The Moment of Grace and Opportunity: The Global Kairos Movement for Peace in the Holy Land

By the mid-1980s the South African government was contemplating its own fall. The outlawed and exiled African National Congress was escalating the armed struggle. The townships seethed in the face of massive repression as the government desperately tried to hold on to power. World governments were joining the global movement to sanction the country economically and isolate it politically. And then, finally, definitively, the church acted. In 1985 a group of South African pastors and theologians brought out a prophetic document that not only took an unequivocal stand against the Apartheid regime but also spoke out against the neutrality of the English-speaking churches. Titled “Challenge to the Church, A Theological Comment on the Political Crisis in South Africa,” this prophetic document is commonly known as the South Africa Kairos document. Whereas previous theological documents critical of Apartheid had already condemned it as a “false gospel” and “sinful” (“The Message to the People of South Africa,” issued by the South African Council of Churches in 1968) and as a “heresy” (The “Belhar Confession of the Dutch Reformed Mission Church,” 1982), the Kairos Document went a step further and declared the apartheid regime illegitimate from a moral and theological point of view. Thus, it declared, it is a Christian duty “to refuse to cooperate with tyranny and to do whatever we can to remove it.”

Describing Kairos as “the moment of grace and opportunity, the favorable time in which God issues a challenge to decisive action,” the document clearly articulated a moral imperative to recognize the evil and to take direct and clear action to address it.

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