Fuller, Welcome to South Africa!
By Clint Le Bruyns (MAT '99)
Alumni Council Past Chair
We are "settled creatures." So says Ryszard Kapuściński, a Polish historian and journalist, in his book The Other (2008). Having spent a lifetime of travelling through Africa, Asia, and Latin America, he noticed how much we experienced "the world outside [as] a source of anxiety." We hesitate about being exposed to "the other." Making contact with those beyond our sphere of identity and living demands recognition as well as responsibility. According to Kapuściński, historically we have not been good at dealing with "differentness," so we either start a war or we isolate ourselves--but in other cases, we show hospitality. Hospitality assumes a friendly, open, and approachable attitude, "a dialogical encounter."
A highlight of 2010 was the opportunity South Africa had through the Soccer World Cup in July to welcome the world to our country and continent. No doubt there were some people who preferred to resist the world outside of South Africa in hostile and isolating ways. For most of us, however, this beautiful international game facilitated a response of friendliness, acceptance, and love toward others. There are countless stories of how the world experienced a taste of African solidarity and responsibility.
A more personal highlight this year was the opportunity I had through the Lausanne Congress in October to welcome Fuller Seminary to our city and context. It was a blessing to host a delegation of faculty, staff, alumni and students on a one-day exposure-and-encounter trip in South Africa.
We visited the Parliament of South Africa to learn about the legislative weight of our apartheid past along with the legislative wonder of our new democratic era. We enjoyed lunch together at the Waterfront surrounded by beautiful Table Mountain and the breathtaking ocean. Just a 25-minute ferry ride from the harbor we could view Robben Island, originally a place of banishment for leper colonies, but eventually a notorious place of suffering for prominent political prisoners of the apartheid regime. Unfortunately, the predictable unpredictability of Cape Town weather prevented us from visiting the island to gain a glimpse of the cold cells and harsh conditions endured by the likes of Nelson Mandela and other stalwarts of the struggle.
We drove through Cape Town's most densely populated "township," Khayelitsha. Ironically it means "new home," but it was all too clear that the experience of newness and opportunity is far from reality for this population of one million in which poverty and unemployment are rife. We visited the "Learn to Earn" NGO (non-governmental organization), which seeks every day to rebel against this status quo and empower people with knowledge, values, and skills for a more hopeful future in the world of work.
In Stellenbosch with its picturesque landscape, famous winelands, and well-known university, there is a shocking fact. South Africa currently is the nation with the widest gap between rich and poor, and Stellenbosch comes first place as the town in the country with the greatest inequality gap. In this place where poverty and wealth exist side by side, I serve at a university that attempts to contribute to a more hospitable life for all through our teaching, research, and community engagement. Our institutional transformation commitment is aptly termed "a pedagogy of hope." Our Fuller delegation enjoyed an insightful debriefing and informative discussion together in the Faculty of Theology.
We relaxed together for an African dinner at a local wine estate. Reflecting on the day, snapping pictures of one another, enjoying a meal together, envisioning how God may be speaking and working through this encounter ... these were just some aspects of the beauty of our fellowship.
God uses such international events to advance our mission of serving Christ and his manifold ministries within the church and society. God uses Fuller to advance our encounter with "the other," our experience of diversity as blessing, and our responsibility to love others--especially the most vulnerable--in concrete and creative ways through an ethic of hospitality. I am so proud to be an alumnus of Fuller, an institution that has brought the world to the seminary. I was especially excited to spend time with the seminary delegation in Cape Town and Stellenbosch, bringing Fuller to "an-other" world. May God continue to use us to resist the stubborn settledness of many kinds and to embrace the faith, hope, and love of God in and through the world ... together. Together?
Clint Le Bruyns is senior lecturer in public theology and ethics at Stellenbosch University in South Africa. He can be reached at email@example.com.