The Justice Conference: The Quotes [Part II]

The Justice Conference: The Quotes [Part II]

In part I i shared some thoughts from The Justice Conference from René August, Sivuyile Kotela and Craig Stewart and here are some other notes and thoughts i was able to take down:

Afrika Mhlope had this to say:

We have to break this entrenched idea that this is white man’s religion.

We’ve got a lot of work to do.

He also encouraged us to check out the Black pain White Guilt video on you Tube.

There is no culture that is absolutely good or absolutely depraved.

The container is the culture. The content is the message. Give me your content and then take your container back to Europe.

That was one of my favourite lines of the Conference i think. The idea that the message itself has value, but not necessarily the way the message has been packaged and presented. How does Africa do Christianity in the face of this? One of the examples would be reimagining the absurdity of thinking a preacher has to wear a suit and a tie in the midst of a heat wave to be considered authentic as a preacher as if there was something inherently spiritual in the wearing of the suit and tie.

A critical next step: Do I as a person recognise that I am created in the image of God, that I am magnificent, that I can walk out the Good News of Jesus in the world… not so much how God is represented as has that affected my humanity? Do I deny the image of God in others? For example, women? 

Being created in the image of God could have been a sub theme of the Conference as it kept coming out. As if it was a continual reminder that this is a great starting place.

You just have to look at the synonyms for black and white to see what they mean. Purity vs Depravity. In the church we need to move away from those. 

= = = = =

Next up was Lisa Sharon Harper:

‘Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, but give to God what is God’s’. What IS God’s? We are. Cos we are created in the image of God.

Race was created for one reason: Who shall be able to exercise dominion on this land?

Race itself is a political construct.

= = = = =

Some thoughts from the participants of the Navigating the Deep Waters of Identity panel:

Afrika Mhlope:

In South Africa we are born into demographic boxes.

I believe culture is a social construct. Started by a few, followed by many.

Culture tells you what you are born into. It doesn’t tell you where you are going.

A weakness of the European culture is superiority or the feeling thereof.

I have a bigger problem with those who quietly believe they are superior… cos eventually they will act it out.

The oppressor is in a prison of ignorance.

The idea of praying the “Our Father” – if we say “Our Father” then it means we have brothers and sisters. 

I’m not fighting to be black. I just want to be. I want to be defined by the One who made me who doesn’t call me black.

Jana Niehaus:

At some point you got to decide who you going to be – you can’t let nobody make that decision for you. [Quoting the movie Moonlight]

We need to pay attention to the stories we’ve been told by our families, by the newspapers, by the jokes we tell each other, by our neighbourhood watch groups.

i REALLY loved that quote cos there is so much in it. The way stories are told in terms of who gets to play the leading role and who plays the co-starring roles or even walk on parts can inform us so much about the world around us. Neighbourhood watch groups that have a BM [black male] and CM [coloured male] but not WM [white male] designation tells us that white males are never suspicious and never have to be reported upon. The way a family treats someone who cleans their house, looks after their children, or takes care of their garden, can inform the way children view the people in those roles – power dynamics, superiority vs inferiority, treating them as human or other…

Where we choose to live affects our stories so much.

Jana and her husband Ampie made an intentional choice to move into the inner city in Durban and have been in a process of learning and unlearning for the past year or so.

There are a lot of unquestioned stories.

We feared otherness.

One of the scariest realities in South Africa today – a country which i believe has 9% or so of white people – is that there are white people in Cape Town who can live in such a way that the only people they see of colour on a regular basis are people who serve them [petrol attendants, supermarket cashiers and the people who tend their gardens and clean their houses or look after their children]. So surely the inherent message they are living out and receiving daily is that people of colour are here to serve me. These stories need to be challenged and i am convinced that one of the best ways to move forwards in South Africa is for people to be more creative and daring in where they choose to live.

We have slowly been liberated from the stories rooted in fear, distrust and scarcity.

With each authentic encounter, I become a little more human. We start to break the ‘Us vs Them’ stories. 

Help me find myself as I walk in other people’s shoes.

Our prayer is for a courageous curiosity to be present and walk in the shoes of someone else.

When our stories hold us or other people captive, then we are taking part in oppression. We need to situate our story in God’s story – the ultimate of stories. 

i love the idea of ‘Courageous Curiosity’ and would love to see more South Africans take that up in the area of where they choose to live, but also where and how they spend their money, which church congregation they choose to be part of and who to spend their time with.

Tholofelo Wechoemang:

My identity was based on brokenness – I was a broken little girl raised in a broken system with broken parents.

Love in and of itself is first and foremost selfless. Do you identify as selfless?

i mean Wow, that could be a whole conference right there. Imagine if we could get that question right: Do i identify as selfless? Sometimes. What if every day that was the prayer on my heart. What if you just try it out for this next week? ‘God, where do i need to be selfless today? Give me the strength to put others first.’

In a country like ours, what does truth look like? What does mercy look like?

For me that’s the struggle of identity: What’s my truth? What’s the truth of my neighbour?

Without mercy, truth can be really mean and tacky and ungracious.

Sho. Again. Paul used the phrase that is translated as “Speak the truth in love” – an area so many of us get wrong so often. Especially on social media. But then it is also not saying: Speak the truth in comfort. Speak the truth in a way that is fun. Speak the truth in a way that the hearer will not feel convicted or challenged. But speak the truth in love. This can be a fine line to walk sometimes and we can just look to Jesus or Paul to find some very challenging uncomfortable truths and know that many of us shield ourselves from the actual truth because we don’t want it to affect our lived out existence too much.

