Once-Banned Pastor Speaks At White Church After 27 Years
GERMISTON, South Africa (AP) _ When the Rev. Beyers Naude began preaching against apartheid in the 1960s, he was shunned by his white congregation and later banned by the government.
The 75-year-old pastor’s message is still the same. What was different Sunday were the handshakes and hugs Naude received from the multi-racial congregation after he spoke from the pulpit of a white Dutch Reformed Church for the first time in 27 years.
″This is good news for South Africa. This is reconciliation,″ said longtime church member Louis Lillie. ″This proves Rev. Naude was right all along.″
″I never thought I’d see this day,″ Naude said of his sermon in Germiston, just outside Johannesburg. ″There’s no bitterness in my heart. I’ve always wanted to preach the message of social justice and now some whites are beginning to listen.″
About half of the 200 worshipers at Sunday’s service were black, mixed-race or Indian.
The Germiston congregation is officially part of the white branch of the Dutch Reformed Church, which has separate branches for blacks and followers of mixed-race.
But Germiston’s minister, Pieter Dumas, has been encouraging people of other races to attend services since 1985. Many whites oppose integration and left the church.
Also, Dumas on Sunday installed two black elders, reportedly a first in a white Dutch Reformed Church.
″I hope this will spread to other congregations,″ Naude said. ″It will help (whites) see the other side of the racial picture, how the other side struggles and hopes.‴
Like many long-segregated institutions in South Africa, the white Dutch Reformed Church is wrestling with racial change.
The church, the main religion of the Afrikaners who control the government, argued until the mid-1980s that there was a Biblical justification for apartheid, the South African system of racial separation.
Earlier this month, the white Dutch Reformed Church agreed in principle to unite with its black and mixed-race sister churches. But the white church does not plan a final decision until 1994.
Naude appeared headed for the leadership of the white Dutch Reformed Church when he began began to speak out against apartheid 30 years ago.
He immediately meet opposition from his congregation, the church hierarchy and the government.
Naude resigned in 1963 and set up the Christian Institute, which promoted integration and racial justice. His offices were raided by security police and on several occasions he was blocked from traveling abroad to give speeches.
The government banned Naude from 1977 to 1984. The restrictions made it illegal for him to travel outside Johannesburg, to attend meetings or give speeches. It was a crime in South Africa to quote him.
Naude returned to prominence after the banning order was lifted, often appearing at anti-apartheid gatherings with other church leaders, such as Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a Nobel Peace laureate.
Naude does not belong to any political group. But the African National Congress, the main black opposition movement, asked Naude to be part of its delegation when it held groundbreaking talks with the government in May.
Naude says he does not expect to be play any future political role.
″I’ve never seen myself as anything but an Afrikaner,″ said Naude. ″My goal is to help my fellow Afrikaners change, to become white Africans.″