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Compassionate Community Work
Most of us
struggle to be the very best we can be. And for many
of us, Jesus Christ of Nazareth represents the very
best that we can be.
be too much for any of us to expect to be Christlike
in terms of our ability. Very few, if any, could ever
calm a storm, or raise the dead, like Christ did. But
it’s not too much for any of us to expect to be more
Christlike in terms of our sensibility. Now, more than
ever, we need to learn to care for people like Christ
the path of Christlike compassion is one that others
have trodden before us; and there are men and women in
the past whose lives can serve as examples of the way
we need to take in the future.
think that it helps us to treat anyone as if they're
saints. To hold people up as models of sinless
perfection, when they're not, doesn't help them, or
us. Haloes only serve to create delusions of grandeur
that become reasons for discouragement when
disillusionment eventually sets in.
relevance of the example of people who have gone
before us, depends on our remembering them and
reconsidering them as they were -imperfect people in
relentless pursuit of the practice of perfect
like to acknowledge that these stories first saw the
light of day in Target magazine, a publication of Tear
Australia, a Christian aid agency.
these stories I have tried to be accurate. But because
they are sketches - outlines, not portraits - a lot of
details are missing. To get a full picture you need to
read their biographies and autobiographies yourself!
- ‘The Mad Monk’ (4thC)
Chrysostom - ‘The Man With The Golden Mouth’
- ‘The Good King’ (903-935)
– ‘The Hammer of Kings’ (1140-1200)
of Assissi – ‘God’s Juggler’(1182-1226)
von Thuringia – ‘The Queen Who Served Beggars’
Simons - The Architect Of A Pacifist Church
Ludwig – ‘The Count Who Cared’ (1700-1760)
Wesley – ‘The Whole World Is My
Finney – ‘Christ’s Lawyer’ (1792-1875)
Truth - ‘Ain’t I A Woman!’ (1797-1853)
Chisholm – ‘The Tireless Campaigner (1808-1877)
Nightingale -‘The Lady With The
De Vuester – ‘Damien The Leper’(1840-1899)
Dunant - “Founder Of The Red Cross’ (1828-1910)
MacKillop –‘The Little Battler’ (1842-1909)
Ramabai – ‘The Learned One’(1858-1922)
Freer Andrews – ‘Christ’s Faithful Apostle’
Keller – ‘The Light In The Darkness’.
Kagawa –‘The Faithful Traitor’ (1888-1960)
Luthuli – ‘The Apartheid Opponent’ (1898- 1967)
Day - The Woman Who Wanted To Change The World
Bonhoeffer –‘The Man Who Stood By God’
Weil – ‘The Red Virgin’(1909-1943)
Camara -‘The Red Bishop’(1909-1999)
Jordan – ‘The Race-Mixing Communist.(1912-1969)
Maria Anznediarretia – ‘The Coop Priest
Tutu- ‘The Voice Of The Voiceless’ (1931-
– ‘The Mad Monk.’
was born sometime in the fourth century after the
birth of Christ. He lived as a monk in a remote
Asiatic Christian community, growing vegetables
and studying prayer. Then one day, in prayer,
Telemachus sensed that the Spirit was encouraging him
to leave his community and go to Rome, which at that
time, was like the capital of the world, a big
bustling metropolis at the centre of the greatest
empire the world had ever known.
Telemachus arrived in the so-called ‘heavenly
city’, Rome was celebrating a recent victory of its
powerful legions over the troublesome Goths, and so,
for the holiday festival, a circus was being staged
for the jubilant multitudes.
didn’t know where he was going. But he allowed
himself to be swept along by the crowds on their way
to the Coliseum for the circus. When the crowds
arrived at the Coliseum they began to get excited at
the sound of the lions roaring their challenge and the
gladiators preparing for combat.
didn’t know what he was doing. But he followed the
crowd into the Coliseum, where, to his horror, he was
confronted with callous gut-wrenching carnage, as
gladiators fought one another to the death,
slaughtering their hapless foes, without pity, as a
red-blooded entertainment for the bloodthirsty crowds.
It was all
too much for Telemachus.
He felt that he had to do something. He simply
couldn’t stand by idly and do nothing while human
beings were being beheaded, disembowelled, and
dismembered before his very eyes.
Telemachus ran down the steps of the stands, leapt
into the arena, and began darting, back and forth
between the fighters, crying, ‘Forbear. Forbear. In
the name of Christ I beg you to forbear.’
crowd saw the scrawny figure of the monk, running
frantically about the arena, ducking and weaving
between the combatants, to start with, they took
Telemachus to be a bit of welcome comic relief, and
roared their approval.
time went by, some of the people in the crowd began to
hear what ‘the mad monk’ was saying, and, as more
and more of the crowd came to realise that Telemachus
was actually trying to spoil their bloody fun, they
turned against him, hissing, and booing, and bellowing
at the top of their voices for his quick despatch.
happened next no one seems to know for sure. We do
know that the gladiators lunged at the monk with
thrusts from their swords; and we do know that the
audience buried the monk under a hailstorm of stones.
But we do not know for sure whether it was the
gladiators, or the audience, that killed him. All that
we know is that, when the furore was over, Telemachus
lay dead in the middle of the arena.
strange thing happened. In the silence that ensued, it
was if the monk’s last cry echoed eerily around the
arena once again: ‘Forbear. Forbear. In the name of
Christ I beg you to forbear.’
with shame, the spectators departed, leaving the
circus empty, never to return. Never again did
spectators gather to watch people butcher each other
at the Coliseum in Rome. All brutal gladiatorial
battles were banned. And Telemachus was written into
the pages of history as the hero who, single-handedly,
brought the era of slaughter as entertainment to an
the declining power of the empire, resulting in
diminishing numbers of recruits for gladiatorial
schools, and decreasing amounts of funds available to
stage gladiatorial contests, were also very
significant factors in putting an end to the circus;
but Telemachus will always be remembered as the man
who, in the end, was actually prepared to put his body
on the line to stop the slaughter.
Chrysostom – ‘The Man with the Golden Mouth.’
called “Chrysostom” - the “Man With The Golden
Mouth.” Born in Antioch in 347CE, from an early age
John was trained in rhetoric by the orator Libanius,
and, as a young man, showed great promise as a
brilliant debater, with the prospect of a long and
lucrative career ahead of him.
at the age of twenty-three, John decided to turn his
back on sophistry, undertake baptism, and devote the
next few years of his life, to living in the
wilderness with a bunch of monks, and learning from
them how he could live the way taught by Jesus -
the way of simplicity, empathy and compassion.
years, John felt it was time for him to return to
Antioch. This time as “an a ambassador of another
city...the city of the poor.” So he sought
ordination, and was invited to be first a deacon, then
a presbyter, in the church of Antioch. Where he
quickly began to earn a reputation as a courageous
advocate of the gospel, and fearless defender of the
had ever been a time in John’s life when he had
sought the favour of the rich, that time was well and
truly over. Antioch was a wealthy city and it enraged
him to think that though there was more than enough
food to go round, the rich stuffed their faces while
the poor went hungry . So John used his sermons as
opportunities to give the people statistical
information about the gross inequalities in the
distribution of wealth in Antioch, and publicly
chastise the rich for their disregard for the poor.
accused the rich of robbing the poor of their
say, ‘I am spending what is mine; I am enjoying what
is mine.’ In reality it is not your’s, but
how is it that you are rich? From whom did you receive
your wealth? From (your) father? From (your)
grandfather? By climbing this genealogical tree are
you able to show the justice of this possession? Of
course you cannot! Rather its root ha(s) come out of
begged the rich to repent of their neglect of the
you are weary of praying and do not receive, consider
how often you have heard a poor man calling and have
not listened to him....”
not for stretching out your hands to heaven that you
will be heard. Stretch out your hands, not to heaven,
but to the poor!”
was nominated Patriarch of Constantinople in 397CE,
John took his chance to put the church’s money where
his mouth was. Vast amounts of money were spent on
ransoming slaves, resettling the destitute and
rehabilitating the disabled. Hospitals were
constructed. Shelters provided. And even a hospice for
lepers was built in a salubrious suburb - much to the
consternation of the neighbours.
to say, the ordinary people, whose silent suffering
John faithfully articulated and addressed, year in and
year out, loved the patriarch they called “Chrysostom”-
“The Man With The Golden Mouth”. But because John,
who constantly denounced the Empress Eudoxia for her
outrageous extravagance, refused to desist, he was
driven into exile - not once, but twice.
time the people rose up against the authorities and
brought John back home in triumph. The second time,
when the people rose up against the authorities, the
authorities were waiting for them. John’s supporters
were systematically cut to pieces. And John himself
died when he collapsed as a result of a forced march
in the heat of the day ordered by the soldiers charged
with his final banishment.
– ‘The Good King.’
or Wenceslaus, as he was called, was born into the
royal family of Bohemia in the year 903. When
his father died in 924, Wenceslaus, at the age of
twenty-one, became Duke of Bohemia.
thing Wenceslaus did when he became King was to put an
end to the bloody war between Bohemia and Germany.
Wenceslaus did this by taking the risk of personally
seeking reconciliation with Emperor Henry of Germany
himself . And the alliance Wenceslaus achieved finally
brought some peace to his beloved Bohemia.
when the peace broke down, and fighting flared up
again along the borders, to save his soldiers from
being slaughtered by a much bigger and much better
equipped army, the King offered to settle the matter
by fighting a duel, one on one, with a powerful
prepared for mortal combat, apparently the General
found himself struck down by a strange attack of
paralysis and he was forced to concede victory in the
contest to the King. Typically, Wenceslaus forgave the
enemy chief, and spared his life on the condition that
he withdraw all his forces from Bohemian soil
period of peace that ensued, Wenceslaus redirected the
energy and resources usually committed to the war
effort, to reconstruct the infrastructure of the
to reform the legal system and brought about many
measures to establish social justice. He instituted
freedom of religion. He set prisoners free who
were unfairly imprisoned. He abolished torture as a
form of punishment. And he tore down the gallows that
dotted the countryside laden with the corpses of
same time Wenceslaus personally extended his
hospitality to strangers, provided rations for the
poor, and guaranteed protection for the widows and
orphans in his care.
hardly surprising that the people loved their “Good
aristocracy, whose arbitrary authority he threatened,
hated him with a vengeance. And they took their
vengeance out on him, in 935, when they assassinated
Wenceslas, at the age of thirty-two, in an ambush
organised by the nobles, and led by his brother,
As he lay
dying, Wenceslas said to Bolislaw: “May God forgive
GOOD KING WENCESLAS
Good King Wenceslas looked out, on the Feast of
When the snow lay round about, deep and crisp and
Brightly shone the moon that night, though the frost
When a poor man came in sight, gathering winter
“Hither Page, and stand by me. If thou knowest,
Yonder peasant, who is he, where and what his
“Sire, he lives a good league hence, underneath
Right against the forest fence, by St. Agnes’
“Bring me flesh and bring me wine, bring me pine
Thou and I shall see him dine, when we bear them
Page and Monarch, forth they went, forth they went
Through the rude wind’s wild lament and the bitter
“Sire, the night is darker now, and the wind grows
Fails my heart. I know not how. I can go no
“Mark my footsteps good, my Page. Tread thou in
Thou shalt feel the winter’s rage, freeze thy
blood less coldly.”
In his master’s steps he trod, where the snow lay
Heat was in the very sod, which the saint had
Therefore faithful folk be sure, wealth or rank
Ye who now would bless the poor, shall yourselves
– ‘The Hammer of Kings.’
though regarded as English saint, was actually born in
France, in 1140. The family that he came from had a
reputation for compassion. Anne, his mother, used to
tend to the needs of the lepers in her community,
literally washing the feet of those whom no one else
even wanted to touch.
surprisingly, growing up under the guidance of his
mother, Hugh began to develop a very practical,
compassionate spirituality himself.
was old enough, Hugh decided to join the Carthusians.
The Carthusians were part of a monastic reform
movement that was seeking to get back to the
essentials of the gospel. In the Carthusian monastery
at Grande Chartreuse, Hugh was appointed the
procurator, entrusted with the care of the guests, and
as such, it was his responsibility to take care of the
poor, who flocked to the monastery for help.
reputation as a hardworking helper of the poor began
to spread far and wide beyond the borders of his
native France. And it wasn’t too long before Henry
11 invited Hugh to come to England to set up a
monastery in Somerset. Hugh said he would be more than
happy to comply with Henry’s request; but only on
the condition that the King would compensate the
peasants, whose land he had apparently already
compulsorily acquired for the project!
the popular Prior was appointed Bishop of Lincoln, a
diocese that stretched from the Humber River in the
north to the Thames River in the south. Hugh arrived
in Lincoln, accompanied by a splendid cavalcade of
canons and knights, dressed as a simple monk, riding
astride a mule. It is said he walked barefoot to the
Cathedral, and, following his investiture, threw a
great party for the poor of the city, ensuring them,
that from then on, that one third of all episcopal
revenues would be set aside for their welfare.
to reorganise the diocese. Rebuilding the Cathedral,
that had been damaged in an earthquake; and founding a
School Of Theology at the Cathedral, that became a
famous centre of religious learning.
only visited the poor but also invited them to his
home. Like his mother before him, he would wash them,
kiss them, and send them on their way with a gift.
