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 2

Jonathan: With things like that taking place, what is your view on what brings change? Is it what is done in the natural like boycotting and things like that? Or is it because something takes place in the spirit that brings a shift and a change?

Michael Cassidy and Festo Kivengere
Michael Cassidy and Festo Kivengere

Michael: There was a tremendous amount of prayer went on through this whole process. I believe that when the battle is won, as it were, in the heavenlies, you begin to see the victories take place on the ground. Strongholds are pulled down and thoughts are brought captive to Christ, and this has a tremendous effect finally on the minds and the thinking of people, and of people in power. The pressures were building up to a tremendous degree, but I think prayer was a key thing.

In 1993, leading up to 1994, we had a two year chain of prayer going 24/7, round the clock for two years. Our leaders were the most prayed for, I believe, in the world. Maybe nothing like that had ever quite happened. This led their minds to shift until finally they realised, when de Klerk saw the writing on the wall that they had to release Mandela, un-ban the liberation movements, remove the army from the townships, and institute non-racial democratic elections.

That's how it all happened but prayer, I think, was the basis of all of that.

Jonathan: Just before that, before de Klerk, you had discussions with the President of South Africa P.W. Botha. How important were those discussions and what was the outcome of them?

Michael: I laugh about that, in a way, because it was a tremendous confrontation.

I had gone to the president, with a view to opening up the way for a delegation to come to him from a conference we'd held of 400 leaders, called the National Initiative for Reconciliation. He was absolutely incensed about this conference and the fact that we had called, for example, for a 'Pray Away', a day when all of South Africa would stay at home to pray. He assured me very forcibly that this would be a failure.

Billy Graham rally, Durban Congress
Billy Graham rally, Durban Congress

I was due to go on television that night to talk about the Pray Away. He knew about it and he said I want you to denounce a group of people called the Kairos Theologians, who were mainly black theologians, who put out a powerful thing called the Kairos Document. He said if you don't denounce them, I will fix you personally, Mr Cassidy. I knew what that meant; it meant you could be taken out. But I said I refuse to do so, Mr President, because this is a cry from the black world. It was not a happy interview.

The next day, on the busiest road from Soweto into Johannesburg, in the rush hour, there was one lone cyclist. I have the picture on the front page of a newspaper the next day. It's not very clear who the cyclist is because it's not a great photograph, but it's an historic photograph. It showed the Government authorities that the Church was powerful and that we were taking a stand and we were not going to back down from it. It was a very tough confrontation.

Later, by God's grace, I also tell of that in my memoirs, Footprints in the African Sand, I had a very extraordinary opportunity to go and become reconciled with P.W. Botha. That's a good story; a good yarn and I hope people will get it and read it. CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.