Collections > UNC Chapel Hill Undergraduate Honors Theses Collection > A New Kairos: Reclaiming Prophetic Theology in South Africa Two Decades Into Democracy
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The original inspiration for this thesis stems from an encounter with Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu in December 2014. I was spending five months in South Africa as part of the UNC Honors Cape Town program, and on one Friday morning, I attended the Eucharist service at St. George’s Cathedral where Tutu was known to regularly speak. The gathering was no more than several dozen congregants, roughly split between a core group of regulars and visitors such as myself. After opening prayers and receiving the Eucharist–or alternatively, receiving a blessing from Tutu–everyone walked around greeting one another with the expression “peace be with you.” Tutu then asked all of the visitors to introduce themselves, and ended with his own reflections on the challenges facing the church in South Africa today. His concluding remarks revolved around the South African Council of Churches (SACC), the ecumenical organization of which Tutu was the General Secretary when he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984. The SACC played a prominent role in the struggle against apartheid; however, Tutu discussed how the SACC had not regained the same stature and relevance within the modern-day political discourse in South Africa. Tutu’s desire for Christian political activism today left me with a series of questions when I returned back home to the United States: Why –and how– did the SACC and other religious institutions play such a prominent role in the struggle against apartheid? Could these same religious institutions reclaim the voice of moral conscience in post-apartheid, South African society? If so, which new strategies in religious political activism could meet the needs of the oppressed and marginalized in South Africa today?