Hugh didn’t claim to be able to heal them. Rather,
he said, “It is my soul that the leper heals with a
died, Richard became King of England, and the ‘Lion
Heart’ embarked on a series of Crusades. During the
Crusades violence against the Jews erupted all over
quickly to intervene on behalf of the Jews. He not
only offered them refuge in the Cathedral; but also
personally stood between them, and the armed mobs that
were out to get them, to protect them! Thus Hugh saved
the Jews of Lincoln, from the terrible massacre that
engulfed the Jews of York!
unlike most clergy, refused to support the King’s
foreign military adventures in any way, and refused to
pay any war taxes - the first recorded case of
conscientious tax objection in history!
threatened to confiscate the Church’s property. And
the Bishop threatened to excommunicate anyone who
tried. The King was furious. But the Bishop held firm.
Leading John of Leicester to call Hugh of Lincoln
‘The Hammer Of Kings!’
on 16th of November in the year 1200.
deathbed he declared he never possessed anything; but
lest the Treasury confiscate the property he had at
his disposal, Hugh said “I leave everything I appear
to possess to our Lord Jesus Christ in the person of
of Assisi – ‘God’s Juggler.’
was born in Italy in 1182 to a French mother, Pica,
and Italian father, Pietro. His father changed his
name to Francesco after a trip to France. And the
'little Frenchman' was brought up on a romantic French
ballads sung by travelling troubadours. The son of a
wealthy merchant, Francesco Bernadone led a cavalier
life in his youth, and was considered 'the life of the
party' by his contemporaries in Assisi. Until, in his
early twenties, he left home to fight in a battle
against a neighbouring town, was captured and
was to prove a turning point for Francesco. During the
year in prison, and the year in convalescence,
following his release, Francesco thought long and hard
about his life. He had intended to become to become a
great knight. But that seemed a rather foolish dream
in the light of the harsh reality of war.
Francesco was riding along a road when he simply
stopped in his tracks. It was as if he could not carry
on any more as he was. He dismounted, undressed, then,
bit by bit, took everything that he had with him -
including his horse and his armour - and gave it all
away. His father became exasperated with Francesco,
over his prodigality with the family's property, and
organised a meeting with the local bishop to pull him
into line. But it backfired big time.
responded to his father's complaints by renouncing his
family, and his family's property, altogether. He gave
back everything his family had given him. Including
the clothes that he was wearing at the time. So that
Francesco stood there naked as the day that he was
born. Then he turned to his father and said: 'Until
now I have called you father, but from now on I can
say without reserve, Our Father who is in Heaven-He is
all my wealth-I place my confidence in Him.”
to consider his future, Francesco decided to spend
some time living as a hermit beside an old church in
San Damiano. While there Francesco heard a voice
calling him, saying, 'Rebuild my church.' Francesco
responded to the call by repairing the ruins of the
church in San Damiano, then set about the task of
reforming the life of the church throughout Italy.
approached the task of renewal - not as a legislator -
but as a juggler! He had been brought up with
troubadours coming to his house, singing romantic
ballads that stirred the heart; and he aspired to be
like one of the jugglers who accompanied the
troubadours, drawing the crowds for the musicians, so
they could listen to the music of the heart that they
played. As a 'Juggler for God', Francesco wanted to
travel from town to town, like an entertainer, without
a penny to his name, introducing people to, the 'true
joy of living'.
set about his task with such enthusiasm that people
all over the place wanted to join his movement. And he
pointed the hundreds and thousands who did, to the
Sermon on the Mount, as the simple gospel imperative
for them to flesh out in their lives. For he wanted -
more than anything else - for them to model the life
of Jesus in the world.
his views, it is quite remarkable that Francesco did
not rage against the pompous opulence of medieval
society. Instead, ever the romantic, Francesco tried
to woo the people away from their preoccupation with
the trappings of power, and get them to fall in love
with 'Brother Sun' and 'Sister Moon' - and the lovely
'Lady Poverty'. Poverty was not an end in
itself. But, as far as Francesco was concerned, people
needed to be willing to joyfully embrace poverty in
order to follow the way of Jesus. How else, he asked,
would they be free to share Jesus' love with the world?
Francesco obtained approval from Pope Innocent III for
a simple rule dedicated to 'apostolic poverty'. He
called the order the 'Friars Minor'. And this band of
'Little Brothers' followed their founder in caring for
the poor. In 1212 Clare - a wealthy friend of
Francesco's from Assisi; who, like Francesco, had been
converted, and had given all her wealth to the poor -
started a sister order to the brothers, that was to
become known as 'the Poor Clares'.
time most Christians understood mission in terms of
the crusades - to slaughter as many Muslims as they
could - in the name of the Lord. Francesco not only
refused to take up weapons himself, he actually
travelled to Egypt where the crusaders were fighting,
and begged them to lay down their swords. When they
would not listen to him, Francesco crossed the lines
at Damietta, and went to talk with the 'enemy' sultan,
Mele-el-Khamil, to tell him about the 'Prince of
Peace', and to try to broker a peace deal 'in His
Francesco was overseas disputes arose among the
Friars. A Vicar-General was appointed to take control
of the order, and a revised set of organizational
rules were instituted, which were to change the
character of the movement. Holding on to his original
calling Francesco withdrew from leadership and retired
to a hermitage on Monte Alvernia - where he died
–‘The Queen Who Served Beggars’.
was born in 1207, probably at Pressburg, in Thuringia.
She was the daughter of King Andrew II and Queen
Gertrude of Hungary. King Andrew II - by all reports -
was a bad king, whose misrule led his nobles to a
revolt against him. They eventually managed to get the
King to sign an edict called the Golden Bull - that
was Hungary 's Magna Carta - a charter of rights and
Gertrude was apparently a good woman who,
unfortunately, got implicated in the politics of the
day, and was assassinated by the nobles in 1213, when
Elisabeth was just seven years old. But before she
died, Gertrude managed to do two things that were to
shape the rest of her daughter's life.
thing was to share her faith with her daughter.
Gertrude was a very devout Christian, and she
encouraged Elisabeth to pray regularly from a very
young age. The second thing was to arrange her
daughter's marriage. By the age of two, according to
the custom of the time, Elisabeth was betrothed to the
eldest son of a local Landgrave. When the eldest
son - Hermann - died, she was betrothed to the second
eldest - Ludwig.
married Elisabeth in 1221. When he was twenty-one and
she was fourteen. Ludwig proposed that they take
'Piety, Chastity, and Justice' as their family motto.
They committed themselves as a couple to pray
regularly, practice hospitality, and rule justly.
same year Ludwig and Elisabeth were married, the
Franciscans set up their first base in Germany. And
Brother Rodeger, one of the first Germans to become a
Franciscan, became Elisabeth's spiritual mentor. He
encouraged her to live out the Franciscan ideals - of
kindness and service -as much as she could.
was very rich, and had brought great wealth a dowry to
her marriage with Ludwig. In the early days she had so
many castles she was called 'Elisabeth of Many
Castles'. But as time went by this very wealthy woman
became increasingly concerned for the poor. And she
began to ride around the countryside, assessing the
plight of the impoverished among her people.
couldn't see the need and not respond to it. So she
began distributing alms all over kingdom. Even giving
away the robes of state and the ornaments of office.
Once she started giving, Elisabeth couldn't stop at
charity. And she looked for ways to give herself. She
built a twenty-eight-bed hospital for the poor in
Wartburg, and visited the patients daily herself. And
she helped feed nine hundred hungry people daily
Elisabeth lived such exemplary lives that people
started to refer to them as 'St Ludwig' and 'St
Elisabeth'. They were not only exemplary, they were
also happy and had three children together - Hermann,
Sophia, and Gertrude.
Elisabeth's beloved husband, Ludwig IV, died. And the
twenty-year-old Elisabeth was inconsolable. 'The world
and all its joys is now dead to me,' she cried. The
next year Elisabeth sent her children to stay with her
aunt, formally 'renounced the world', gave away her
inheritance, and joined the Franciscans, as the first
tertiary in Hungary.
now dedicated herself to serving beggars. She provided
them with clothes and shoes - and agricultural tools.
She opened the first orphanage in Eastern Europe for
destitute children. And, at the hospice she
established in Marburg, she tended to the needs of
dying lepers with her own hands - washing the sick and
burying the dead.
November 17th 1231, Elisabeth died. Worn out as much
by the lack of support that she got from her spiritual
director, as from her implacable service to the poor.
But, at the age of twenty-four, Elisabeth died one of
the most influential activists in thirteenth century
political philosopher, John Ralston Saul, says of
Elisabeth, 'She and Francis of Assisi were the most
famous activists (of their day). To a great extent
they laid out the modern democratic model of inclusion
- an important step towards egalitarianism. Elisabeth
used her position, as a member of the ruling class, to
put the ideas into action.'
others, she created a hospice. But unlike others, she
went beyond pity and charity. She washed the sick and
buried the dead. It is hard to imagine now the public
impact of a royal figure washing the bodies of the
homeless dead. Imagine the (President, Prime Minister
- or the Governor General for that matter) not
visiting or holding hands with street people, but
(actually) washing their bodies for burial.'
'Elisabeth …took the elements of personal
responsibility, set out tantalisingly in the New
Testament, and imagined a social model which …would
change our societies.'
Simons - The Architect of A Pacifist Church
Simons was born in 1496 in the small town of Witmarsum
in the northern Netherlands. His family were poor
peasants – probably dairy farmers. They sent young
Menno to school at a local monastery, where he learned
Latin and was taught a bit about the church and the
church fathers. At the age of 15, Menno entered the
novitiate and at 20 became a deacon in the Catholic
appointed as a priest in his father's village of
Pingjum. To begin with, he accepted the church
traditions he was brought up in. But in 1531, the
church-sanctioned execution of Sicke Freeriks Snijder
– whom Menno regarded as “a god fearing pious
hero” – caused Menno to have serious doubts. He
started read-ing the Bible for himself and thinking
critically about church traditions in the light of the
not alone in his struggle with the church. The time
was rife with ecclesiastical disillusionment and
replete with alternative experiments. Menno found
himself caught in the middle of the fights between
fanatical reformers on the one hand and reactionary
conservatives on the other. And he was critical of
transferred to Witmarsum, where he came into direct
contact with “Ana-baptists” - those who have been
“baptised again”. They attacked tradition, called
for conversion, and advocated adult baptism as a sign
of being “truly born again of the spirit”. Menno
was attracted to their zeal, but appalled by their
Menno kept his distance, his brother Pieter joined the
Anabaptists. This heightened Menno's ambivalence
towards the movement. In 1535, when Pieter was among a
group of Anabaptists killed for their beliefs, Menno's
agony of soul reached fever pitch. What was he going
to do? Menno felt he could no longer be a part of a
church which had murdered his brother. But he felt
loathe to join the Anabaptists, because he was
revolted by the reign of terror they'd employed to
build their 'New Jerusalem' in Münster.
summer of 1535, the armies of Bishop von Waldock
stormed the city of Münster, destroyed the 'New
Jerusalem' community, and killed their leader Jan van
Leyden. Persecution swept through Europe like a
plague, but Menno felt it was the perfect time for him
to publicly throw in his lot with his Anabaptist
brethren. Where others could only see risk, Menno saw
the opportunity. With their hardcore leaders dead and
their militant ideas discredited, Menno realized there
was an unprecedented chance to turn the movement into
a tough-minded but tender-hearted counter-culture.
Obbe Philips – a pacifist Anabaptist leader –
ordained Menno as a pastor, and charged him with this
next three years, Menno travelled continually,
visiting members of the “scattered and dispirited
brotherhood”. For Menno, Christ was the cornerstone
of the “true church”, out of which he wanted to
build his coalition of radical, voluntary, non-violent
communities of disciples, committed to mutual help and
peace-making. Menno wrote in his Reply to False
Accusations: “We who knew no peace, are called to be
a church of peace. The Prince of Peace is Jesus
Christ. True Christians do not know vengeance. They
are children of peace. Their hearts overflow with
peace. Their mouths speak peace, and they walk in the
way of peace.” Thus, out of the violence and
counter-violence of Münster, the famous Mennist peace
church was born.
commitment to peace did not end their persecution. The
church treated anyone who would not submit to their
authority as heretics, and the state treated anyone
who refused to take up arms for them against others as
insurrectionists. So the Mennonites were massacred by
the allied forces of the church and the state. A
price of 500 guilders was placed on his head, so Menno
was forced to be constantly on the move to escape
pursuit. Anyone who provided him with hospitality
risked arrest. Menno said, “We could not find in all
the countries a cabin in which (we) could be put up
safely for even half a year.”
January 1561, Menno Simons died in Schleswig-Holstein.
He was survived not only by the family he and his wife
Gertrude had raised, but also the pacifist faith
communities they had nurtured. And the Mennist
Anabaptists, or Mennonites as they became known, have
been a faithful witness to the vital role the church
can play – through mutual help and peace making –
for nearly five hundred years.
Ludwig – ‘The Count Who Cared.’
Ludwig, Count of Zinzendorf, was born in Dresden in
1700. His father, a cabinet minister in Saxony, died
when Nikolaus was only six weeks old. And he was
brought up by is grandmother who was a Pietist.
