Speech by Nelson Mandela at the Zionist Christian Church Easter Conference Moria, 20th April 1992

TitleSpeech by Nelson Mandela at the Zionist Christian Church Easter Conference Moria, 20th April 1992
CollectionNelson Rolihlahla Mandela
Date1992
Resource TypeSpeeches and Public Statements

Reading from the "Lamentations of Jeremiah", Chapter 5

Remember, O Lord, what is come upon us:
consider, and behold our reproach,
Our land is turned over to strangers, our homes to foreigners,
We are orphans and fatherless, our Mothers are as widows,
We have to pay for our water;and our wood is sold unto us,
Our necks are under the yoke of oppression, we labour, and we have no rest."

Khotsong Masione! Peace unto you! Uxolo Mazayoni!

Your Grace Bishop Barnabas Lekganyane, head of the great Zionist Christian Church;
Reverend Gentlemen, Members of the ministers' council and Elders of the ZCC;
President F W de Klerk;
Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi;
Congregants, Fellow worshippers and friends;

Permit me, Your Grace, to thank you for your kind invitation to attend your Easter Conference here at the holy city of Moria. Moria, a tabernacle erected by the Zionist Christian Church as a site of annual pilgrimage and renewal! I am honoured that you have invited me on this occasion to pay my respects to the leadership and the members of this mighty church on the sub-continent. Since my release from prison, I have attempted to find a time suitable to both myself and His Grace, Bishop Lekganyane, so that we could confer about our common aspirations and the challenges facing our nation in these trying times.

My coming here today is a long-awaited moment. I come to the Holy City of Moria as a pilgrim, with other pilgrims, senior members of the African National Congress as a mark of respect and as an act of communion.

I present Cyril Ramaphosa, Secretary-General of the ANC;Thomas Nkobi, our Treasurer- General;Joe Nhlanhla, a member of the National Executive Committee of the ANC, and others.

We bring to your gathering heartfelt greetings from the entire membership of the ANC. Khotso e be le lena! May Peace be With You!

We have joined you this Easter in an act of solidarity, and in an act of worship. We have come, like all the other pilgrims, to join in an act of renewal and rededication. The festival of Easter, which is so closely linked with the festival of the Passover, marks the rebirth of the resurrected Messiah,

who without arms,
without soldiers,
without police and covert special forces,
without hit squads or bands of vigilantes,
overcame the mightiest state during his time.

This great festival of rejoicing marks the victory of the forces of life over death of hope over despair.

As we bow our heads in prayerful worship this day, our minds cannot but dwell on the evil of violence that today stalks our land. We cannot but call to mind the cries of mothers violated, brutalised and outraged by armed foreign mercenaries and killers in our midst.

As we lower our heads in supplication to the Lord of Hosts, the blood-curdling battle cries of armed men, sweeping through a township like a swarm of locusts in a maize field, ring in our ears, and we know that in some home, this night shall be night for mourning.

We pray with you for the blessings of peace! We pray with you for the blessings of love! We pray with you for the blessings of freedom! We pray with you for the blessings of reconciliation among all the people of South Africa!

Khotso e be le lena! May peace be with you!

When Bishop Engenas Lekganyane founded this church in 1910, that occasion represented an important act of the oppressed to resist the theology of submission. It was an act of self-assertion on the part of a people who were expected to remain unheard and unseen while they ministered t the needs of others.

In its own way, the Zionist Christian Church was expressing what we of the ANC, two years later, tried to assert and have fought to entrench, as the basis of the politics of our country. That principle so eloquently simple but yet so profound, has moved thousands through the ages to strive for a better world. We restate it today for emphasis: - The brother and sisterhood of all human beings, and the common fatherhood of God Almighty!

It is that simple truth we have inscribed in our political programme, the Freedom Charter, that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white!

It because of our devotion to, our fervent belief in, and our tenacious refusal to give up that principle, that many of us have suffered persecution.

It is because we stood firm that we have been compelled to go into exile.

It is because we would not bend in the face of state intimidation that we have been condemned to banishment;to torture;to imprisonment;and even to the gallows.

Yes! We affirm it and we shall proclaim it from the mountaintops, that all people - be they black or white, be they brown or yellow, be they rich or poor, be they wise or fools, are created in the image of the Creator and are his children! Those who dare to cast out from the human family people of a darker hue with their racism!

Those who exclude from the sight of God's grace, people who profess another faith with their religious intolerance!

Those who wish to keep their fellow countrymen away from God's bounty with forced removals!

Those who have driven away from the altar of God people whom He has chosen to make different, commit an ugly sin! The sin called APARTHEID.

We of the African National Congress: its leadership and its membership, shall sooner break the laws and defy the fanciful wishes of mortal men when we know that in so doing We are being obedient to God. And in obedience to God we declare that all South Africans - be they Christians, Muslims, Jews Hindus, Buddhists - have an equal and untrammelled right to worship God as they see fit. No government should have the right to prescribe religious observance for the citizens of this country.

