall in South Africa.)
I remember that, somewhere in the eighties, I had a conversation with a professor in missiology who was a member of the, then forbidden, African National Congress (ANC). This professor was obviously extremely critical of the National Party which was still ruling South Africa at that time. At one point I asked him whether he would be equally critical of the ANC when they get to take over the government in South Africa. He didn’t really answer me and sadly, I’ve never heard him speak out against the wrongs which the ANC is doing in South Africa.
During the Apartheid years Archbishop Desmond Tutu spoke out strongly against the National Party, against Apartheid and against all the unrighteousness of the government. What made many people respect him, was that he, with the same voice with which he had criticised the National Party, continued to criticise the ANC government if he felt that they were wrong. And in my understanding, this makes him a true modern day prophet.
I experienced the same feeling today. A week or so ago the South African government refused to issue the Dalai Lama with a visa to visit South Africa with a visa to attend a peace conference. Their excuse is that it would take the focus away from the 2010 world football series which will be hosted in South Africa. (OK, it doesn’t make sense to me either, but that’s what they say!) And today I heard Archbishop Tutu speak to South Africa’s vice-president, who was also present, in which he told her that the government was wrong. Many people will be willing to criticise their country’s leaders. But how many people have the integrity that they can stand up, in front of an audience and reprimand the leaders in their faces? I was deeply touched by this.
Professor David Bosch had been a true modern day prophet. I consider Desmond Tutu to be one as well. But, as with all prophets, the people who need to listen may very well close their ears until it’s too late.
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This is a blog where I would like to share some of my ideas about contemporary mission. I have more than 25 years experience as a full-time missionary in Swaziland, have done a PhD on the theology of mission – specifically on the relationship between mission and eschatology – and am presently specialising in the problem of HIV/AIDS and how the church should approach this problem. You are welcome to respond and share your ideas on this blog.
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