Where is the church?

i am one of the first ones to call out the church when we are not doing well [fighting to hit our children, yo]. But i am definitely also one of the first to cheer us on when we get it right [which we actually do a lot in this country all over the place if you stop to look and listen].
The time i remember being proudest of the church was when the first spate of Xenophobia attacks happened in 2005: The church was there – opening its doors, welcoming in the masses, going out into the townships and standing in the way, feeding and clothing and giving space to sleep, for months at a time…

But yesterday this story of Father Graham Pugin and the pictures that accompanied it, spoke volumes.
“I just saw the priest at Holy Trinity stand rock still in the driveway to the church while a casspir (riot tank) drove at him at full speed. He was protecting students seeking sanctuary inside. They eventually slammed on brakes and stopped less than a meter from him. He didn’t flinch. He stood there for a second and then made the sign of the cross at them. They retreated. I was utterly gobsmacked. Never seen anything like it. I’ll be making a donation to Holy Trinity on payday for that moment, and I posted the first version of this update with hugely uplifted spirits. But then they drove back past again five minutes later and they shot him directly in the face. He’s inside now with medics.”
Is it more horrific that he was shot because he was white or a priest? Absolutely not. When anyone on either side has been caught in violence that is a terrible thing. What is significant in this story is that the church showed up, in the front line, literally stared the police in the face, stood between opposing forces, and paid a bit of a price.

This article from the Mail & Guardian shares some insight into the response from the church:
“He wants you to know he’s receiving trauma care. He kindly asked that you do not react in violence because of him. This church has always been a neutral and safe space and I am horrified,” said Matthew Charlesworth, a fellow priest at Holy Trinity who relayed the message to students.
And a little later:

Students gathered for a meeting inside the church shortly after Pugin was rushed to hospital and were addressed by Charlesworth.

“You are welcome here. But please, I appeal to your leaders, when you lead you have to be very careful that you do not incite people to violence unnecessarily. The entire country is watching and are waiting to see how we react in this church. My prayer is that you will behave better than they expect of you,” he said.

i’ve spoken a little bit about the Peace and Justice Witnesses team i am part of in Cape Town – they have put themselves in the path of private security [NOT a confidence-enducing thing], poo and wee bombs, police, angry students and more… and this morning we head out again to do it once more. Some of the team have been so amazingly committed in terms of being there every day often for long and double shifts; mediators have tirelessly been in meetings bringing people with strongly conflicting ideas together and trying to broker a peace that works for all sides; prayer teams have been mobilised around the country.

“Where is the church?” you may ask. They are right there, on the front lines, serving, listening, standing alongside, praying. Being exactly where Jesus would want to be… and if i’m not mistaken, the very place where He would be.

About the Author:

Brett Fish is a lover of life, God, tbV [the beautiful Valerie] and owns the world's most famous stuffed dolphin, No_bob (who doesn't bob). He believes that we are all responsible for making the world a significantly better place for everyone.

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