The ZCC is part of that rich tapestry of experience, culture and life style that make up all our people today. Both as a church and as individual members, you have lent your efforts to bring justice to our land. We applaud in particular your role in the trade union movement in pursuance of workers' rights. The struggles of our people for land and against apartheid-inspired land robbery - the forced removals - would be poorer were it not for the contribution of congregants of this church. We acclaim also the role played by ZCC businesspeople, Who in the teeth of the discriminatory policies of the Pretoria government ran successful enterprises providing jobs and trade in far-flung villages.

The bond between you and the ANC is even clearer, when we consider that many members of our organisation belong to the Zionist Christian Church. Among them, Peter Mokaba and Ngoako Ramatlhodi who are with us today, grew up and have become what they are in the struggle in great measure inspired by your teachings. Many others have fallen in struggle. Many have been subjected to terms in jail. But their spirit remains with the people.

Khotsong Masione! Peace be with you!

This great institution, the ZCC, owes much to the person of Bishop Edward Lekganyane whose tireless efforts have made it the largest church on the southern African sub-continent. We also salute you, Your Grace, for further strengthening the church and maintaining its commitment to the oppressed and the poor.

Those who are denied their just claims to the land of their birth, come to you for solace!

Those condemned to the low wages and denied their rights as the creators of wealth, look to you for spiritual leadership.

Those cast out into the darkness and bitter loneliness of poverty and depravation, lean on you for sustenance.

Those whose homes and families have been destroyed so that the ugly designs of racial oppression maybe realised, have come to you for comfort.

Those who are denied a voice in governing of their country because they are black, turn to you for inspiration.

You have engendered high standards of morality and discipline in an era characterised by racism, poverty and imposed powerlessness. It is because of these qualities, embodied in this mighty church, that year after year millions gather at Moria for this act of spiritual renewal.

On behalf of the African National Congress, we have come here in all humility to break bread and worship with you. To join you in this sacrament of spiritual rejuvenation.

Khotso e be le lena! May Peace be with You!

Since 1986 the ANC took it upon itself to search for a path to peace in our troubled land. From jail, from exile, from the underground hideouts inside South Africa, we extended a hand of peace to the South African government. For four long years, like Pharaoh of old, the South African government spurned it and refused to listen to the plea:

"Let my people go"

In spite of this. In spite of the continuing arrest, detention, torture, imprisonment, shooting, killing and execution of those who opposed apartheid, we would not give up. We continued to press forward. We kept up the pressure for peace, - through struggles, through sanctions, through boycotts - through every means we could muster until we have now reached a stage where we can all say there is a real possibility to solve our problems by negotiations.

The convening of CODESA was like the parting of the waters, opening the way to the promised land of freedom beyond. It was a great victory for the people of South Africa, Black and White. We hope that the waters will not return before we have crossed to the promised land of democracy.

Progress in these talks shall depend on the willingness of those in power to share it during the transition to democracy. We must move as speedily as possible to an elected Constituent Assembly which can draw up a new constitution which all South Africans can be proud of. Our brothers and sisters, deprived of South African citizenship because of apartheid, must have it restored forthwith!

These and many other principles can be agreed upon without further delay, provided there is willingness on the part of those who hold power to reach a speedy conclusion.

The role your church can play is more crucial in these difficult times. The violence that is wrecking our country;tearing our communities apart from places far and wide, is a scourge that must be ended now! On the Witwatersrand, in Natal, in the eastern Transvaal we have been driven from our homes.

In Cape Town, Grobbelarsdaal and other areas we have lost loved ones in senseless taxi wars. The murders, beatings, the shameful assaults on women and mayhem visited upon our people in Phola Park and other squatters camps fill our hearts with sorrow. On the trains, we lose lives everyday at the hands of merciless killers who attack with no motive and melt away, immune from arrest and prosecution. The Trust Feed incident, now before the courts, where the police murdered mothers and babies in their sleep, demonstrates the depravity country could descend.

This violence robs us all of our humanity. It is the main obstacle to a truly democratic South Africa. We appeal to you all, to pray and work for peace. The violence must be ended and those who fuel it must be brought to justice. We cannot afford to fail! For success Lue ask you all to remember us in your prayers.

Uxolo Mazayoni! Khotsong Masione! May Peace be with You!

Your Grace,

Reverend Gentlemen, Ministers and Elders of the Zionist Christian Church,

I wish to close on a note of hope. May this Easter bring with it the blessings of the our risen Messiah and may His love shine upon you all. May the Almighty grant Your Grace the wisdom to continue in your great work of spiritual guidance. You shall remain in our prayers as we shall be in yours.

Thank You.