Have attitudes really changed?
As I think back on my short visit to South Africa, I realize that I saw only a superficial smattering of what has happened since Al and I left there in 1977. We made a number of short visits since then related to ministries we were involved in, but never saw the scope of how the new government, brought in by the ANC with Mandela as the head, had changed the country. We didn’t even know how deeply involved the young people at Youth Alive were involved in the “troubles.” (see last posting)
I realize there is still a lot of poverty and yes, discrimination. Of course discrimination is illegal. Just like in our own country, the laws on the books do not necessarily change the attitudes in people’s hearts. Older white people, and especially Afrikaans people, still find it hard to treat Africans equally. And older or uneducated Africans who grew up subservient to white people all their lives feel uncomfortable to eat with them or sit in their living rooms.
But integration is happening in schools ; inter-racial marriages are becoming common. Universities are open to everyone; jobs choices free to anyone qualified. People can live in any neighborhood they can afford. People of all races drink tea together, and share meals in luxurious restaurants. While many churches remain segregated, like they do in our country, in others blacks and whites worship joyfully together. None of this could have taken place under apartheid.
Only someone who has lived in South Africa under apartheid can appreciate the changes that have taken place. We have only to remember how long it’s taken in our own country—how long since the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement – and we still struggle with racism.
That’s why I rejoice in what I saw in South Africa. This young government—only eighteen years old—has made great strides. But it has a long way to go to overcome poverty, corruption, unregulated immigration; to provide housing for the thousands upon thousands of squatters living in shacks; to provide jobs for its uneducated youth; to reach out to the millions of rural Africans with jobs, education, infrastructure.
The church in South Africa continues to be strong, but a liberal social agenda floods the entertainment world and Islam is a growing influence.
The major change I saw as I stayed with an African family and met with old African friends, was a new sense of self-confidence, self-identity and a positive view of what they can do with their lives. I met young Christian professionals planting churches and leading media ministries. I heard an African entrepreneur humbly tell of the many businesses he has started to create jobs not only in the city but in his rural village. I met an Afrikaans Christian woman who has taken a homeless black teenager into her home as her daughter. I met an African woman who goes to prayer walk with a team from her church in Middle East countries like Iran and Yemen.
I am grateful that God allowed me to return to see this land as a “country in progress.”