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Churches Target Pentecost to Mount Anti-Apartheid Campaign

From Religious News Service

This Sunday, Pentecost Sunday, churches across the country will formally embark on a multi-phased ecumenical campaign to protest the South African government’s apartheid system of racial segregation.

The campaign’s first phase begins with local Pentecost worship services and vigils focusing on South Africa and culminates June 17 with a rally at the Washington Monument.

The campaign grew out of a meeting here in October of eminent U.S. church leaders--calling themselves the “South Africa Crisis Coordinating Committee"--who responded to calls for support from South African churches concerned about increasing incidents of violence against the churches.

In August, the headquarters of the South African Council of Churches in Johannesburg, Khotso House, was bombed. And just 6 weeks later, an arson fire gutted two floors at Khanya House, the Pretoria offices of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference.

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Diana Scott, who is coordinating activities for the United Church of Christ’s Board for World Ministries here, said that a number of UCC events related to the campaign have already been held, including workshops on apartheid and the circulating of petitions.

She reported that 7,000 information packets were mailed to UCC anti-apartheid activists across the country to bring the campaign to the grass-roots level.

Backers of the U.S. campaign include the historic black churches and mainline Protestant denominations. The U.S. Catholic Conference and Evangelicals for Social Action are also involved, providing a broadened ecumenical base for the campaign.

After the Pentecost Sunday observances, the committee is calling for a day of fasting and prayer May 26, a series of national speaking tours by North American and South African church leaders June 1 to 15 and a day of lobbying for sanctions in the states and on Capitol Hill June 16 before the Washington Monument rally the following day.

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The coordinating committee is also asking opponents of apartheid to sign a “covenant” statement that says: “The time has come for the faith, prayers and energy of the worldwide church of Jesus Christ to be clearly focused on bringing to an end the diabolical system known as apartheid. We hereby make a covenant with the church and people of South Africa--until South Africa is free.”

Signers of the pledge card are being asked to assist in adopting campaigns in their communities to pressure the South African government to abandon apartheid, focusing on support for comprehensive economic sanctions and “people’s sanctions” such as corporate campaigns and bank boycotts directed at institutions doing business with South Africa.

High on the agenda of the coordinating committee are two pieces of legislation under consideration in Congress. The bills were introduced by Rep. Ronald V. Dellums (D-Berkeley) and Sen. Paul Simon (D-Ill.).

According to the committee, the proposed legislation would “significantly expand” existing U.S. sanctions that now permit American businesses to continue basic operations in most industries.


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