The Pietist movement emphasized a religion of the
"heart." So Nikolaus grew up with a
passionate spirituality. At the age of ten Nikolaus
was sent to grammar school. There Nikolaus met up with
five other boys who were as devout as he was. Together
they founded 'The Order Of The Grain Of Mustard Seed',
pledging themselves to 'love the whole human family'.
went on to study law at Wittenberg, and after
graduating joined the civil service. Before settling
down, he travelled round Europe. In an art gallery in
Düsseldorf, Nikolaus found himself face to face with
a painting by Feti of Jesus before Pilate, wearing a
crown of thorns. The inscription read. 'All this I did
for you. What are you doing for me?' In answer to the
question, Nikolaus decided he needed to leave the
civil service, and find the work Christ wanted him to
Nikolaus was approached by some Moravian refugees with
a request to settle on his lands. He granted their
request, and a small band crossed the to settle in a
town they called Herrnhut, or "the Lord's
Watch." Nikolaus was intrigued by the story of
these Moravian 'Unitas Fratrum', and studied the
history of the devout 'United Brethren'. As it turned
out the 'United Brethren' were not very 'united' at
the time, and in fact were going through a period of
serious communal discord. So in 1727 Nikolaus decided
to work full time with the troubled Moravian
community. Eventually, Nikolaus was able to help
resolve the conflicts, and broker the "Brotherly
Agreement' - a document that set out the guidelines
for Christian conduct - that became the framework for
life at Herrnhut.
the resolution of the conflict, the community
experienced a period of incredible renewal, described
by some observers as the 'Moravian Pentecost'. As a
result of this renascence there was an increased
interest in love feasts, songfests, prayer and
mission. They established a twenty-four hour a day
prayer watch that continued for the next hundred
years! And they developed a mission movement that
encircled the world!
while attending the coronation of Christian VI in
Copenhagen, Nikolaus met Anthony Ulrich, a converted
slave from the West Indies. Nikolaus brought Anthony
back with him to Herrnhut, and encouraged him to tell
everybody his story. And the tale of his
people's plight so moved the Moravians, that two young
men, Leonard Dober and David Nitchmann, were sent to
live among the slaves and share the gospel.
the Moravians sent their first mission to the slaves
on St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands. And, in 1733,
they sent their second mission to Greenland. Then, in
1734, they sent third mission to St. Croix, also in
the Virgin Islands. Ten people in the third mission
died in the first year; but others volunteered to take
their place. The Moravians sent missions to Surinam
(1735), South Africa (1737), the North American
Indians (1740), Jamaica (1754), and Antigua (1756).
Between 1732 and 1760, 226 Moravians went to ten
different far-flung countries, doing more mission work
in thirty years than Anglicans and Protestants had
done during the two preceding centuries.
It is also
important to remember that John and Charles Wesley,
were converted through their association with
Moravians, and went on to found the Methodist Church.
Nikolaus was elected as bishop to guide the movement.
He travelled widely to encourage the movement's
missions, which expanded rapidly to embrace America,
Russia, Africa, and Asia. Wherever he went, Nikolaus
encouraged Christian groups to cooperate with one
another. And, history seems to suggest, that it
was Nikolaus who first advocated evangelical
'ecumenism' as we know it today. In 1760 Nikolaus died
at the age of sixty, having done his best for fifty
years to be true to the pledge he made as a child at
the age of ten - to 'love the whole human family'!
Wesley – ‘The Whole World Is My Parish.’
Wesley was born into a Church Rectory in Lincolnshire,
England in1703. He was born into a robust extended
Christian family environment, which was animated by
rigorous devotion and vigorous debate. His
grandparents consistently advocated a nonconformist
view of faith. And, though his father was a bit of a
traditionalist, it was his mother, who promoted the
evangelical cause with a passion, who managed to shape
the young John Wesley the most.
school, John, and his younger brother Charles, went to
Oxford University together, where they started, of all
things, a group called “The Holy Club”.
the Wesley brothers travelled to America on behalf of
the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. On the
way the Wesleys met some Moravian Christians. And, by
all accounts, it was a meeting made in heaven.
was through the Moravians, that John was introduced to
a deeper, more personal, more profound experience of
the grace of God than he had ever had before. His
heart was “strangely warmed” and his ministry was
“totally transformed” forever.
next fifty years John rode over two hundred and fifty
thousand miles on horseback, travelling the length and
breadth of Britain, to preach his gospel of amazing
grace to rich and poor alike.
daybreak you would often find John preaching in the
fields to the labourers on their way to work. While at
midday you would find him making his way to the
village square to preach to the crowds there thronging
round the merchants in the marketplace. And at the end
of the day you would often find John meeting with
people who had responded to his preaching, and who
wanted him to preach some more.
All in all
he is said to have preached some fifty thousand
message was the simple proclamation of the love of God
revealed to us in Jesus. John pleaded with people to
open their hearts to the Spirit of Jesus, so that He
could fill their lives with His love to overflowing.
expected that as people’s lives were filled with the
Spirit that they would spontaneously get involved with
causes that were close to the Spirit’s heart.
particularly hoped people would join him in sharing
the good news of God’s love with the destitute, who
felt that God had abandoned them.
only one point of view,’ he said, ‘to promote as
far as I am able, vital practical religion, and (so)
preserve the life of God in the soul of humanity.
John set up ‘class meetings’ for his converts, to
equip them to carry out their great commission. Each
meeting had a leader and a dozen members.
meeting each member was expected to give an ongoing
account of the progress they were making in seeking to
make the two great commandments - one: to love God;
and two: to love their neighbour; - a reality in their
It was a
stroke of genius, the ‘method’ of the
‘Methodists’, and it unleashed what was referred
to as ‘the unspeakable usefulness’ of a mass
movement made up of a large dynamic network of small
by the end of the 1700s these ‘Methodists’ were
‘quite simply the most disciplined, cohesive, and
self-conscious body of people in England’.
campaigned against the slave trade; opened up clinics,
dispensed medicines, and gave services freely to those
in need; set up revolving loan funds for the poor;
worked to solve the problem of unemployment; and
agitated for prison, liquor, and labour reform.
rejected by the powerful figures of both church and
state whom he denounced as a ‘generation of
triflers’, but the common people embraced him as one
of their own.
He died in
London on March 2, 1791.
Chisholm – ‘The Tireless Campaigner.’
was born into a wealthy rural English family in 1808.
Her father brought his daughter up to stand by what
she believed in. And her mother brought her daughter
up to serve the poor. Caroline's father died when she
was young, and her family was suddenly plunged into
desperate poverty. It was one thing for her to care
for the poor; it was another thing for her to be poor
herself. It was an experience Caroline never forgot.
reached a marriageable age, Caroline met Archibald
Chisholm. He was an English Officer in the Indian
Army. Wen she got the chance to talk with him,
Caroline found Archy had substance as well as style.
So they decided to marry. The Chisholms' was anything
but a traditional marriage. They decided their
marriage would be 'an equal partnership', as opposed
to the 'superior-subordinate relationships', which
were more common at the time.
their wedding Archy was recalled to India; and
Caroline was to follow him later to Madras. Caroline
loathed the petty gossip that filled the empty lives
of the burri memsahibs. She immediately began to pray
that God would show her a way to respond to the plight
of the hapless child prostitutes that swarmed around
the outskirts of the garrison town. Caroline
eventually decided that the only way she could save
the poor kids from prostitution - or marriages, so
degrading, that were almost as bad - was to start a
school, which could teach them marketable skills. With
Archy's support, Caroline set up a modern school in
Madras - teaching not only reading and writing, but
also cooking, cleaning, budgeting, bookkeeping, and
even nursing, to street kids.
later, due to ill health, Archy and Caroline applied
to take long service leave in Australia. So they
arrived in Sydney with their two children in 1938, and
settled into a comfortable house in Windsor. After a
couple of years Archy had to go back to his regiment;
but they decided it was best for Caroline and the
children to stay on at their new home in New South
became convinced she needed to set the idea of a
school aside for a while, and get involved with the
poor immigrant women - penniless widows and orphaned
girls- who slept in tents in the inner city. Many of
the women that Caroline met told tragic tales of
fleeing destitution in England by emigrating to
Australia; only to fall into the hands of abusive
crews on the ships, and unscrupulous brothel owners
once the ships docked in Sydney. Upon hearing these
stories, Caroline made it her business to meet every
ship as it came in and take these women into her own
home at Windsor. Then, when there were too many, she
persuaded the wife of Governor Gipps to get her
husband to make the old barracks available to her. And
she turned the rat-infested shed into an emergency
shelter accommodating more than a hundred women at one
then accompanied the residents around town in their
search for work. When she couldn't find enough jobs
around Sydney she set up voluntary committees all
around New South Wales to act as employment agencies
for her. And she personally took her charges
from Moreton Bay to Port Macquarie to secure proper
employment for them. In the process, Caroline secured
employment for over fourteen thousand women. And to
protect the rights of these women, Caroline introduced
employment contracts, in triplicate, to ensure the
provision of good basic conditions in their place of
returned in 1845, Caroline talked to him about the
need to take her campaign to Britain, in order to
lobby the British Government directly. Archy agreed to
return with Caroline to England to take up the fight
there. Back in England Caroline met with the Secretary
of State, the Home Secretary, and the Land and
Emigration Commissioners, providing them with detailed
reports on human rights abuses, and presenting them
with specific policy options which they could adopt to
address these issues.
waiting for these reforms to be adopted, Caroline went
ahead and organised a society to aid migrants,
independent of, but in cooperation with the British
Government. The central committee of the society she
organized, under the high-profile presidency of the
Earl of Shaftesbury, with the public support of
Charles Dickens, set up a scheme to help poor migrants
with everything from safe travel to personal loans.
Caroline did all she could to expedite family reunions
for ex-convicts, who were separated from their wives
and children for years. She lobbied for free passage
for these reunions, and for land reform to enable
these families to get small farms of their own.
Australia Caroline continued her relentless campaign
through the press and the parliament for women's
the Chisholms had exhausted their considerable
intellectual, emotional and physical resources. When
they retired to England they were worn out. In 1877
Caroline died; as did Archy a few months later.
De Veuster – ‘Damien The Leper.’
3 1840 a boy was born into a family of farmers at
Tremeloo, Belgium. They called their son
'Joseph' - Joseph De Veuster. His mother was very
religious and she encouraged hers son go to the
College of Braine-le-Comte and join the Fathers of the
Sacred Hearts. In 1860, when 'Joseph' entered the
order, he took the name 'Damien'.
Damien volunteered to go as a missionary to Hawaii. He
was ordained in Honolulu, and spent the next nine
years evangelising the people of Puno and Kohala.
During that time nearly eight hundred people were
diagnosed as lepers, rounded up under the orders of
the Board of Health - which the locals called the
'Board of Death' - and banished to the island of
Molokai - where they were left to die. Damien wrote
'many Christians at Kohala also had to go to Molokai.
Eight years among Christians you love and love you
have tied powerful bonds. I can only attribute to God
an undeniable feeling that soon I shall join them.' In
May 1873 Damien was granted his request to go Molokai.
But the church sent him with little more than their
blessing. He took no resources - apart from his
breviary - to start his mission in the Kalawao Leper
Damien arrived he found a dilapidated church in a
demoralised community. There was no place for him to
stay. So he camped under a pandanus tree near the
church. A large rock beside the tree served as his
desk and dining table. Damien couldn't help but hear
the wracking coughs of the chronically ill people all
around him during the night. At daybreak he set out to
visit them, and it was as if he'd opened a door to a
parallel universe and stepped into world 'scarcely
less dreadful than hell itself'.
face to face with men and women whose bodies were
ravaged by the coracious bacillus of leprosy. In one
of his first visits he came across a young girl whose
whole side of her body had been eaten away by worms.
He found the stench of rotting flesh the hardest part
to cope with. 'Many a time' he wrote, 'I have been
obliged to remain outside to breathe fresh air. To
counteract the bad smell I use(d) tobacco. The smell
of the pipe preserved me from the odour of our
determined to do all he could to demonstrate God's
love for the lepers. He made their beds, tidied their
rooms, and rebuilt their huts. He washed their bodies,
bandaged their wounds, and anointed them with oil. And
when they were dying, he heard their confession,
prayed for their salvation, and assured them of a
decent burial. Damien did not see the lepers as
helpless, and he recruited as many as he could as his
partners to help him in his work. He taught them to
till the soil and tend the animals. Together
they built cottages for themselves and a home for
their children. They made a road from the settlement
at Kalawao to the shoreline at Kalaupapa where they
blasted the rocks and built a dock. And they restored
the church, learnt to play musical instruments and
sang jubilant songs to God - as only the Hawaiians
Damien found himself fighting battles for the welfare
of the lepers on three fronts. He clashed with the
lepers who hung out at 'the crazy pen', who not only
refused to help, but steadfastly opposed his plans. He
quarrelled with the government authorities, who
rejected his constant demands for more resources. And
he argued with his religious superiors, who were
enraged by his willingness to go public in his appeal
for the aid they withheld, without due regard for the
embarrassment he caused the church. He was constantly
criticised, but Damien was undeterred in his
with Damien maintained a safe distance in his dealings
with the lepers. But as time went by, Damien
flung caution to the winds and embraced his leper
friends physically, fully, freely, and without
reservation. In December 1884 Damien was soaking his
feet in hot water, but didn't feel the heat. Through
his contact with the lepers he had become a leper
himself. He wrote to his brother saying - 'I make
myself a leper with the lepers to gain all for Jesus
Christ.' The lepers of Molokai gathered round the
priest who had become one of them. And St Philomena's
crowded chapel resounded with the joyful music of the
choir whose buoyant voices sang against the scourge of
leprosy that attacked their vocal chords. .
the lepers cherished him, his colleagues ostracised
him. Some accused him of contracting leprosy as a
result of getting syphilis 'by fornicating with
lepers'. He declared his innocence, and submitted to a
physical examination to prove to his detractors that
he didn't have syphilis. But the scorn meted out by
his order was a bitter blow - the disdain, not the
disease, being 'the greatest suffering he had ever
endured in his life.
