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Speech by President Nelson Mandela on the occasion of Regina Mundi Day
Item type: Address
Acquisition method: From website
Source: ANC Website
Unique ID: NMS539
Presentation(s)Occasion: Regina Mundi Day
Place: Regina Mundi Church Soweto South Africa
Date: 30 November 1997
Mayor Nandi Mayathula-Khoza;
Members of the provincial and local government;
Religious and community leaders;
I am struck by the coincidence of this occasion with the re-opening a week ago of the Anglican Church of Christ the King in Sophiatown, as well as the recent testimony of religious leaders at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
All these events serve to remind us of the role the religious community played in either opposing or supporting our oppression. Regina Mundi served the greater Soweto community in times of need. It opened its doors to anti-apartheid activities when all other avenues were closed to the majority of the oppressed.
Testimony at the TRC pointed to collaboration by some religious institutions with injustice - whether by commission or omission. Today we celebrate the role of one of the religious bodies which made the difficult but correct choice on the side of truth and justice; a church that refused to allow God's name to be used to justify discrimination and repression.
It was this stance that earned Regina Mundi a reputation as one of Gauteng's greatest protest centres, a literal battlefield between forces of democracy and those who did not hesitate to violate a place of religion with teargas, dogs and guns. Regina Mundi became a world-wide symbol of the determination of our people to free themselves.
Today's event and the opening of the Church of Christ the King in Sophiatown which was forcibly closed in 1963, represent small but significant achievements in the battle to rebuild our country and to acknowledge a history that was relegated to the periphery. They symbolise the role of religion in nation-building and development.
Today we pride ourselves as a nation, in the outstanding leaders in politics, in the economy, in government and in many other sectors, who cut their teeth right here. Graduates of Regina Mundi are making important contributions to the reconstruction and development of our country. Such was the role of this church in the lives of many of us; such was the esteem with which it was held, that it popularly became known as the people's cathedral.
This role took its toll on the church building. It was ravaged and devastated. But today it is undergoing a proud rebirth.
We are honoured to have this unique opportunity to acknowledge and thank those who have contributed to this noble undertaking. In particular we thank the children who dedicated their time over the last two years, raising funds for this purpose. We also appreciate the contribution of business and diplomatic missions in the project to restore Regina Mundi.
The freedom which we won with the active participation of the religious community, indeed the majority of South Africans, has given us a constitution which guarantees to all South Africans their religious freedom. With this and other fundamental rights secured, the churches and other religious organisations, like society at large, are faced with what is in reality, an even greater challenge: to bring about social transformation through the reconstruction and development of our country.
We need religious institutions to continue to be the conscience of society, a moral custodian and a fearless champion of the interests of the weak and down-trodden. We need religious organisations to be part of a civil society mobilised to campaign for justice and the protection of basic human rights.
Religious institutions have a critical role to play in uniting and reconciling our people, as we journey together away from the heresy that was apartheid.
And, if I might add, that journey from our inhuman past, difficult as it may be, is one that we can and must make. Most South Africans have set out on it, from every sector of our society, and many have travelled a long way.
For example, as I have said before, when an Afrikaner changes, he changes completely.
Many Afrikaners, who once acted with great cruelty and insensitivity towards the majority in our country, to an extent you have to go to jail to understand, have changed completely and become loyal South Africans in whom one can trust.
Such changes, in different ways, we must all make if we are to truly heal our nation by working together to address the legacy of our past, especially the poverty that afflicts so many.
We also count on our spiritual leaders to make a special contribution in the rebuilding of the morality of our nation undermined by the perversions of apartheid. Success in our battle against crime, poverty, disease and ignorance depends on your active involvement.
We are encouraged to see churches that benefited from apartheid returning land to communities which were removed by force. This is an important gesture and a practical contribution to healing the past, a past that will continue to haunt us if we do not co-operate in exorcising it.
There is much still to be done to restore this building to what it was, and to make it even better. The resilience and creativity of South Africans, as demonstrated by your efforts to restore Regina Mundi, cannot fail to give one confidence that our country has a great future.
As long as we see the problems and challenges that face us as our own, and not those for someone else - as long as we work together to make South Africa the land of our dreams - so long shall we be guaranteed of success.
God bless you.