Mercy is not blind.

It might be compassion.

It might be empathy.

It might be a smile.

It might be a hug.

One thing it’s not is blind. 

When God was merciful, it was intentional. He saw what they were doing, but He knew they were better. 

i like all of that. Read it again and let it really sink in. How are you doing at mercy right now? Is there someone you need to forgive or restore relationship with?

If people are still defining themselves by lies, they won’t be open to hearing the truth.

And then my absolutely number one quote from the Conference:

White person: Why must I still pay for the sins of my grandparents?

Person of colour: I am still paying for the sins of your grandparents.

Well, maybe tied first, because Nkosi had a comment during the sanitation presentation that rivalled this one for sure.

But really, that line for me was so super helpful in terms of finding the words to explain, why we need to keep working at this. A really helpful answer to the Can’t-We-All-Just-Be-Friends-And-Move-On crowd, who upon close reflection, never seem to be the people who were oppressed, but those who did oppress.

The story of Zacchaeus reminds us that being sorry is good, but it needs to be accompanied by reparation and by dealing with the consequences of the sin that got you there in the first place.

= = = = =

Some more from Sivuyile Kotela, from his plenary:

I look to us and I think there is hope for our country. For you to pay to be made uncomfortable, that makes me have hope for our country.

Micah 6:8 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

The call to social justice is a call to living significantly. 

That Micah verse could have been the theme verse for the conference. The relationship of walking with God juxtaposed with the action of living justly and loving mercy.

You’ve got no business dying if you’ve never lived.

This was another favourite. The call to live over simply existing. How many people are stuck in the rut of just trying to survive? To make it through another day, week, month or year. To just get to the next weekend or holiday or pay check or birthday… You’ve got no business dying if you’ve never lived.

Sivuyile used the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego from Daniel 3:

If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

Even if our God doesn’t save us… they had found something worth dying for.

You want us to live but you have just taken away what makes life worth living for? You just made death very attractive.

You are going to die. Statistics say one out of one die.

The time in front of the furnace was not to make the young people ready to die. It was to expose what was already there.

That is huge. We cannot expect tough times to produce what we need to get through them. We need to be building strength and endurance when times are good so that when disaster strikes it simply reveals what was there all along. The seven fat years take care of the seven thin years.

Crisis is not a time to make decisions. Crisis is there to review the decisions we’ve already made. 

Yoh! i enjoyed this talk and this man so much.

One thing that should differentiate us from other people who are working for social justice is the need to strive for personal holiness. The continual hunt for God’s presence. 

Holiness leads to integrity. How you are when no-one is watching.

Who you are is so loud I cannot hear what you say.

Again, just some really great quotes out of a longer message that was so rich and challenging. How am i doing in terms of integrity? Do my actions back up my words and especially what i write about on social media? Something for us all to continually be thinking of.

This doesn’t make sense. We buy our children toys that are sometimes more expensive than what we pay our domestic worker for a month. This doesn’t make sense. 

The whole Living Wage vs Minimum Wage question is one that so many families still need to look at in this country. It is disgusting how some people treat other human beings who work for them – in terms of money, attitude, opportunity and resources.

In the eyes of Jesus, the one who steals is the same as the one who finds someone with nothing and walks away and does nothing.

God did not go into the fire. The fire revealed Him.

Psalm 34.18 does an amazing job of reminding us that ‘The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those whose spirits are crushed.’ Many people – especially with the whole prosperity gospel vibe – have been taught that God does away with pain, will make everything better, will swoop in and rescue us fro… oh wait, no that’s not God, that’s Superman. God is the one who is already there in the space of pain and fire and promises to give us the strength to see it through.

This is how God overcomes sin. When we transform the pain that even the one who caused us the pain regrets it. Don’t waste your pain of guilt. Make it make you a better person, transform you. Otherwise you will be a prisoner your entire life.

This part was huge and you definitely need to watch out for the full sermon when TJC shares it. But the idea of not trying to return people to the place they were at before the bad thing happened. So we are not trying to go back to how things were before apartheid but rather get to a place after apartheid that is so good that the instigators of apartheid [and the devil himself] are angry for ever making apartheid because we turned out even better than we were before.

To white people, Sivuyile has these two things to say:

[1] Acknowledge your privilege. Don’t confess it – it might not necessarily be your doing. But acknowledge it.

[2] Share it.

To black people, Sivuyile had these two things to say:

[1] Be careful that your black pain doesn’t transform into hate.

[2] Take responsibility for your healing. We cannot expect white people to change before we can get healing. 

Those last two points were definitely a little bit controversial and i think the greater conversation must be taken into account before just ignoring or disregarding them. i can’t speak too much into black pain or responsibility, but this is a black man who is holding the Good News of the Gospel in the one hand and the history book of South Africa in the other and looking to reconcile the two without ignoring either one.

i still have a few more quotes left so i think i will do a part III and maybe add some general reflections to that. In the meantime if you missed part I you can click here, otherwise this will be continued…

Was there a particular quote from this post which stood out for you, challenged or encouraged you. Please let us know in the comments and share some thoughts of your own about it.


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.


  1. […] [For more quotes from TJC including Sivuyile Kotela and Lisa Sharon Harper, continue to part II] […]

  2. […] session): – For a great summary of quotes and notes from the session, check out Brett’s blog post (number 2 in a series of 3 that is well worth checking out!). – Tristan Pringle shared an […]

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