Leper died on April 15th 1889 - just before Easter.
Dunant -“Founder Of The Red Cross”.
Dunant was born in Geneva, Switzerland on the 8th of
May 1828. He was brought up in a devout Reformed
family who were involved in an evangelical awakening
committed to fidelity and to generosity. The young
Henri didn’t do well in his studies, but he did win
the school piety prize. Later he joined the Societe
Evangelique, flourishing under the guidance of Pastor
at the age of twenty, Henri organized the Union of
Geneva with a group of other young men - to ‘heat up
lukewarm believers’, to fire them up and to make
them ‘more effective in Christian charity’. The
Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) had been
started in London a few years earlier; And Henri
linked the Geneva Union up with it, encouraging the
YMCA to become an international movement in 1855.
Henri was developing his business. He traveled to
Algeria, where he wanted to set up a wheat mill, but
couldn’t get the necessary approval. Henri decided
to approach the Emperor and ask him for permission
directly himself. Napoleon III was leading the French
army against the Austrian army who had invaded
neighbouring Italy. Henri arrived at Solferino to meet
the Emperor a day after a French victory had left
40,000 dead and wounded men laying on the battlefield.
Henri instantly set aside his business and any plans
he had to speak to the Emperor, and turned his
attention to the causalities in desperate need of
days a wound was a death sentence. Most armies not
only had no effect-ive way of caring for the wounded,
but treated doctors and nurses from the other side as
combatants - and would fire at them. So the wounded
were often left to die where they fell. But - despite
the risks - Henri could not leave them there. He
organized a group of nearby townspeople to help. He
got the wounded moved into their homes and their
churches - even a local castle. And he got his
volun-teers to treat the wounded – friend or foe –
as brothers. He went about his work crying ‘Tutti
fratelli! Tutti fratelli!’ – ‘All are brothers!
All are brothers!
changed Henri’s life forever. Henri was appalled at
the carnage of war; and committed himself to do
whatever he could to reduce the suffering associated
with it. He wrote a book entitled A Memory Of
Solferino. It included eyewitness accounts of the
battle and its brutal aftermath. And it contained an
idea about forming an international society of
volunteers committed to caring for the victims of war.
Solferino was published in 1862; and it stirred
influential people all over Europe to act and to act
February 9, 1863, Gustav Moynier put Henri’s
proposals before the Geneva Society for Public
Welfare. The society decided to set up a ‘permanent
inter-national committee’ – including Moynier, two
well-known physicians, Switzer-land’s leading
soldier as chairman and Henri as secretary – to
implement Henri’s plans. On October 26,1863, 36
delegates from 14 countries met in Geneva to organize
the work of what was to become known as the ‘Red
Cross’ and lobby for international recognition of
what was to become known as the ‘Geneva Con-vention’.
On August 8, 1864, 24 official delegates from 16
European govern-ments met to formally agree to the
terms of the first Geneva Convention. It was also
agreed that the symbol of the move-ment would be a red
cross on a white background - the opposite of the
Swiss flag. And Dr Appia, one of the founding
physicians, first wore the red cross in the
Prussian-Danish war later that year.
this period Henri’s life as the architect of a
global benevolent organiz-ation was in great shape –
but his life as a Swiss businessman was falling apart.
He had spent a lot of his time and money and energy on
his humanitarian work at the expense of his financial
ventures – and, in 1867,Henri was declared bankrupt.
A story by his colleagues, blaming him for the
collapse of their enterprise, was published in the
newspaper. He promised to pay his creditors; but it
was a scandal - and Henri was forced to resign from
the Red Cross.
Geneva and made his way to Paris. But he didn’t find
any work and was reduced to sleeping on park benches.
He left Paris, and - for the next twenty-five
years - wandered round Europe - destitute. Till, in
1892, he returned to Swit-zerland and was given
shelter in a hospital in the village of Heiden, where
he was to stay for the rest of his life.
In 1895 a
young journalist heard there was a man staying in the
hospital who claimed to have started the Red Cross. So
he went to investigate. He found Henri, interviewed
him, and printed his amazing story. Once his story was
known, Henri was again feted by society. In 1901 Henri
was given the Nobel Peace Prize. Henri spent none of
the prize money on himself; but made bequests to
people who had helped him, and funded a free room in
the hospital for the poor of Heiden who needed medical
Dunant died on October 30th 1910. The anniversary of
his birth is World Red Cross Day.
MacKillop – ‘The Little Battler.’
MacKillop was born in Fitzroy in 1842 into a Scottish
migrant family. Mary was the eldest of eight children,
and their father - who had attended Scots College in
Rome - educated the children at home.
squandered most of the family fortune, the MacKillops
were dirt poor. So at the age of fourteen, Mary was
sent out to work. By the age of sixteen, Mary had
become the major family breadwinner. Even in her youth
Mary showed herself to be a very capable person. At
Sands & Kenny, the stationers where she worked,
Mary was given a position of responsibility usually
reserved for older employees.
At the age
of eighteen Mary assumed the role of governess to her
cousins in Penola, South Australia. There she met
Father Julian Tenison Woods. Mary had already decided
that she wanted to be a nun, so she asked Fr. Woods to
be her spiritual mentor. Julian Woods and Mary
MacKillop became close friends. They shared a vision
for developing an Australian religious order that
would serve the needs of the poor. In 1866 they
founded 'The Sisters Of St. Joseph' - an indigenous
mission, made up of small, mobile communities of two
or three sisters, caring for kids in frontier towns,
rural farms, and roadside and railway camps.
itinerant lifestyle of the sisters was very simple.
They took a vow of poverty to identify with the poor.
And because they had no money, they were only able to
get by through begging. The hierarchy of the church
did not approve of the practice. But, mindful of her
mission, Mary encouraged the sisters to carry on
regardless. Mary started Australia's first free
catholic school. At the time only the rich could
afford to pay the fees to send their kids to school.
But the sisters provided education for the children of
the poor - whether they could afford to pay the fees
Mary moved to Adelaide. And it wasn't long before she
and her sisters had seventeen schools up and running.
Instead of supporting their efforts, the Bishop of
Adelaide - who was a paranoid alcoholic - tried to
clamp down on the congregation. And when Mary
resisted, he excommunicated her, and discharged her
being thrown out of the church was a terrible blow.
She was totally devastated. But, in spite of the
desolation, she was determined to maintain her faith.
She refused to become bitter and twisted about the way
she was treated. The Holy See sent a delegation to
investigate the disturbance in the antipodes; and as a
result of their inquiries, they decided to back Mary
against the Bishop.
when the Bishop lay dying, he apologized to Mary,
absolved her from excommunication, and reinstated her
and her sisters. In 1873 Mary travelled to Rome. There
she sought permission from the Pope for her
congregation to run its own affairs free from the
interference of the bishops in future. In the light of
the quality of her work, her request was well
received, and the Josephites were given the
independence Mary had fought for. In 1875 Mary was
elected superior-general of her order.
Mary's guidance the Josephites became the primary
provider of catholic education to Australian girls -
regardless of race, class or creed. And, because they
had a policy of being non-proselytizing, the sisters
enjoyed a lot of support from protestants, as well as
Catholics, in the communities where they worked around
the Josephites found themselves in conflict with the
Bishops again. The Holy See supported the
congregation, but asked Mary if she would stand aside
and let someone else (less controversial) lead the
congregation for a while. So in 1888 Mary stood aside;
and Mother Bernard was elected to lead the order in
her stead. But in 1898 Mother Bernard died; and Mary
was elected again by the congregation to the lead the
order into the twentieth century.
only taught students, they also taught the teachers
who taught the students. They opened orphanages for
those with no homes, and refuges for those fleeing
violent homes. And they provided family support
services and residential care services for those with
intellectual, physical, psychological and
Mary died. And in 1995 this 'little battler', this
'feminist trailblazer' and 'ecclesiastical
troublemaker', this 'extraordinary never-say-die
pioneer of education for all' was appropriately
recognized as the first Australian Saint.
Nightingale – ‘The Lady of The Lamp.’
Nightingale was born in 1820, the daughter of wealthy
English parents, William and Fanny Nightingale, who
had inherited a large fortune. Florence, and her
sister Parthenope, were tutored in languages, history,
and mathematics by their father, and in etiquette,
society, and manners by their mother. When Florence
was twelve years old, she was riding a pony near her
family estate in Hampshire, when she came across a
shepherd whose dog had broken its leg. The shepherd
told Florence that the dog was going to have to be put
down. But Florence would not hear of it. She
immediately took charge of the situation, binding the
broken leg and tending the dog’s wounds until the
At the age
of seventeen Florence wrote in her diary, “God spoke
to me and called me to His service.” When Florence
told her parents that she felt called to serve God by
becoming a nurse, and caring for the sick, William and
Fanny were mortified. In those days hospitals were
squalid establishments, and the nurses who worked in
them were as disreputable as the institutions they
served. William and Fanny had “far nobler things”
in mind for Florence than becoming a “mere nurse”.
But Florence would not be dissuaded from pursuing her
call to nursing. In 1845 she began visiting hospitals
to study how they operated for her self. In 1851 she
persuaded her parents to permit her to train as a
nurse at the Institute of Protestant Deaconesses in
Kaiserwerth, in Germany.
1853, upon her return to England, she accepted a
position as Superintendent of the Institution for the
Care of Sick Gentlewomen in London. Florence seized
the opportunity that appointment provided to turn the
Institution for the Care of Sick Gentlewomen into a
model hospital of the times - putting bells in wards
so that patients could call nurses when they needed
them, and training the nurses to give quality care
when called upon to do so.
war broke out in the Crimea. News filtered back from
the front that the wounded were being treated
appallingly. Often being left to die, on makeshift
beds of filthy straw, of dysentery. The Secretary Of
War, Sydney Herbert, asked Florence if she would do
something about the situation. And, two days later,
Florence found herself on the way to the major
hospital in Scutari, Turkey, with thirty-four of her
was determined to do her utmost to provide the best
care that she could. But when she got there, Florence
found herself blocked at every turn. On the one hand
there was the misogynist military bureaucrats who
didn’t want to lift a finger to help the
“interfering women”. And, on the other hand, there
were the doctors, who didn’t want to be upstaged by
nurses in “their own hospital”.
Florence was undaunted by these obstructions. She
confronted them fearlessly. “The very essence of
Truth seemed to emanate from her,” wrote an
awestruck William Richmond. She had, he said,
“a perfect fearlessness in telling it!” Florence
broke army regulations that got in the way of getting
what she needed for the men in her care. To anyone who
had the temerity to try to tell her that something
“could not be done”, she countered, quickly,
“but it must be done!” - “it must be
Florence never demanded any more from others than she
demanded of herself. She was “on call” twenty-four
hours a day. She accompanied her patients into the
operating theatre, and, as chloroform had not yet been
invented, stayed with them through the operation to
soothe their pain. She often spent eight hours a day
on her knees, cleaning, tending and binding the wounds
of the wounded. Then, before she retired, she would
light a lamp, and walk through the wards - walk by the
four miles of men, in beds, lined up side by side, in
the military hospital - just to make sure they were as
comfortable as they could be for night.
it, that the men used to kiss her shadow as she passed
emaciated and exhausted, Florence refused to leave
Scutari until all the soldiers were evacuated in
July1856. When she returned home the “Lady of the
Lamp” was a hero. But Florence spurned the spot
light. She didn’t make any public appearances or
give any interviews to the press. Instead, for the
next sixteen years she invested her time in training
nurses and working tirelessly for real health reform.
time her own health began to fail, and by 1896,
Florence herself became completely bedridden. For her
heroic efforts in transforming the nursing profession,
in 1907 the bedridden Florence Nightingale became the
first woman to be awarded the British Order Of Merit.
Florence was quoted as saying “I have simply done my
Master’s work.” And, having done so, in 1910 she
Truth - 'Ain't I A Woman!'.
