Hundreds of people were gathered at the Orlando Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa on 11 June. To remember, to continue the walk never finished on 16 June 1976, when hundreds of young people were killed by apartheid police and soldiers after student uprisings. Today, 40 years later, representatives of the victims and of the conscripted soldiers walked together for justice, peace and reconciliation. World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit was one of the keynote speakers at the stadium along with government representatives and church leaders.
Tveit said, “We are here together with church representatives from Palestine, Colombia, Burundi, Nigeria, Sudan, South Sudan and DRC. We are with you today acknowledging that the walk towards the South Africa you hoped for and still pray for is not finished.”
Tveit added, “Together we also see today a new sign of hope. We see today that there are new ways forward toward what you all can share as a land of freedom, trust, justice and peace. The process of reconciliation has to continue – and we see that it can continue and include many more.”
“The world got a wake-up call June 16, 1976. So did many churches around the world. The violence that stopped the walk that day – and particularly the wounds and even deaths of so many children – made the world understand that something was really wrong in this country.”
The WCC started to work even more intensively and intentionally together with the South African Council in the Program to Combat Racism.
Tveit said, ”We visited, we supported, we prayed, we sung your songs, we argued, we protested, we called the mighty states in the world to listen to the call for justice from South Africa, we asked them to stop doing business with your apartheid government.”
“Mandela’s word to us after he was released was that, without the churches around the world, he could not have been a free man. These words continue to inspire us today, and particularly on a day like this.”
Tveit concluded: “We have the right to hope that something new is possible. Not only in 1976 or in 1994 you have this right to hope. You have this right today.”
“Therefore: You know, you dare, you can. Together: We know. We dare. We can. As Christians our life is a pilgrimage of justice and peace with one another and God in our common home, in this world. We search for transformation of ourselves and of the world in which we live.”
The consultation “Peace-Building and Reconciliation Consultation: The Place of the Church” took place on 8-11 June in Soweto, where black children rose up against inferior apartheid education in 1976. The consultation concluded today with a pilgrimage from Madibane high school to Orlando Stadium.
The consultation was jointly organized by the WCC and the South African Council of Churches (SACC) and drew 30 participants representing WCC member churches from Burundi, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Palestine, South Africa, South Sudan and Sudan.