Tuesday, May 27, 2008

June 2008 - Transformation, Identity & Xenophobia

Dear Friends

from Transformation to Identity

The theme I have constantly returned to during the Easter to Pentecost journey has been “Transformation”: the transformation of Life itself through the death and Resurrection of Jesus; the transformation of the Jesus of History into the Christ of Faith through the Ascension; our transformation through the gift of the Spirit at Pentecost. The Feast of Corpus Christi (The Body of Christ) takes us the next step: identity.

Transformation, Identity and Xenophobia

I have grappled with the resistance I have had even to using the term “Transformation” in relation to our parish life. In reflection I realise that underlying this resistance is the issue of identity: who am I, who are we? What is it to be Human, African, South African? What is it to be a person/community of Faith, Christian, Anglican, a member of the Body of Christ? What is it that primarily defines who I am, who we are?

It strikes me that often we define ourselves not in the more universal terms of being human or Christian, but in terms of particular aspects of our existence: we highlight ethnic priorities or specific traditions; and these have led, ultimately and sadly, to Xenophobic violence in our country. This “Us” verses “Them” dichotomy leads to the breakdown in community relationships. This is true in South African society and in the Church, even at Parish level.

Somehow we need to embrace a concept of “Us” that does not create a “Them”; an “Us” that revels in embracing different perspectives in creative balance; an environment where “They” are “Us”. Perhaps this ultimately is the source of transformation, a transformation where, from a Christian Faith perspective, we become ever more Christ-like, and in so doing become ever more human, recognising that we all are made in God’s image, in the image of the Creator.

Xenophobia and a new Way of Living

The horror of recent and ongoing Xenophobic events in our country point to a failure in Government – but also to the failure of the Church – to build a truly democratic, free society. Yes, the number of refugees from other parts of Africa has reached intimidating levels with the statistic of up to 25% of informal settlements being made up of foreigners. Yes, service delivery has not impacted on the poor in ways they find meaningful. Yes, crime is sometimes perpetrated by foreigners. However, it is largely our own children, the so-called “Born Free” generation – who are estimated to make up 70% of all unemployed people in our country – that are perpetrators of much of the recent upheavals. We as Government, as Civil Society, as Faith Communities, have failed to instil a moral core into our young people; we have failed to give them an identity of which they can be proud; an identity onto which they can build a solid moral code.

And so it hurts that we at Corpus Christi, we who carry the name “Body of Christ”, are so resistant to facing up to the call to be transformed. Within our Parish life we have a wonderful opportunity to explore our diverse cultural heritage, to experiment with what it means for “Them” to be “Us”; to build transformed relationships and community in a way that offers HOPE to our wider society, to our Nation. I hear, “Don’t rock the boat”; I hear, “Things are going well – don’t spoil it”. But what do I see?

What do I see?

Despite verbal resistance, I see transformation in action; I see greater involvement from groupings in the Parish that previously were less visible; I see people who struggle with change reaching out across perceived barriers; I see new relationships germinating; and I feel … yes … sense a new ownership of Parish life growing in people’s hearts. I see a community struggling to find a new path, a transformed identity. We are not there yet, but we have begun a journey. Let us persevere, together.



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