Truth was born in 1797. One of thirteen children born
to slave parents in a little Dutch settlement in New
York state in the United States of America. She was
given a Dutch name - Isabella Baumfree - and brought
up speaking Dutch. Only when she was sold to an
English-speaking master did she learn to speak
English, but always with a strong Dutch accent.
never got to know her brothers and sisters because
they were sold off one by one as slaves. Isabella
herself was first sold off as a slave at the tender
age of eleven. But by the time she was sold off, the
young Isabella was able to take with her a strong
faith and an indefatigable dignity that her mother had
managed to cultivate in her daughter's heart. Isabella
was bought and sold twice. Her third master, John
Dumont, stood out as 'cruel man', even in those times,
when casual cruelty was so common it usually went
unnoticed. Dumont forced the young Isabella to marry
an older slave named Thomas, with whom she had five
children. And, one by one, Dumont sold off Isabella's
children as slaves.
result of the pressure exerted by the growing
anti-slavery movement, Dumont promised Isabella her
freedom. But Dumont reneged on his promise. So,
in1827, Isabella ran away with the last of her
children. A few months later, in 1828, slavery was
finally abolished in New York State. Isabella - and
her infant son - were free at last. Isabella moved to
New York City, where she worked as a domestic servant
in a few different religious communities. For a while
she stayed with a Quaker family. They helped her get
back one of her children. And gave her a basic
slavery had been abolished in New York State, it was
still in force in other states. So Isabella decided to
take up the cause of her enslaved sisters. In 1843 she
changed her name to Sojourner Truth - and she
hit the hustings, speaking out on behalf of her
sisters still in bondage, rallying support for
abolition. In Northhampton, Massachusetts, Sojourner
came across a radical community that went by the
pedestrian name of 'The Northhampton Association For
Education and Industry'. In the community Sojourner
met fellow abolitionists, who supported her ministry,
and helped her tell her story. And in 1850 The
Narrative Of Sojourner Truth was published. Sojourner
spent months on the road at a time preaching 'God's
truth and plan for salvation', working tirelessly to
free her fellow slaves, and lobbying the government to
give freed slaves land of their own to till. And so
Sojourner became the national symbol of the struggle.
was a tall woman, powerfully built, with a big booming
voice, who was a spellbinding preacher. One moment she
would throw the book at her audience, and the next
moment she would lead them in song to repentance. It
was said that 'no one who met her could forget her.'
Perhaps the most famous message Sojourner preached was
'Aint I A Woman'. Which she delivered at the Women's
Right Convention in Akron Ohio in 1851. And which has
since come to be regarded as one of the great speeches
on women's rights of all time. (see below). Sojourner
continued to preach on human rights until her ill
health forced her to retire to her home in Battle
Creek, Michigan, where she died in 1883.
man over there says that women need
helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches,
have the best place everywhere.
helps me any best place.
I a woman?"
at me! Look at my arm.
plowed, I have planted and I have gathered into barns.
And no man
could head me.
I a woman?"
could work as much, and eat as much as man -
could get it -and bear the lash as well!
I a woman? "
have borne children and seen most of them sold into
and when I
cried out with a mother's grief, none but Jesus heard
I a woman?"
little man in black there!
women can't have as much rights as men.
Christ wasn't a woman.
your Christ come from?"
and a Woman! Man had nothing to do with him!"
the first woman God ever made was strong enough
the world upside down all alone,
women together ought to be able to turn it back
it right-side up again.
that they are asking to do it the men better let
Finney- ‘Christ's Lawyer.’
Finney was born in 1792 in Connecticut and raised in
Oneida, New York State. Brought up on the family farm,
he was a big, strong, healthy boy who couldn't
remember being sick a day in his life. Charles enjoyed
working hard on the farm, and then taking time out to
play in the forest and sail on the lakes. He loved
music, learning to read and write compositions, and to
sing and play the violin and the cello with a passion.
He also loved study - reading everything he could lay
his hands on - from histories and biographies to
grew into a formidable, intelligent, and
multi-talented young man who was only saved from
taking himself too seriously by an irrepressible
penchant for fun, and a great sense of humour. From
the age of sixteen to the age of twenty he taught in a
progressive, experimental, student-centred school at
Henderson. He joined in games before and after class
as well as guiding learning in class - so its not
surprisingly his students loved him.
war was declared against Britain. And Charles was one
of the first to enlist to fight for his country. But
he became disillusioned with the indiscipline of the
troops, the incompetence of their commanders, and the
questionable nature of their cause. So he packed his
bags and came home.
Charles decided to go to New Jersey where he taught
school during the day and learned Latin, Greek and
Maths at night. He excelled in his self-guided
studies, but never got a college degree. In 1818
Charles went to Adams, where he read law and became a
law clerk. In 1820 he was admitted to the profession
and began to practice as a lawyer.
had always attended church - more for the music than
the message. He loved anthems, but hated sermons. He
despised 'the lack of reason in religion'. And
regularly took a minister aside on a Monday to shred
the homily he had delivered on a Sunday. However, in
the pursuit of these disputes, Charles began to study
the bible for himself. As a result of his study, on
October 10 1821, Charles was miraculously converted.
And the very next day he publicly announced, in his
own inimitable style, 'I have taken a retainer from
the Lord Jesus Christ to plead his cause!' And 'plead
his cause' he did.
with people thought the conversion story was 'one of
Finney's practical jokes.' But as time went by they
realised Charles was very serious indeed. He called
his choir together, confessed he'd been an unbeliever,
and begged them to join him on his journey towards
faith. He delivered a series of lectures to the Bench
and Bar of Rochester, New York, critiquing Tom Paine's
Age Of Reason, and calling for them, on the basis of
reason, not to reject religion, but to accept it, and
to be committed as lawyers to the Law of God. It
wasn't long before he was preaching to large crowds
all over New York State.
preaching was a potent mixture of sustained
intellectual argument and impassioned emotional
appeal, delivered in a strong, imaginative,
colloquial, popular style. As Christ's lawyer he plead
his case for people to be converted, 'repent from
selfishness', and participate in 'the reforms of the
age'- 'without respect to station in society'.
said 'there can be scarcely be conceived a more
abominable maxim than "our country right or
wrong"', challenging the church to refrain from
'aiding and abetting' the country in its prosecution
of what he saw as an imperialist war. He denounced the
US war against Mexico as a 'selfish war', declaring
that, as such, it was 'wholesale murder' and 'for a
person to aid or abet the prosecution of (this) war
involves the guilt of murder.'
he said, it was 'horrible' to even 'think of fighting
in defence of a nation, proclaiming the inalienable
right to liberty' while 'standing with it's proud foot
on the neck of three millions crushed and prostrate
slaves'. All he could think of was the need for the
church to work for 'repentance and restitution' -
'emancipation and reparation'.
1835 when Charles went to help set up the theology
program at Oberlin College, he made sure that it was
not only coeducational - inclusive of 'coloured'
students - but also committed to the anti-slavery
campaign. Both staff and students at Oberlin publicly
opposed the Fugitive Slave Bill, administered a fund
to help fugitive slaves, and developed one of the most
important stations on the underground railroad for
fugitive slaves on the run. On one famous occasion, in
1858 hundreds of people from the college marched into
town, and stormed a hotel where an escaped slave was
being held captive and brought him back to Oberlin,
where he stayed (appropriately enough) in the home of
the Professor of Moral Philosophy, before he was
spirited off on the road to freedom.
Finney died in 1875. Up to a million people were
converted through his ministry.
Ramabai – ‘The Learned One.’
was born into a high caste Brahmin family in
Maharashtra in 1858. Her family were very devout
Hindus and often took the young Ramabai on pilgrimage
to holy places - climbing up sacred mountains, bathing
in sacred rivers, and visiting temples all over India.
time it was the practice not to teach women Sanskrit,
India’s classical language, or the Vedas, India’s
classical philosophy. But Ramabai’s father
considered this custom discriminatory, and, in total
defiance of tradition, taught both his wife and his
children, including Ramabai, the secret wisdom of
the first in a series of disasters that was to be a
defining moment in Ramabai’s life. The famine of
1876 killed everyone in Ramabai’s family, except her
and one of her brothers. On his deathbed her father
held Ramabai in his arms and said to her: “Remember
how I loved you. Serve God always. I leave you in His
at the age of twenty, Ramabai went to Calcutta, with
her brother, to look for work. It was a fortuitous
decision. For, of all the learned cities of India,
Calcutta celebrated learning like no other, and it
wasn’t very long before the whole city was talking
about the erudite young scholar they lovingly called
“Pandita”, the “Learned One”. During her time
in Calcutta the much-loved Pandita Ramabai got
married, bore a daughter and began a major campaign
for women’s education.
the second disaster that was to define Ramabai’s
life. In an outbreak of cholera, that periodically
swept through the city of Calcutta, Ramabai’s
husband suddenly took sick and died. So after only
nineteen brief months of marriage, Ramabai was left
alone once more.
began to ponder her predicament, firstly as an orphan,
and secondly as a widow, Ramabai was forced to face
the terrible plight of other orphans and widows. And
she was determined that she would do whatever she
could to help them.
to get the training she felt that she needed to move
from scholarship to social work, Ramabai travelled to
England, where she went to Cheltanham Ladies College
and got involved with the Wantage Sisters, a community
of Christian women who worked with prostitutes. “I
had never heard or seen anything (like) this
before,” Ramabai wrote. “ (And) my heart was drawn
to the religion of Christ.”
Ramabai returned to India as a devout Christian and
founded a home in Mumbai for abandoned Brahmin widows
and orphans like herself. It was a controversial
venture. Nothing like it had ever been done before.
But it proved such a success that many other groups
began provide similar services for needy people in
the third in the series of disasters that was to be a
defining moment in Ramabai’s life. The famine of
1896 made the famine in 1876 look like a picnic.
Millions of people all over India died like flies. In
the face of this catastrophe Ramabai felt called to
extend her care across caste boundaries, beyond just
helping Brahmin widows and orphans like herself, to
helping all widows and all orphans, regardless of
So she set
up the Mukti Mission and, without so much as a rupee
in promised funds to her name, threw open the doors of
her mission to help as many people as she could. By
1900 her Mukti Mission was responsible for the welfare
of some 1,900 widows and orphans!
ensuing years the “Learned One” developed a
legendary reputation for tireless evangelism,
education and emancipation. “I am busy from 4:30 in
the morning till 8:30 at night. Till my feet are
aching and my head is tired.” she once said. “What
a blessing this burden does not fall on me. But Christ
bears it on his shoulders.
Pandita Ramabai died, but her vision and her work live
Freer Andrews was born in 1871 in Newcastle, England.
He was the fourth child in a family of twelve. He had
a close relationship with his mother who nursed him
through a prolonged period of illness.
the family moved to Birmingham where Charlie’s
father was called to be a minister in the charismatic
Catholic Apostolic Church. Through his father’s
‘long round of spiritual toil’ with the battlers
in the big grimy industrial town, Charlie’s father
taught him two things - a love for prayer and a love
for the poor.
Charlie was still quite young, his mother lost all her
money through the duplicity of family friend.
And the family were plunged into poverty themselves.
But his parent’s response to the disaster made an
indelible impression on young Charlie. On the night
they got the news of their ruin, his parents quietly
gathered the family together and prayed for
forgiveness for man who had ruined them. And, from
then on, Charlie watched his parents work and scrimp
and save ‘untiringly all day long’ for sake of the
kids. Later he was to say of his mother: ‘her pure
unselfishness made us ashamed…to act in
studied at the King Edward VI School in Birmingham.
In 1890, just before he was due to start his study in
Classics at Pembroke College, Cambridge, Charlie had a
personal encounter with Christ that was to prove to be
the turning point of his life. In 1896 Charlie became
a deacon, and took over the Pembroke College Mission
in South London. And in 1897 he became a priest, and
three years later, took on the work of Vice-Principal
of Westcott House Theological College in Cambridge.
college Charlie got involved in the Christian Social
Union and began to explore the relationship between a
commitment to the gospel and a commitment to justice.
He became increasingly interested in the struggle for
justice throughout the empire, India in particular.
So, in 1904, when Charlie was invited to join the
Cambridge Brotherhood as a teacher at St Stephen’s
College in Delhi, he jumped at the chance to go.
was quite shocked with the racist attitudes of the
British in India. He felt an immediate rapport with
the Indians he met who were trying to reform Hindu-ism
and struggling to create a modern independent Ind-ian
state. And, in 1906, Charlie decided to go public with
his opinions - writing a letter, published in the
Civil and Military Gazette, Lahore, openly supporting
the Indian nationalists.
British supporter of India, Charlie was in a special
position. He was invited to attend meetings of the
Indian National Congress. And he was trusted by both
the British and the Indians to be an intermediary. In
1913 Charlie successfully intervened in the Madras
cotton workers strike. And later that year, Gokhale,
the leader of the Congress, asked Charlie to go to
South Africa to help the Indian community their
resolve some of their difficulties with the British
authorities. Which, by all reports, he did very
South Africa Charlie met Mahatma Gandhi. Upon their
return to India Charlie worked very closely with
Gandhi, the Congress and the Unions. In 1925 and 1927
Charlie was elected the President of the All India
Trade Union. From 1931 to 1932 Charlie sat beside
Gandhi at the Round Table Conference, helping him
negotiate with the British Government for the Indian
working independence for India, Charlie worked on
dialogue between Christians and Hindus. He spent a lot
of time at Shantiniketan Ashram in con-versation with
the poet philosopher Rabindranath Tagore. He also
supported the movement to ban the ‘untouchability of
outcastes’. In 1925 he joined the famous Vaikkom
Temple Protests, and in 1933 he assisted Dr. Ambedkar
in formulating Harijan demands.
time Gandhi took Charlie aside and told him that was
probably best for sympathetic Britishers like himself
to leave the Indian independence movement to the
Indians. So from 1935 onwards Charlie began to spend
more time back in Britain, teaching young people all
over the country about Christ’s call to radical
discipleship. Over time C.F.Andrews became
affectionately known as ‘Christ’s Faithful
On the 5th
April 1940, Charlie died and was buried while on a
visit to Calcutta.
and Mohan – Friendship As Partnership
Andrews was said to be the only man who called the
great Mahatma Gandhi ‘Mohan.’
