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Apartheid heroes honoured for their peace and justice work

Posted on: April 27, 2016 1:19 PM
Archbishop Thabo Makgoba with the first President of the Republic of Zambia, Kenneth Kaunda
Photo Credit: Phil Groves / ACO

[ACNS, by Gavin Drake] The Archbishop of Cape Town, Thabo Makgoba, has honoured a number of pioneers in the fight for justice in South Africa by bestowing on them the Archbishop’s Award for Peace with Justice. Archbishop Desmond Tutu and his wife Leah, Bishop John Osmers and the first President of Zambia, Kenneth Kaunda, received the awards during separate presentations this month.

The Rt Revd John Osmers, the retired Bishop of Eastern Zambia, received his award during a Eucharist service at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Lusaka, Zambia, during the recent ACC-16 meeting.

Bishop Osmers’ citation recognises the distinction he has achieved “in multiple countries for multiple reasons” as a result of his “lifelong work as a faithful servant of God.”

The citation says that “In his native New Zealand, he is known for his staunch record in fighting against collaboration with apartheid South Africa. In Zambia, he is known as the first Bishop of Eastern Zambia, as the Rector of St John’s Seminary and as one who served for some time as Dean of Holy Cross Cathedral in Lusaka. To Rwandan refugees, he is known as a doughty defender of their welfare.

“It is, however, for his defence of Gospel values to the point of self-sacrifice that the Anglican Church of Southern Africa is proud to honour him. First in Lesotho, then in Botswana and then in Zambia, he served as a chaplain to South African exiles, losing his hand as a consequence of receiving a parcel bomb from an apartheid death squad.

“In the words of a writer on South African History Online: ‘John Osmers gave his home, telephone and meagre food supplies to all of us. His little van carried young refugees around. . . He remembered their birthdays, took them to the hospital when ill and took them blankets . . . in winter.

“‘He arranged the all-night vigil yearly on 16 June. . . He took our traumatised children to stay with him. . . South African parents whose children were exiled in Lesotho, Botswana and Zambia owe John Osmers a debt that can never be repaid.’

“Supported by the Archbishop of Central Africa, the Bishop of Lusaka and the Dean of Lusaka, the Anglican Church of Southern Africa is honoured to recognise this pastor, prophet and priest who has selflessly dedicated his life to the liberation and welfare of God’s people with the Archbishop’s Award for Peace with Justice.”

While he was in Lusaka, Archbishop Makgoba took time out from ACC-16 to call upon the first President of the Republic of Zambia, Kenneth Kaunda, to present him with an Archbishop’s Award for Peace with Justice.

“The role played in Southern African history by His Excellency Kenneth Kaunda, former President of Zambia, epitomises how a statesman can fulfil the injunction in Micah to do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with our God,” the award’s citation says.

“Born the son of a minister and a teacher, President Kaunda was steeped in the values of the Gospel from an early age. From early adulthood, his life revolved around service to his fellows, as a teacher, a community activist and a founding member of the liberation movement in Zambia.

“His commitment to service found its highest expression in his term as founding president of Zambia and in his unwavering commitment to liberation for others, making exceptional sacrifices as a consequence of harbouring fellow liberation fighters who were branded by white minority regimes as ‘terrorists’.

“At the end of the Cold War, he achieved new distinction as an exemplary leader when he became one of the first leaders to allow multi-party elections and afterwards to step down from power. Respected and loved by Nelson Mandela and the other liberators of Southern Africa, he was rightly honoured with an important role at Madiba’s funeral.”

Upon returning to South Africa, Archbishop Makgoba honoured Archbishop-emeritus Desmond Tutu and his wife Mrs Leah Tutu during a service at St George’s Cathedral in Cape Town.

“We honour Nomalizo Leah Tutu for her lifelong commitment to servant leadership as a courageous opponent of injustice and oppression and as a sustainer, a mother and a supporter of those in her family and beyond who share that commitment,” Mrs Tutu’s citation read.

“As a role model for students on campuses from Fort Hare to Roma, she helped young women uncertain of themselves in adjusting to their new world. Uprooted from a life of comfort abroad, she came home to fight bravely for the rights of domestic workers, confronting those who would ill-treat some of the most powerless in society.

“In the face of threats and danger to her husband and family, she nurtured and created a safe haven for them and her extensive network of friends, many of them also leaders in the struggle. Indeed, she does justice, loves kindness and walks humbly with her God.”

Those words, from the Book of Micah, are the inspiration behind the Archbishop’s Award for Peace with Justice. Speaking to journalists at the end of the service, Archbishop Makgoba said that the decision to award the Tutus was taken “in light of that Micah passage looking at the principles and values of service to humanity, loving God and walking humbly; and there is no one better than the Tutus to be honoured in that way.”

He said that the Church was “privileged and honoured” to have bestowed the award on them.”

ACSA_Abps _Makgoba _Tutu _Peace _with _Justice _Award

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba and Archbishop-Emeritus Desmond Tutu at St George’s Cathedral, Cape Town, after Archbishop Tutu received the Archbishop’s Award for Peace with Justice
Photo: Anglican Church of Southern Africa

Archbishop Tutu said that it was “very humbling” to receive the award, saying: “You don't do these things because you want an award, you are doing them because they have got to be done when there is injustice. Sometimes people can't believe it, but you can't help it – even when the consequences of speaking up are dire, as they used to be under the Apartheid system.”

The citation for Archbishop Tutu’s award recognised his “extraordinary contributions to the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, to South Africa, Africa and the world as a priest and pastor, prophet and teacher, healer and humourist.”

It reads: “Forever caring for his flock as a shepherd, he cajoles people to love one another, to recognise their common humanity and to understand their inter-dependence and equality before God.

“Angered when he sees those who are created in God’s image subjected to violations of their human dignity, he speaks out courageously for justice in the face of overwhelming odds. With the compassion learned from his beloved mother, he recognises both our strengths and vulnerabilities, always ready to forgive, willing to renew and anxious to reform, resuscitate and rebuild. All this undergirded by a sense of humour – and a loud cackle – which draws us into the all-embracing love of God which he models for everyone whose lives he touches.”