In part 1, Jonathan Bellamy speaks with Michael Cassidy about growing up in apartheid South Africa, and his stand against racism on a worldwide stage.
Continued from page 1
But we took that stand and we were public and vocal in speaking against apartheid in talking about the Christian message. When we said to people that they had to repent, it wasn't just of being naughty sexually, or dishonest with money, or this or that, we said it included forsaking and leaving behind racially wrong attitudes.
So at every level we addressed the system and we were privileged in due time to see it begin to crumble.
Jonathan: Before that fall of apartheid, unity was important to you and I believe at one point you saw 800 leaders gather from 49 of the 51 African countries. Tell us about those relationships that you built and that gathering, and what unity looked like back then.
Michael: That particular gathering was in Nairobi called PACLA, Pan African Christian Leadership Assembly. We had those 800 or more leaders from all African countries, except one or two. It was amazing.
There were sensitivities and tensions, but in the atmosphere of the gospel, worship, dialogue, and of confrontation, the chemistry of change in people was quite intoxicating and people became liberated. People saw in one another brothers and sisters rather than enemies. Enemies became demythologised. The stereotypes about the racial, theological, or denominational Samaritan were broken and people came together.
It was quite a heady experience. That happened in Nairobi and it led us to resolve to do something much bigger than that in South Africa.
Jonathan: In holding events like that, did that begin to gradually increase the pressure on the South African Government? They were seeing people from across nations standing together who weren't in agreement with them.
Michael: That's very hard to say, because they were a very stubborn group of people.
Of course it must have constituted something of a set of conscience pricks upon them. But I think perhaps the biggest thing came with the conference that followed the one in Nairobi called SACLA - South African Christian Leadership Assembly - where we had 5,000-6,000 leaders together from all sides.
The change in people was absolutely extraordinary. One Harvard professor coming to research us said he had never seen such change take place within so many people in such a short space of time.
One of those changed was a man called Professor Johan Heyns. He was to be the Moderator of the Dutch Reformed Church. It led him to launch a commission as to whether apartheid could be reconciled with the Bible, because the Church had always given theological legitimacy to the system. He was changed and the commission came up and said apartheid is a sin.
That got the attention, let me tell you, of the Government. They had always realised that if the Church no longer stood with them, the skids were under the system.
Johan Heyns was later assassinated for his efforts with this commission and for declaring apartheid a sin. But I think that affected the Government much more than the other boycotts of sports and economic, social, trade and so on.
In due course, it took time, but the walls began to crack and finally crumbled.