Charlie first met the Mahatma in South Africa,
Mohandas Gandhi had just been released from prison for
organising a campaign of non-violent protest against
the government. Instinctively, Charlie stooped and -
in a traditional Indian sign of respect - touched
Gandhi’s feet. The South Africans were mortified.
‘We don’t do that sort of thing in Natal.’ But
from that moment on Charlie and Mohan were life long
a number of features of his friendship with Charlie
that Gandhi loved. He loved Charlie. Gandhi said ‘I
have not known a better man than C.F.Andrews’ He
loved the special relationship he had with Charlie.
Gandhi said ‘Nobody knew Charlie Andrews as well as
I did.’ It was close. ‘There was no distance
between us’. It bridged the vast chasm of culture,
tradition and religion. ‘He was a son of
Eng-land who also became a son of India. And he did it
all for the sake of his Lord and Master Jesus
Christ.’ It could bear the weight of honest debate.
Gandhi once wrote to Horace Alexander,’ I want you
to criticize me as frankly and fearlessly as
Charlie!’ It was equal, mutual and respectful.
‘When we met, we simply met as brothers and remained
as such to the end. Our friendship was an unbreakable
bond between two seekers and servants.’
did all he could to help Mohan in his struggle; and,
in return, Mohan cared for Charlie – nursing him
personally while he was ill in Calcutta and holding
his hand himself during the last few days of his life.
Keller- “The Light In The Darkness”.
Keller was born on July 27th 1880 in Tuscumbia,
Alabama, in the United States. Helen was a healthy new
born, but at 19 months of age a fever left her blind
Arthur – an ex-confederate captain - and her mother
Kate – a southern socialite - didn’t know what to
do with their daughter Helen. Her frustration at
not being able to communicate made her angry.
Helen would smash dishes at the dinner table and oil
lamps round the family home - ‘terrorizing the whole
household with her temper tantrums.’ Relatives
advised them to put ‘the little monster’ in an
time Helen was six years old her parents were
desperate. They consulted a local expert, who
turned out to be Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor
of the telephone, who was an activist in education for
the deaf. Bell counseled the Kellers to find a teacher
for Helen as soon as possible.
Perkins School for the Blind recommended a recent
graduate by the name of Anne Sullivan (See
Box). On March 3rd 1887 Anne came to serve as
Helen’s governess. Anne moved with Helen into a
small cottage on the Keller’s property - and started
taught Helen to finger spell. Anne had bought Helen a
doll and taught her to spell out the word ‘doll.’
Anne thought Helen’s behaviour was abominable. Anne
refused to ‘talk’ with her if Helen didn’t
behave properly. Helen’s behav-iour improved
markedly. In a matter of weeks a real bond developed
the ‘miracle’ occurred. Anne took Helen to the
water pump, poured water over her hands and spelled
out ‘water’. Up until then Helen had not really
under-stood the meaning of words, but at that moment,
she says, she got it -‘the myst-ery of
language was revealed to me’. She wanted to spell
out the whole world.
on, Helen’s progress was amazing. It wasn’t long
before Anne was teaching Helen to read. She learnt to
read and write in braille. She even learnt to type on
an ordinary typewriter. She became a celebrity. ‘Her
ability to learn was far in advance of anything that
anybody had seen before in someone without sight or
hearing’. Pictures of Helen reading Shakespeare
appeared in the national press.
Anne took Helen with her to the Perkins Institute to
continue her edu-cation. In the hope of learning to
speak, Helen went with Anne to Wright-Hum-ason School
of the deaf in New York City in 1894.Because her vocal
chords were underdeveloped Helen was never able to
speak clearly. However, she was still able to go to
college. And, in 1990, she became the first deaf-blind
person to ever enroll in tertiary education. In
1994 Helen graduated from Radcliffe College. The first
deaf-blind person to earn a bachelor of arts.
Helen published Out Of The Dark, a series of essays on
social justice. ‘When indeed shall we learn we are
all related one to the other, we are all members of
one body?’ ‘Until the great mass of the people
shall be filled with the sense of responsibility for
each other's welfare, social justice can never be
practiced what she preached. She spent most of time
helping others, particularly the poor. She wrote
tirelessly - advocating on behalf of people with
disabilities. ‘Although the world is full of
suffering,’ she said, ‘it is also full of the
overcoming of it’ When the American Foundation for
the Blind was organized in 1921 Helen gladly became
their global ambassador. And she worked in that role
for the rest of her life.
1st 1968, Helen Keller died.
Of An Unsung Elderly Nurse
Victoria asked Helen how was able to do so much. Helen
said she owed it all to Anne. Now Anne’s story is
almost as remarkable as Helen’s. Due to a childhood
fever, Anne was almost blind. As an angry child Anne
was diagnosed as ‘insane’ and locked in the
basement of a mental institution. Hearing about
‘this hopeless case’, an elderly nurse began to
visit her. Anne rejected her over-tures. But the nurse
refused to give up. She responded in kindness with
cookies. Eventually Anne’s life was transformed by
her love. Anne grew up with the resolve to show the
same care - that elderly nurse had shown to her - to
Kagawa – ‘The Faithful Traitor.’
Kagawa was born in 1888, the son of a rich Japanese
businessman and one of his many concubines. By the
time that he had turned just four years of age
Toyohiko had lost both of his parents and was left all
Buddhist orphan was cared for by some Presbyterian
missionaries, and so came to learn about the love of
Christ. At the age of fifteen Toyohiko was baptised;
and began intently studying Christian pacifist
classics, such as The Kingdom Of God by Leo Tolstoy,
the famous author of War and Peace.
At the age
of sixteen Toyohiko went to Tokyo to study theology.
At the time Japan was at war with Russia and the young
peace activist spoke out publicly against it. Much to
the dismay of fellow students who were embarrassed
about his protests. So they put him on trial for
treason; and, adjudging him guilty, beat him
to say Toyohiko became increasingly disillusioned with
the kind of Christianity that he encountered at
seminary. He said that he yearned for 'a gospel
incarnated' in what he called 'love- intoxicated
personalities' and 'demonstrated in institutions which
sacrifice and serve.' He cried, '(We) must show what
Christian ideals actually mean!'
Christmas Day 1909, Toyohiko Kagawa, aged twenty-one,
walked out of the seminary, and, with his few simple
belongings packed in a handcart, made his way to the
slums of Shinkawa, which were to become his home for
the next fifteen years.
poured himself out for the poor. Visiting the lonely.
Feeding the hungry. Comforting the bereaved. And
accommodating as many of the homeless in his own
little hut as he could...even when he got married!
Toyohiko not only worked for the poor; Toyohiko worked
with the poor. Practicing gospel processes. Developing
cooperative societies. Organising peasant unions. And
contributing to the labour movement in the
establishment of the Labour Party.
was a twentieth century polymath. His writings
encompassed the entire breadth and depth of the human
experience that he sought to embrace. He wrote a 654
page Study On The Psychology Of The Poor. And his 1920
autobiographical novel, Crossing The Death Line,
became a huge best seller in Japan. Typically,
Toyohiko reinvested the royalties from his books in
when an earthquake wrecked Tokyo, the government
turned to the incorruptible Toyohiko to supervise
relief and reconstruction in the city. Toyohiko
agreed. On one condition. That he would take no pay!
in the shadow of war, Toyohiko set up the All-Japan
Kagawa met Gandhi; and with Einstein, they put their
signatures to a famous international Anti-War Pact.
surprisingly, in 1940, Toyohiko's magazine, The Pillar
Of Cloud, was banned, & Toyohiko himself was
imprisoned. Bills were posted round Tokyo calling for
Toyohiko's execution. 'Kill the traitor Kagawa!' they
screamed. 'He is a traitor to the nation!' Somehow
Toyohiko survived. As soon as he got out of custody he
visited America in a last ditch effort to avert the
oncoming war with Japan. 'When nations engage in war,'
Toyohiko warned, 'they become brutal!'
Japan after the war began, Toyohiko was in and out of
jail, but he continued his anti-war activities. He
even made a special trip to China, to the China
National Christian Council, where he personally
apologised to the Chinese for the Japanese Rape Of
after the war was over, Toyohiko was appointed as an
advisor to the Prime Minister. He was made the
Commissioner for National Social Welfare. And one of
the first things he did was call for a Campaign Of
National Repentance. 'Christ alone can make all things
new.' Toyohiko said. 'The spirit of Christ must be the
soul of all real social reconstruction.'
Israel Goldstein, the president of the American Jewish
Congress, was asked if he could name a Christian who
could work together with Jews for world peace, without
hesitation he nominated Toyohiko Kagawa, saying that
his 'religion is contagious.'
recognition of his ongoing commitment to world peace,
Toyohiko was elected the President of the All-Asian
Congress for World Federation, and the Vice- President
of the Union for World Federal Government. On April 25
1960 Toyohiko Kagawa died .
Luthuli – ‘The Apartheid Opponent.’
Luthuli was probably born in 1898. The date is
uncertain, as no records of births were kept at that
time in Groutville, Natal, South Africa. His father
died when Albert was six months old. So it was left to
his mother, Mtonya, to bring up Albert by herself.
Before her marriage, Mtonya had become a devout
Christian, and so she also raised her son Albert to be
a committed Christian.
grew up in the Congregationalist church, but became a
Methodist when he went to a Methodist boarding school.
He trained as a teacher, and was then sent to teach at
Blaauwbosch, in the Natal uplands. Though he could
never pinpoint a date when he was 'converted', Albert
was convinced that it was during his time in the
Natal, that he became much more conscientious about
his faith himself.
years teaching at Blaauwbosch, Albert, obviously a
very gifted young man, was offered a bursary to do
Higher Teacher Training at Adams College. After
completing his course, he was appointed to the staff,
to lecture in Zulu, Music, and School Organisation. At
Adams, where Albert was to stay for the next fifteen
years, C.W. Atkins, the Head of the Training College,
had a profound affect on him. Of Aitkins, Albert was
to say, 'He placed his emphasis on loving God and on
service of society…and in involving us deeply in the
affairs of African communities…’
first major opportunity to involve himself deeply in
the affairs of the African community that he came from
was in 1936, when he was elected as Chief of the
Umvoti Mission Reserve, which had its headquarters in
Groutville, his own hometown. Albert accepted his
appointment reluctantly, knowing full well that the
position would thrust him into his peoples' struggle
for human rights.
1938 Albert was nominated as a delegate to the World
Missionary Conference in Chennai, India, and the trip
to the conference was to change him so much, that by
the time he returned home, Albert was ready for the
fight. The fire of indignation that it ignited in
Albert's belly came from two experiences that he had -
one at the conference, and the other on the way there
conference, Albert, as a black South African, enjoyed
the pleasure of eating, drinking, and conversing with
whites as an equal for the first time in his life. But
on the way there and back, black South Africans were
consigned to second class, while white South Africans
travelled first class, and Albert was told in no
uncertain terms by a Dutch Reformed minister that he
was not welcome to join them in worship. After
feasting with dignity at Chennai, Albert gagged on the
indignity that apartheid dished out to him, and he
vowed to fight it. For the next ten years Albert
fought for the right of farmers on the Umvoti Mission
Reserve to own their own land. But 'rights' for the
blacks were seen as 'privileges' by the whites, and
those 'privileges' were slowly being withdrawn.
Albert had the opportunity to visit the United States,
and he was inspired by the power of the civil rights
movement to combat systemic racism. So upon his
return, Albert joined the African National Congress
(ANC) - 'to oppose a system - not a race'. It wasn't
long before Albert was elected as President of the
ANC. And as President, Albert coordinated the ANC
Defiance Campaign that defied government restrictions
on the movement of blacks. The government reacted to
the ANC Defiance Campaign with great fury. In 1952
Albert was deposed from his position, as Chief of the
Umvoti Mission Reserve, and banned completely from
being able to travel to any of the larger towns in S.
Albert had a stroke. But he still managed to help
organize the great 'Congress of the People'. The
government invoked its anti-communist legislation,
arrested twenty thousand congress sympathisers, and
charged Albert with High Treason. After the trail,
things did not get any better. The Pass Laws - enacted
by the minority white government - to control the
majority black population - were tightened up. And all
opposition to the Pass Laws was prohibited.
the ANC was banned. And Albert himself was banned from
meeting more than one person at a time. Albert did not
take the banning lying down. He responded to the
banning by publicly leading his people in burning
their pass cards. Albert also argued very strongly for
economic sanctions against South Africa, on the
grounds that he thought they were the only chance of a
"relatively peaceful transition" for the
of his active political life Albert favoured a
non-violent struggle against apartheid, but he was not
a pacifist, saying "anyone who thought he was
should try to steal his chickens!" However, in
1961, Albert was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his
non-violent struggle against apartheid in South
Africa. In 1967 Albert Luthuli died. Kader Asmal,
Minister of Education, said of his old friend,
"Chief Luthuli possessed a remarkable generosity
of spirit, but was never tolerant of injustice. He was
a Christian, with very deeply held beliefs, but of the
kind that looked for its example in throwing the
moneylenders out of the temple!"
