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South African Archbishop faces new challenge

Sunday, August 14

Visiting South African Archbishop, ex Robben Island prisoner, challenges new discrimination

“Poverty is the new apartheid,” The Archbishop of Capetown, The Most Rev. Njongonkulu Ndungane, told parishioners at St Matthew-in-the-City in central Auckland on Sunday.

Archbishop Ndungane, who was imprisoned for three years on Robben Island in the sixties for offences against the Apartheid laws, is in Auckland to deliver a keynote speech tomorrow at a theology conference at St John’s College, Meadowbank.

He told the St Matthew’s congregation that because “God does not change his mind about whom he chooses and blesses… Christians are called to work for the breaking down of barriers.

“One of these (barriers) is poverty. In many ways, poverty is the new apartheid. It causes vast divisions between countries and within countries.”

The Archbishop said that the number “suffering extreme poverty in sub-Saharan Africa has actually risen by 72 million in the last 10 years.”

Archbishop Ndungane is also the Anglican Primate of the Church of the Province of Southern Africa – a vast territory that includes Namibia, Angola, and Mozambique, as well as South Africa.

As Archbishop of Capetown – a position he has held since 1996 – The Most Rev. Ndungane is the immediate successor to Desmond Tutu. He has proven no less outspoken.

He is a campaigner for the poor (he has crossed swords with Nelson Mandela on this) and is one the leaders in the campaign to abolish the developing world’s debt.

But Archbishop Ndungane is probably best known for the stand he has taken on gay sexuality, and in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Where other African Anglican bishops have threatened to break communion with the worldwide Anglican church over liberalising moves, particularly in parts of the USA and Canada, on gay matters, Archbishop Ndungane has been a lone “friendly” voice.

He took up that theme at St Matthew’s yesterday. He said gay and lesbian Christians “have been made a political football.”

He said the present ructions within the Anglican Church have deep roots in “disagreements over what might be seen as various forms of liberalism” which now “draw energy from fights over power, property and politics.”

“It has,” he said, “nothing to do with gays and lesbians.”

“You can imagine that after the experience of apartheid, I am always dismayed by any attempt to discriminate on the basis of characteristics over which we have no control – whether race, colour, gender, sexual orientation – even IQ and attractiveness.”


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