Greetings to you from Cape Town, South Africa. The place where we meet today is where the indigenous people of this land and the European colonisers first met and where our oppression and injustice of 350 years started. Across from here is also where President Nelson Mandela made his first speech after 27 years in prison and also where archBishop Tutu introduced him in early May 1994 as the first democratically elected State President of South Africa.
Now, After 28 years of democracy, and after that initial enthusiasm has somewhat faded, we can say that we have come a long way but that we have an even longer way to go. But we will not journey alone as our freedom and the freedom of the Palestinian people are interlinked.
We started this year at the Anglican Cathedral, to lay to rest our icon and first among equals, Archbishop emeritus Tutu. The very next day our Parliament burnt and it felt like a sign of things to come: we did not struggle to hand this country to corrupt individuals who would burn trains that are mainly used by the working class. We did not struggle to steal money from the poorest of our people. We struggled for justice and for dignity and for black people across the globe to feel proud. Sadly, we have turned away from those ideals and values and therefore have to now continue to struggle on multiple fronts to secure more justice and to affirm our dignity.
As we commemorate the 74th year of the ongoing Nakba in Palestine, One can easily be tempted to say or think that you have become the “forgotten ones” but the mere fact that we are gathering for solidarity and resistance in Cape Town today in a place built by the colonisers, means that the flame of hope and solidarity and resistance is still burning. We will never be fully free until you are fully free. Humanity and rights have no borders and therefore our humanity and your humanity, are bound up with each other and we pledge today that we will never stop our steadfast solidarity with you. Let the oppressors and those who want to be neutral, hear this: we will never stop our solidarity with the Palestinian people.
Having tasted a little bit of freedom, we seem to have begun to turn in on ourselves. Why? Because many of us have forgotten that freedom is not about power but about service. The struggle for justice is indivisible. As we distanced ourselves more and more from the poorest and most marginalised here we also did the same with those outside our borders who look to us for solidarity. South Africa by and large have become masters of deceit and hypocrisy, instead of servants of solidarity.
And yet, and yet…some amongst us have tried to be faithful to our solidarity with you. I mention one small but significant example…A resolution of the Anglican Church in 2019 said it clearly: Israel is an apartheid state and needs to be isolated until justice for Palestine is assured. We were excoriated for this not only from the chief Rabbi but also from within our own ranks. The church – and May I remind us that the church is global and universal – therefore is and remains a site of struggle! The same church of our sister Shireen Abu Akleh, who this week was killed by Israeli snipers while telling the truth about your ongoing Nakba and whose funeral was violated by Israeli forces because they know that they can act with impunity, can also be an institution that upholds oppression. We affirm today that the church is and must always be a servant of liberation and not bow the knee to Empire or neutrality. This is one of the multiple fronts on which we must continue to struggle and that we must continue to protect so that the good news of that young Palestinian Jew who was also called the Christ, can continue to be proclaimed. It is for this reason that we raised the Kairos Palestine flag in 2009.
And what is that good news? It is the good news that God takes sides with the oppressed. You can crucify us but we will rise again. You can try to snuff out our light but we will continue to burn. This is good news without borders, that transcends time and space. This is good news that makes us one even if we are geographically far from you. This is good news that gives us unlimited renewable energy that we draw from solidarity with you. This is good news that is not dependent on one individual. Some of us May die tomorrow but the good news of justice and freedom will continue.
Our role is therefore not simply to be diplomatic but to stand for justice, even if we are crucified for it. We will stand for justice in the halls of the United Nations and the AU, we will stand for justice at the International Criminal court but if all these instruments fail, we will stand for justice in our homes and in our mosques and in our churches and on the streets until justice for Palestine is realised.
Your yearning for freedom and justice is therefore also ours. You inspire us to be better and do better. Forgive us when we have not stood in solidarity with you, when your people were mowed down in Gaza and in the OPT. Forgive us when we did not listen to you and did not feel your pain.
As sure as the sun will rise tomorrow, your freedom will come. Why? Because, as Martin Luther King jr reminded us: the arc of the moral universe is long but it is bent towards justice. Those words still ring true today. Justice and freedom is unstoppable as it is written in the heavens. There is no timeline given but a guarantee is given that it ain’t over until victory is won.
You must be wondering how it is that everything you and those of us who support you have asked for against Israel is now being applied against the Russians. Not only are you Arabic and mostly Muslim, you are also brown-skinned. In other words, you are black and marginalised. And therefore your oppression is not centred. Your concerns are apparently not real. Your humanity is apparently less than that of the Ukrainians. For some, you do not even exist. And yet, your resistance is your existence, it is your life. This is why you inspire us. And from this continent that understands marginalisation we can only say: we stand and will continue to stand with you. Your resistance is ultimately not only for yourself but for all humanity. Your children and grandchildren are our children and grandchildren. Your dreams are our dreams. So….
Rev Edwin Arrison