Day- The Woman Who Wanted To Change The World
Day was born in Brooklyn in 1897. Her father tried
unsuccessfully to get work. So in 1906 her
family had to move into a poor tenement flat in the
South Side of Chic-ago. Dorothy said that her
understanding of the plight of the poor dated from
John Day eventually got a job as a sports writer for a
Chicago newspaper and the family moved into a
comfortable house on the North Side, Dorothy didn’t
forget the people living on the South Side, and used
to take long walks through the derelict streets.
Dorothy won a scholarship to study at the University
of Illinois. But she proved to be more interested in
reading radical social writers than studying
pre-scribed courses. In 1916 her family moved to New
York, and Dorothy decided to go with them in order to
pursue her dream of becoming a radical social writer
herself. And it wasn’t long before Dorothy
became a contributor to revolutionary papers like the
New Masses and the Call. Dorothy wrote
passionately on the subject of women’s rights, free
love and birth control. In 1917 Dorothy joined a
demonstration in front of the White House protesting
the cruel treatment of suffragettes who were in
prison. And she got 30 herself days for her trouble.
stage of her life Dorothy had a series of affairs, got
pregnant, and had an abortion. On the rebound from one
of her affairs she got married. It only lasted a year.
In 1926 Dorothy found herself pregnant again. But this
time she was determined to keep the baby.
of her baby proved to be a major spiritual turning
point in Dorothy’s life. As a child she had attended
church. And as a young journalist she had gone to late
night mass. She had been left barren after her
abortion and she saw the birth of her child as a
miracle. In gratitude, Dorothy wanted to dedicate her
life - and the life of her child - to God. However,
her lover, the father of the child, was a militant
atheist and opposed the idea. Dorothy felt she was
faced with a stark choice. Either to go along with her
lover. Or give up her lover for God. Dorothy chose
what she was later to call ‘the long loneliness’
of living for God alone. On the 18th of December 1927,
she broke off her relationship with Foster Batterham,
and Dorothy and her baby daughter, Tamar Teresa, were
now set about the task of reworking her radical views
in the light of her faith. She was helped in this
process by Peter Maurin, a poetic French peasant-
philosopher. In May 1933, five months after meeting
Peter, Dorothy put out the first edition of The
Catholic Worker – a penny-a-copy monthly newspaper,
committed to advocating ‘the teachings of Christ’
with regard to the major social issues of the day.
The Catholic Worker Dorothy promoted ‘neutral
pacifism’ during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939).
‘We were not, of course, pro-Franco, but followers
of Gandhi in our struggle to build a spirit of
nonviolence. But in those days we got it from both
sides; it was a holy war to most Catholics, just as
world revolution is holy war to Communists.’ The
editorial policy of The Catholic Worker was based on a
‘personalist philosophy’ emphasising the
importance of people accepting responsibility for the
welfare of society. So it came as no surprise that the
Catholic Worker community opened a ‘House of
Hospitality’ in the slums of New York. Its purpose
was simply to practice ‘those works that sound a
good idea in theory’ such as ‘housing the homeless
and feeding the hungry’.
1960's social revolution rolled round Dorothy was
hailed as the ‘grand old lady of pacifism’. Crowds
of ‘wanna-be-revolutionaries’ sought her out to
ask for her advice. But they usually got more than
they bargained for. Dorothy was uncompromising in her
call for personal morality, voluntary poverty, radical
hospitality and pro-life activism.
would like to do is change the world - make it a
little simpler for people to feed, clothe, and shelter
themselves as God intended them to do. And to a
certain extent, by fighting for better conditions, by
crying out unceasingly for the rights of the poor -
the rights of the worthy and the unworthy poor - we
can to a certain extent change the world.’
newspaper ever had more editors in prison for’
crying out unceasingly for the rights of the poor’
than The Catholic Worker. Dorothy herself was last
imprisoned in 1973 for taking part in a banned picket
line in support of farm labourers. She was 75.
died in 1980, aged 83. ‘After a lifetime of
voluntary poverty she left no money for her funeral.
It was paid for by the archdiocese of New York.’
Bonhoeffer – ‘The Man Who Stood By God.’
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was born into a very respectable
family in Breslau. When he was six, Dietrich's
father was appointed as Director of the Psychiatric
Clinic at the University of Berlin. So Dietrich grew
up in the capital of Germany. Dietrich's
great-grandfather was Karl von Hase, a famous
Protestant Professor of Church History in Jena. And
Dietrich was brought up as a dutiful young Lutheran.
His family were probably actually more Prussian than
they were Protestant, but Dietrich developed a passion
for religion that transcended his devotion to
eight Bonhoeffer children, Dietrich was the only one
who decided that he wanted to study theology. And
study theology he did. To begin with Dietrich
went to the illustrious University in Tubingen. Then
he went to the celebrated Union Theological Seminary
in New York.
was very much influenced by the ideas of the
world-renowned German Protestant theologian Karl Barth
whose series of lectures he had attended as a student.
Dietrich was a theological prodigy. Barth himself
commending his early brilliant academic work. So it
was hardly surprising, that the theological whiz kid
was appointed as a lecturer in theology at the
University of Berlin at a very young age.
to 1935 Dietrich served as a pastor for two
German-speaking churches in London. During this time
he formed a close friendship with Bishop Bell of
Chichester. Dietrich told him of his fears about the
rise of the Nazi party in Germany. He was particularly
worried about the fact that so many German Christians
seemed to embrace Hitler as some kind of messianic
figure who would save German Christianity. Dietrich
had already joined the Confessing Church that opposed
the Nazi Party. But he felt the Confessing Church did
not go far enough. He had begun to speak out against
the persecution of the Jews. But try as he might, he
could not get the Confessing Church to support his
affirmed Bonhoeffer, and, as the leader of the
Ecumenical Movement, promised the young activist the
wholehearted support of his organisation for the
struggle. In 1935 Dietrich returned to Germany to
start a theological seminary under the auspices of the
Confessing Church. In 1937 the government shut down
the subversive Finkenwalde centre. But Dietrich
continued to train his students underground. In 1939
Dietrich was called up for military service. He
refused to take an oath of loyalty to the Fuhrer, and
found himself in a head-on confrontation with the
Niebuhr, the American theologian, invited Dietrich to
New York to deliver a series of lectures. When war was
declared Dietrich was tempted to stay on, but he felt
constrained by God to cut short his stay in the US,
and return home to Germany to face the future - for
better or worse - with his people. When he arrived
home, his brother-in-law Hans von Dohnanyi, invited
Dietrich to join the resistance movement that was
conspiring to bring down the Nazi Party and put Hitler
he worked for the Abwehr, against the Gestapo. Passing
on information to the allies through Bishop Bell, whom
he met in Sweden. And smuggling Jews out of Germany
into Switzerland. In 1943 Dietrich was arrested -
charged with 'subversion of the armed forces' - for
encouraging students not to do military service.
pacifist, Dietrich eventually came to the conclusion
that the only way they could bring the Nazi Party down
- and end the madness - was to assassinate Hitler. So
Dietrich got involved in von Stauffenberg's famous
attempt to blow up the Fuhrer. It failed. And
Dietrich, along with his co-conspirators, was
sentenced to death. On April 9, 1945, Dietrich
Bonhoeffer was executed. He had sought to 'stand by
God in his agony.'
possible read “The Cost of Discipleship” by
Jordan – ‘The Race Mixing Communist.’
Jordan was born in 1912, and brought up in the state
of Georgia. In the deep south of the United States, he
grew up in a Christian tradition which preached grace,
but practiced disgraceful prejudice.
Clarence couldn’t abide this blatant
misrepresentation of the gospel, and determined that
he would find a way to flesh out the gospel more
faithfully - a way that would reflect Christ’s love
for all people equally: black and white alike!
studied Agriculture at the University of Georgia, and
the New Testament at the Southern Baptist Theological
Seminary, and came up with the idea of developing a
working farm that would demonstrate New Testament
values, such as ‘koinonia’, or ‘community’.
1942, long before the civil rights movement really got
going, Clarence started Koinonia Farm, as his attempt
to develop counter-cultural, multi-racial community
slap bang in the middle of the Klu Klux Klan Heart
Farm was like nothing the locals had ever seen before.
Clarence, and his wife Florence, and their friends
invited both blacks and whites to join them, as equal
partners, in their enterprise. Private income was
contributed to a common purse, and personal property
was considered common wealth. So, right from the
start, the locals referred to them as those
‘race-mixing Communists!’ Clarence and Florence
tried to explain that they weren’t Communists, they
were Christians. But it was hard to convince anyone of
this when most of the local Christians wanted nothing
to do with them. Sunday after Sunday the folk from
Koinonia would turn up for worship at one local Church
or another, only to be turned away. Because the
group from Koinonia were black and white, and, for the
most part, local Churches were ‘For Whites Only’!
This made Clarence even more determined to confront
the Churches with their hypocrisy. He began his own
translation of the New Testament, setting the story of
Jesus in 20th Century, and staging the disputes Jesus
had with the Pharisees and Sadducees between Jesus and
the First Church of Gainsville in Georgia.
Chatanooga Times says, Clarence’s Cotton Patch
Version ‘set off explosions in the mind.’
Cotton Patch Version Jesus calls his mission ‘the
God Movement’, and explains that the purpose of the
God Movement is ‘to help those who have been
grievously insulted to find dignity.’(Lk. ch 4 v19)
Jordan’s Jesus confronts the Christians in his town,
saying, ‘It will be hell for you, you phonies,
because you tithe your pennies, nickels, and dimes,
and pass up the more important things in the Bible,
such as justice, sharing and integrity! You
addlebrained leaders, you save your trading stamps,
and throw your groceries in the garbage!’(Math.ch23
As you can
imagine the ‘addlebrained leaders’ were not amused
with these remarks. So they organised a total boycott
of Koinonia Farm. During this time local people were
forbidden to sell Koinonia any farm supplies, or
purchase any Koinonia farm products. Christians from
all over the country, who sympathised with what the
folk on Koinonia Farm were trying to do, tried to
break the boycott, by running poultry feed and
trucking out chickens and eggs.
Klux Klan then got in on the act, with drive-by
shootings and dynamite bombings. But the folk on
Koinonia Farm stood firm. They were pacifist. And
refused to fight fire with fire. But they were also
steadfast. And refused to be run out of town. In spite
of constant death threats Clarence continued to affirm
his faith in Christ and Christ’s call to inclusive
died in 1969, Clarence was still one of the most hated
men in his county, but he left us a legacy of tough
love that we would do well to heed if we want to try
to develop inclusive multiethnic communities in an
increasingly racist society.
Maria Arizmendiarretia – ‘The Co-op Priest.’
Arizmendiarretia was born in 1915 on a farm about
thirty miles from Mondragon, Spain. Being brought up
in Basque country Jose grew up Basque - gritty, proud
and independent. Being brought up Catholic in Basque
country meant Jose grew up Catholic Basque - well
grounded, well educated and passionately progressive.
When he was thirteen Jose left his village of Marquina
and went to seminary in Vitoria. At seminary he
immersed himself in progressive catholic social
teaching, in particular, the work of Agustin
to 1939 Spain was plunged into the Spanish Civil War.
For the Basques, 'La Geurra Civil' was a battle for
autonomy and democracy against tyranny. Most of the
Basque clergy supported the Basque patriots. Jose
wrote patriotic articles with Agustin Zaubikarai, who
was the director of Eguna, during the war. As a
consequence Jose was arrested and imprisoned. He
expected to be executed, along with his cellmates; but
he was given a reprieve, and he was released at the
end of the war.
war Jose went back to the seminary. In 1941, at the
age of twenty-six, he was assigned as a priest to
Mondragon, where he was to work for the rest of his
life. At that stage there was no indication of the
extraordinary impact he would have. Jose was a modest
man, with no great ambitions. He was known more for
his piety than his capacity to accomplish anything of
his interest in social issues, Jose was assigned as a
counsellor to 'Accion Catolica'. But there
wasn't a lot of 'accion' in Mondragon at the time.
Unemployment was a major problem in Mondragon, so Jose
tried to get more students enrolled in an apprentice
training school run by a local steel company. The
management blocked this move, so Jose set up a
community managed training school.
self-financed, self-governed apprentice school, which
Jose started in 1943, was a great success; and, in
1948, Jose organised the League of Education and
Culture, which, in turn, developed a comprehensive
educational programme, which now provides
comprehensive community education to approximately
forty-five thousand students. This programme, with its
emphasis not only on technical, but also on ethical
education, was the foundation upon which the Basques
were able to build a remarkable co-operative movement.
eleven students passed their engineering exams at the
University of Zaragoza. In 1954 five of those students
decided to buy a small bankrupt factory and turn it
into a worker-controlled co-operative. By the end of
1958 the co-op had 149 employees. Their success
inspired a whole range of co-operative enterprises.
Including large machine shops, appliance
manufacturers, technical services, research and
development organisations, a chain of department
stores, and even a worker-controlled bank. Today there
are now more than 170 worker-owned-and-operated
co-operatives, providing 21,000 workers with good
jobs, serving over 100,000 people in Mondragon.
with the co-ops operated informally along democratic
lines, but Jose knew that, for them to be truly
durable democratic organisations, they needed to
develop formal democratic principles and procedures.
