Violence in the democratic South Africa: A challenge to theology and the churches

Posted on July 14, 2010


Violence in the democratic South Africa: 

A challenge to theology and the churches

10-12 August 2010 on Main Campus of the University of Pretoria

 The high incidence of violence in the present democratic South African society poses a serious challenge not only to government but also to theology and the churches. At this point of time we strongly need clear theological thinking and guidance on the violence in our society. We also need a comprehensive and effective response by the churches to the different manifestations of violence.

To address this challenge the Centre for Public Theology of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Pretoria has organised a national conference from Tuesday 10 to Thursday 12 August. Prof. Wolfgang Huber, who retired at the end of 2009 as chairperson of the council of the EKD, the Evangelical Church in Germany, has been invited as keynote speaker. He is a renowned theologian who wrote a groundbreaking book on violence. He will give a public address on the topic Religion and violence in a globalised world on Tuesday 10 August at 19:00 and another one on the topic Overcoming violence – A basic task of Christian churches on Wednesday 11 August at the same time.

Expert researchers on the different manifestations of violence in the present South African society have been invited to address the conference on the sub-theme The nature and causes of violence in our society:

  • Jan Hofmeyr (Institute for Justice and Reconciliation, UCT): The social context of violence in SA: A public opinion perspective
  • Johan Burger (Institute for Security Studies, Pretoria): SA’s violent crime profile: Trends and tendencies
  • David Bruce (Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, Wits): The nature and causes of violent crime in SA

The two other sub-themes the conference will deal with are: Engaging violence theologically and The churches’ contribution in combating violence. A call for papers was sent out in March this year to theologians and pastors, inviting them to submit proposals for papers on these two sub-themes. We are delighted about the positive response, both nationally and internationally. An attempt has been made to accommodate as many as possible of those who want to read a paper, even if it means that we at some point during the conference have to revert to parallel sessions.

The following papers will be read on the sub-theme Engaging violence theologically:

  • Rãsvan Tatu (pastor, Johannesburg): Some reflections on religion and violence
  • Johann Albrecht Meylahn (UP): Seeking the good (peace) of the republic: The violence against and of difference in defining the public space: Onward Christian soldiers marching as to war
  • Erna Oliver (Unisa): The church is part of the problem
  • Rothney Tshaka (Unisa): The role of theology in engaging violence in present day          South Africa
  • Eddy van der Borght (Free University, Amsterdam): Coming to terms with ethnic violence theologically: An analysis of a century of ecumenical dealing with identity politics
  • Nyamburi Njoroge (World Council of Churches, Geneva): Addressing violent legacies: The role of theological institutions in Africa
  • Nelus Niemandt (UP): “Mission and power” – The relevance of the Edinburgh 2010 discussion in the theological engagement with violence
  • Willem Saayman (professor emeritus, Unisa): I am because you are: Humanization as public agenda for Christian mission
  • Edward P Wimberly (Interdenominational Theological Seminary, Atlanta): Unnoticed and unloved. The indigenous story-teller and public policy in a post-colonial age
  • Anthony Egan (Jesuit Institute, Johannesburg): Utopian realism and the search for a desanctified theology of violence
  • Sias Meyer (UP): The role of the Old Testament in violent South Africa: Villian or saviour?
  • Reggie Nel (Unisa): A qualitative inquiry into the perceptions of young people, in Riverlea community, as a basis for developing a missional ecclesiology
  • Cobus van Wyngaard (UP): Critical reflections on congregational reactions in the   DRC to violence


The following papers will be read on the sub-theme The churches’ contribution in combating violence: 

Facilitating reconciliation between groups

  • Piet Meiring (professor emeritus, UP): “You will be called repairer of broken walls”. The role of the South African faith communities in combating violence in South Africa”
  • Wessel Bentley (pastor Pretoria): The reconciliary role of Holy Communion in the Methodist tradition

Advocacy for and accommodation of victims of xenophobia

  • Elina Hankena (PhD student, University of Helsinski):  “It just intrigues me that people who we look down on so much are so intelligent.” A socio-ethical analysis of overcoming xenophobia
  • Emmanual Tshilenga (pastor, French speaking congregation Pretoria): The church as advocate for refugees experiencing xenophobic violence in South Africa

Contribution to the healing of victims of violence

  • Johannes Froneman (NWU) and Christo Lombard (Unisa): ’n Karaktisering van religieuse verwysings in berigte om misdaad en ongelukke in Beeld en Rapport
  • Christo Thesnaar (US): The churches’ contribution to the healing of victims of violence
  • Roelf Opperman (pastor, Pretoria):  A story of how a congregation on the outskirts of Pretoria started the healing process of their crime stricken community

Educating for peace

  • Gerhard Bothma (pastor, Polokwane): Educating members for peace: A practical theological reading of 2 Corinthians 5 as a metatheoretical framework for engaging violence theologically
  • Cori Wielenga (Co-director, NGO Shalom, Rwanda): Compassionate communication as a response to conflict
  •  Christoph Baumann (Centre for Christian Spirituality, Cape Town): Guiding men to deal peacefully with conflict and violence in everyday life
  • Maake Masango (UP): Spiral of violence and gender sensitivity

Modelling peaceful existence

  • Terence Cooke (pastor, Potchefstroom): The pastor as model for peaceful existence
  • Andrew Suderman (director, Anabaptist Network in Southern Africa): Overcoming modernity’s individualism: Being a community that witnesses to the Kingdom of God in the face of violence
  • Albert Mutavhatsindi ( pastor, Soweto): The role of the Reformed Churches in South Africa (GKSA) in addressing the problem of violence in South Africa

 Prophetic witness

  • Christina Landman (Unisa): The church’s public role in the service delivery uprisings 

Every engaged Christian interested in the appropriate response from the side of theology and the churches to violence in the present democratic South Africa is invited to attend the conference. For the benefit of those who would like to enroll for the conference the following information is provided: 

Venue: Sanlam Auditorium, conference centre on the main campus of the University of Pretoria

Duration: Tuesday the 10th of August from 10:30 to Thursday the 12th of August 13:00. Take into account that there are two evening sessions, one on Tuesday 10 August and the other on Wednesday 11 August when Prof. Huber will present his public lectures

Conference fee: R 250 for the whole conference. This fee includes two dinners and five servings of tea/coffee. To keep the conference fee low lunches are not included. There are, however, a number of coffee shops and tuck shops on the campus where food can be bought during lunch time.  The conference fee for one day is R 125.

Enrollment and payment of conference fee: You can enroll for the conference by paying the applicable amount into the following check account: University of Pretoria, Absa Bank, branch code: 632 005, account number: 214 000 00 54 (swift code for international payments: ABSAZAJJCPT), reference: A2209 (NB to add the reference number) and by e-mailing your name and contact details with proof of the payment of the conference fee attached to the e–mail address: [email protected] not later than the 2nd of August.

Contact persons: Should you have any inquiries you can contact,
Ms. Daleen Kotzé 
tel. nr. 012-420 2348,
e-mail address [email protected]
(until the 30th of July)


Cobus van Wyngaard
 e-mail address [email protected]

Etienne de Villiers
Director, Centre for Public Theology
University of Pretoria

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