One of the places we visited this week was the Stellenbosch University- where students are trained in the tradition of Dutch Reformed church. For the record, this is where the theological framework for supporting apartheid emerged as part of this tradition. Following the Second World War, the ideology of the National Socialist party from Germany moved south and found roots in the Afrikaner people, white Dutch settlers in South Africa. With the teaching coming out of the seminary, a justification for white superiority over people of color and of the indigenous people of Africa.
In other words, the Dutch Reformed church, and the University, were part of the architecture that led to apartheid.
That any form of the Church would be responsible for engendering this form of hate stains the entirety of our Christian faith and serves as a reminder of how easily our faith traditions can be subverted.
In the course of apartheid almost every Christian denomination outside of the Dutch Reformed church were told to abandon fellowship with this group, isolating the seminary and pastors from fellowship.
After the fall of Apartheid, the Christian denominations gathered in South Africa met to begin the theological groundwork for the recovery of the nation. As a gesture of goodwill they invited members of the Dutch reformed church to this gathering.
It was a tense moment at the meeting until a representative from this tradition rose and addressed the assembly. In this address they admitted the errors of apartheid and confessed that they had been wrong in its instigation. They confessed the evil of apartheid and renounced it as an ideology.
The gathered leaders were amazed. Desmond Tutu then came to the podium and said, "I don't know about you... But in my tradition if someone confesses their sin, I have to forgive them."
Stellenbosch University continues to train and educate students and pastors for work in South Africa. It is my hope that they might continue to help set right what was such a great wrong in this nation.