Fascist-influenced Spanish laws made this very
difficult to do. So Jose spent a lot of his time
finding ways for the co-ops to break with the old
rules that governed corporate structures, and make new
rules that would help them develop more innovative and
more responsive participatory co-operative structures.
Arizmendiarretia died in 1976; but his legacy lives on
in Mondragon as what many consider the best,
practical, alternative to both capitalism and
Weil – ‘The Red Virgin.’
Weil was born in Paris, on February 3 1909, into an
affluent Jewish family. Simone’s elder brother Andre
made sure that his younger sister got the very best
education that she could. And Simone, a precocious
student, made the most of her opportunity, graduating,
with almost perfect marks, in 1924, at the age of
she began her study in philosophy, fascinated by
mathematics and mysticism; and, in 1931, was appointed
as a teacher of philosophy at a secondary school for
girls in Puy.
determined that she would never be an ivy tower
academic, so right from the start the so-called
‘Vierge Rouge’, or ‘Red Virgin’, combined her
growing interest in radicalism with a growing personal
involvement in the plight of the poor.
the need move among (them),’ she wrote, ‘mixing
with them, and sharing their life ... so as to love
them just as they are.’
with Simone visited people, listening to their
stories, and telling others of their concerns through
a local journal. But upon reflection, Simone felt that
this was pretty superficial, so she decided to take a
year’s leave from her privileged position at school
to immerse herself as fully as she could in the life
of the poor.
She took a
job as an unskilled labourer, then as a milling
machine operator for the car manufacturers, Renault,
moving into a small room near the factory, and living
at the same standard of living as her companions in
the workshop. Since childhood Simone had suffered from
severe headaches and she found the excruciating level
of physical exertion and psychological stress that
went with being a wage slave almost unbearable. But
she stayed with it till the end of the year.
year she returned to teaching philosophy, but during
the summer holidays, Simone took time out to spend a
few weeks on the frontline with the republicans who
were fighting for their lives against the fascists in
Spain. For someone with a well-developed sensibility,
like Simone, the affliction in war was appalling.
‘makes God appear absent, more absent than (the)
dead,’ she said. ‘A kind of horror submerges the
whole soul. If the soul stops loving, it falls into
something which is almost the equivalent to hell’.
war engulfed France. In 1940 Simone, with her Jewish
family, fled the advancing German invasion . While in
southern France Simone met a Dominican priest, by the
name of Perrin. The two became good friends.
Perrin encouraged Simone, who said ‘I always adopted
a Christian attitude’, to become more explicit in
her implicit love for Christ. And she says, that as
she prayed, ‘Christ himself came and took possession
of me’. As a consequence of this experience Simone
plunged herself more deeply into the work of the
resistance, which was, for her, ‘Christian love for
Perrin was arrested by the Gestapo, and Simone fled to
America. But she didn’t stay there long. She was
called upon to serve the French Government in exile,
and went to England to work for them.
commissioned to write a document on the reciprocal
rights and responsibilities of the citizen and the
state, later published as The Need For Roots. In
1943 Simone died. An illness she was suffering from
apparently aggravated by her refusal to eat anything
more than was available to her compatriots in occupied
Helder Camara- ‘The Red Bishop.’
Camara was born in 1909 in Fortaleza in the North East
of Brazil. He was the eleventh son in a family of
thirteen children – almost half of whom who died of
father, Joao, was a guard in a local company and his
mother, Adelaide, was a teacher. His father was not
very religious. But the young Helder was very much
influenced by an order of priests who served in his
hometown. By the age of four, Helder was “playing
church” and saying he wanted to be “a Lazarus
Priest” when he grew up. In 1917 Helder took his
first communion. And in 1923 entered the Diocesan
Seminary. There he studied philosophy and theology.
And developed his formidable debating skills.
at the tender age of 22, Helder was ordained a priest.
At his ordination, he was commissioned to “speak for
humble people”. And this call was to become his
vocation. Helder was sent to Ceara. Right from the
start of his ministry he advocated human rights He
immediately set up a Legion of Work for men in his
region. And two years later, with the help of some
local maids, set up the Organisation of Feminine
Labour for women.
education was a critical component of both formation
and transformation. So, just like his mother, he
launched himself into teaching and training teachers.
A task at which he excelled so much that he was
invited to be State Director of Public Instruction.
Helder moved to Rio de Janeiro where he took up the
position of Director of the Teaching of Religion and
worked to reform the teaching of religion in the state
education system. And after some time he became editor
of a magazine called “Catholic Action.”
Helder became auxiliary bishop in the diocese of Rio
de Janeiro where, three years later, he became
auxiliary archbishop. At the same he founded the
National Bishops Conference of Brazil, and developed
the General Conference of the Latin-American Bishopric
for the foundation of the Latin-American Episcopal
next 12 years Helder got increasingly personally
involved in the struggle of the people living in the
favellas - the slums in Rio de Janeiro - and used his
position as vice-president of the Latin-American
Episcopal Council to advocate on behalf of the poor.
Helder was appointed Bishop of Olinda and Recife, back
in the North East of Brazil, where he had originally
come from, one of the poorest parts of the country. So
he moved into a couple of rooms at the back of a
church in downtown Pernambuco.
few days of his taking up his office, there was a
military coup in Brazil. The democratic government was
overthrown and many of the leaders of Catholic Action
were thrown into prison along with members of
congress, union organizers, and journalists.
spoke out against what he called the “reign of
terror ”. When questioned about his courageous
stand, he answered testily: “I am trying to send men
to heaven, not sheep. And certainly not sheep with
their stomachs empty and their testicles crushed.”
military promptly branded him “The Red Bishop”.
But Helder replied - in a famous statement that was
picked up, passed on, and copied endlessly, until it
cried out from notice boards in community households
all over the world - “When I feed the poor, they
call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no
food, they call me a communist!” Helder always
insisted he was Christian - not a Marxist.
worked on preparations for the Second Vatican Council
(Vatican II) which ran from 1962 to 1964 and which
introduced the greatest range of reforms in the church
since the Protestant Reformation - including base
only five feet tall. But during the 1970’s he became
a huge beacon of hope for people around the world who
supported a radically compassionate spirituality and
opposed oppressive political structures – both
secular and religious.
Dom Helder Camara retired & in 1999, at the age of
90, he died.
Tutu - “The Voice Of The Voiceless”.
Tutu was born on October 7th 1931 in Klerksdorp, South
Africa. His father was a teacher and his mother a
domestic worker. They nurtured the young Desmond in a
culture of respect that stood in stark contrast to the
intolerant culture of the day. ‘I never learnt to
hate’ he said.
was twelve, Desmond moved with his family to
Johannesburg. He attended Johannesburg Bantu High
School. Matriculating just in time to graduate as a
‘black’ into the recently-constructed,
‘white’-cont-rolled, ‘apartheid’ system. He
wanted to be a doctor, couldn’t afford the tuition,
so Desmond became a teacher instead. A set of skills
he was to use effectively in working for justice and
peace the rest of his life.
Desmond married Leah with whom he has four children.
In 1957 Des-mond decides to become a priest. ‘It
occurred to me that if the church would have me (it)
could be a good way to serve my people’. So in 1958
Desmond began his training for ordination at St.
Peter’s Theological College in Johannes-burg. In
1961 he was ordained, and became a chaplain at the
University of Fort Hare, one of the only good quality
universities open to ‘blacks’ in South Africa -
that served as a creative think tank for the politics
1962-66 Desmond studied theology at King’s College
in England. While he was away, Nelson Mandela, and
seven other leaders of the African National Congress (A.N.C.),
were tried for treason, convicted and sentenced to
life imprisonment at Robben Island for trying to
overthrow the government. On his return, Desmond
resumed his post as chaplain at the University of Fort
Hare, using his lectures in theo-logy at the
Federal Theological Seminary as an opportunity to
reflect biblically on the ‘black’ struggle.
1972-75 Desmond worked as an Associate Director in
theology for the World Council of Churches. Then, in
1975, Desmond was appointed the first ‘black’ Dean
of St. Mary’s Cathedral, Johannesburg, And from this
moment on Desmond began to emerge as an eloquent
spiritual advocate for ‘equal rights for all’.
Soweto, a black township to the southwest of
Johannesburg, erupted in protest when the students
were forced to use Afrikaans in schools. Police
retal-iated with ‘tear gas and gunfire’. Weeks of
boycotts, marches, counterattacks and violent clashes
around the country left more than 500 people dead,
thousands arrested, and thousands more seeking refuge
outside the country’. In response, Desmond penned a
brilliant open letter to the Prime Minister, John
Vorster, that was to become a model for Christian
resistance. That same year, Desmond became Bishop of
Lesotho and, two years later, Secretary-General of the
South African Council of Churches - which gave him the
opportunity to work with the churches against the
regime. Desmond denounced apartheid as ‘evil and
unchristian’ and called for the abolition of
internal passport laws and the cessation of forced
deportation of ‘blacks’ by ‘white’ authorities
to so-called ‘homelands’.
this time Desmond developed a reputation for being
able to be a strong but gentle Christian
anti-apartheid advocate, who could work for
reconciliation by talking to people on both sides of
the argument. The United Democratic Front (U.D.F)
is formed, out of a coalition of more than 600
organizations, with more than 3 million members. And
Desmond became a leading spokesperson ‘God’s dream
is that all of us will realize we are family. In
God’s family there are no enemies.’ He said over
and over again, ‘when we recognize our
interdependence, and start to live as brothers and
sisters, then we become fully human.’
Desmond is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in
recognition of ‘the cour-age shown by black South
Africans in their use of peaceful methods in the
struggle against apartheid’. At the award
presentation the chairman of the Nobel Committee said,
‘Some time ago television enabled us to see this
year's laureate in a suburb of Johannesburg. A
massacre of the black population had just taken place
- the camera showed mut-ilated human beings and
crushed children's toys. Innocent people had been
murdered. Women and children mortally wounded. But,
after the police vehicles had driven away with their
prisoners, Desmond Tutu stood and spoke to a bitter
congregation: “Do not hate”, he said, “'let us
choose the peaceful way to freedom”.’
Committee asked the prize be regarded ‘not only as a
gesture of support to him and to the South African
Council of Churches of which he is leader, but also to
all individuals and groups in South Africa who, with
their concern for human dignity, fraternity and
democracy, incite the admiration of the world".
was installed as Johannesburg’s first black Anglican
bishop in 1985 and then Cape Town’s first black
Anglican bishop in 1986 – the first black leader of
South Africa’s 1.6 million Anglicans. As media
restrictions strangled free speech and organizations
like the UDF were effectively banned, Desmond used his
position as a leader of a middle-or-the-road
multiracial church to increase his criticism of
the headquarters of the South African Council of
Churches was bombed - and 21 people were in-jured. It
was later revealed it was bombed under secret orders
from P.W. Botha, the President of South Africa. But
after a stroke in 1989, hard-line apartheid President
P.W. Botha resigned, making way for a more moderate
F.W. de Klerk to negotiate with Nelson Mandela the
terms and conditions of his release. .
Mandela was released and restrictions on banned
organizations like the A.N.C. were rescinded. In 1991
a National Peace Accord was signed and nearly a
thousand political prisoners were released. In 1992 an
overwhelming majority of white South Africans voted
‘yes’ for change in a national referendum. In 1993
it was agreed to set up a ‘Government of National
Unity’ to facilitate a transition to multi-racial
democracy. And, in 1994, with the A.N.C getting
63 per cent of the vote, Mandela was elected
Desmond was asked to chair a Truth and Reconciliation
Commissionin that would ‘investigate human rights
abuses and political crimes committed by both
supporters and opponents of apartheid between 1960 and
10 May 1994’. The commission was empowered to
‘consider amnesty for those who confess their
participation in atrocities and recommend compensation
to survivors and their dependants’ Desmond said at
the time ‘I hope that by opening wounds to cleanse
them, and stop them from festering.’
Desmond retired as Archbishop to devote himself to his
work on the Commission. As chair of the commission
Desmond heard 20,000 testimonials and received nearly
4,000 applications for amnesty. He said ‘we had the
most devastating revelations of ghastly atrocities. We
could describe them as monstrous, even demonic. But
even these torturers remain children of God, with a
possibility of being able to change’.
the Commission issued its interim report in which it
criticised apartheid as a crime against human-ity but
also criticised the A.N.C. for human rights abuses.
Desmond said ‘we witnessed the ability of vict-ims
to forgive their torturers, and of former torturers to
transform their lives.’ Though flawed, the
Commis-sion has become an extraordinary example of how
a nation can process the pain it has experienced
through injustice without doing injustice in return. A
way Timor Leste hopes might help them heal their
stepped down from the Commission, Desmond has set up
his own Peace Trust, become a patron of the Sabeel
Center for Peace in Jerusalem and continued be ‘a
voice for the voiceless’ in challenging everyone
from Robert Magabe Presi-dent of Zimbabwe (he ‘seems
to have gone bonkers in a big way’) to Thabo Mebeki
current President of South Africa (‘You should not
think those who disagree are disloyal’). Nelson
Mandela says of Desmond Tutu ‘Sometimes strident,
often tender, never afraid and seldom without humour,
Desmond Tutu's voice will always be “the voice of
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