“As President of Arm In Arm In Africa, I have been honored to be able to develop a strong relationship with my friend and colleague, The Rev. Spiwo Xapile, a Presbyterian Pastor in South Africa. I would describe our relationship as that of being brothers. We have worked closely over the last eighteen years and I know him to be a minister of compassion and a person that sees beyond the boundaries that often can separate human beings. Spiwo, having lived over half of his life during the time of apartheid, knows first hand the destructive power of what it is like to be excluded and the negative impact it can have on how people live their life, as well as their faith.
I recently received an email from my brother. It is my understanding that there is a National Interfaith Day of Prayer scheduled for South Africa. Disagreements arose and some christian communities were struggling with how to come together for prayer with those men and women that come from a variety of faith traditions, other than christian. I immediately was reminded of the same tensions and disagreements that exist within our own diverse ethnic religious landscape in the USA. Spiwo continued to share that he was left with many questions as to why we, as christians have not learned to be more radically embracing and radically inclusive of others, rather than finding reasons to exclude? He was reminded of the same mindset that has made apartheid to be such a destructive force right up to our present day. Spiwo concluded his email by sharing that he was “reminded of how committed some of us were in excluding people living with HIV/AIDS until we found out we too were HIV positive in one way or another.”
In reading your note, as regard to the Interfaith Day of Prayer, I share your questions, as well as frustration. As a pastor for close to forty years, I can well appreciate and understand the disappointment that comes when either church hierarchy and/or individual faith communities claim to be the “one true faith,” to the exclusion of others. Trust me, it sounds very, very familiar. I am reminded of the words of Bishop Desmond Tutu, from “God Has A Dream.”
“If you are to be true partners with God in the transformation of God’s world….you must begin by understanding that as much as God loves you, God equally loves your enemies….God does not share our hatred, no matter what the offense we have endured. We try to claim God for ourselves and our cause, but God’s love is too great to be confined to any one side of a conflict, or religion. And our prejudices, regardless of whether they are based on religion, race, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, or anything else, are absolutely and utterly ridiculous in God’s eyes.”
“Praying and expecting everything to come from God and not doing anything yourself is not praying. This is laziness; this is alienation. This is passivity, conformity. This is not the time, dear brothers and sisters, to say: It is God’s will. Many things happen that are not God’s will. When people can contribute something of themselves to improve the situation and ask God for the courage to do so, Then there is prayer.”
“We cannot love God unless we love each other, and to love we must know each other. We know God in the breaking of the bread, and we know each other in the breaking of the bread and we are not alone anymore. Heaven is a banquet and life is a banquet, too, even with a crust, where there is companionship. We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community.”
“No individual can live alone, no nation can live alone, and as long as we try, the more we are going to have war in this world. All life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable net of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Now the judgment of God is upon us, and we must either learn to live together as brothers and sisters, or we are all going to perish together as fools.”
“Let us open our hearts to the love of God. Let us break open the doors and let the stranger in. Let us embrace rich and poor, the beautiful and the bruised, both tears and laughter, for God’s arms are wide and in Her there is no stranger! Let us walk in the way of the open heart.” AMEN