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I. Taliep: Address to Africa Summit

Address to Africa Summit 2018, Cape Town, South Africa, Nov. 21–25, 2018


To the Universal Peace Federation and its leadership, Mother Moon, to the Royal house of Mandela and Chief Mandela, my honorable and respected co-panelists here this morning, thank you for making my job so difficult. And everybody present, religious leaders and visitors from across the continent and beyond, I greet you all. A-salaam-aleikum. Peace and blessings of God Almighty be on all of you.

A gathering of this nature for interfaith dialogue, with interfaith leaders, is indeed an honor to be part of. The positions that have been stated today are ones that we intuitively align ourselves with and that we endorse and support. It is a gathering that calls upon leaders to be relevant to the times. It is one where religious leaders have to be walking the road of relevance, as has been done by their forebears, so that they can play a role in these times that their forebears have played before.

In our recent history we have found religious leaders developing what we have commonly referred to as liberation theology. During the times of the struggle against apartheid, religious leaders alongside the rest of the citizens in our country took their rightful position in order to contribute toward the dismantling of the unjust apparatus of the apartheid state.

If we are going to be relevant today and if we are really thinking of the common themes that have been espoused here today and yesterday, we need to be working hard at the theology of unity in diversity. We have to work hard at understanding that we are first human beings before we have any affiliation to a religion.

I say this because we have a proud history in the South African context of interfaith action, interfaith solidarity, and interfaith liberation movements. Yet one of our speakers this morning made reference to the development in the City of Cape Town as compared to what he has witnessed in the communities in Soweto. But you do not have to go so far; you merely have to go less than 10 kilometers from the City of Cape Town to find amplified and pronounced squalor and poverty in communities right around the centers of development. 

The question is, what are we doing as faith leaders when we are saying that we are the representatives of God, when we are saying that we have to bear witness of God to society? What are we doing?

In the South African context, we've seen how faith leaders have managed to move mountains alongside the rest of the leaders in our liberation movements, whether they were of the African National Congress of Madiba Nelson Mandela, the PAC, AZAPO, or the other liberation movements and constituent bodies. Faith leaders have played a profound role.

I believe that this common humanity is what we are lacking now. We are lacking the the advocacy for the unity of this human society. Compared to that when we are in these beautiful platforms, we are not as effective when we return to the spaces where we are leading our communities, our churches, our mosques, or our synagogues. I believe that we are not as effective there.

When we reflect on the historical experience of the South African interfaith leadership, we find that we have mobilized our own religious assets and spiritual capacities in a very effective way. From mosques to synagogues to churches, every opportunity was very carefully identified and mobilized as a means to voice our opposition to injustices, our opposition to inhumanity, and our opposition to the horrors experienced by our community under apartheid.

Interfaith leaders formed the voices of grassroots societies and protected civil movements because they could mobilize safely in sacred places. There is a beautiful church, St. George's Cathedral right here on Wales Street in our city, where I recall fondly that we all gathered as members of the human family united by the scourge of apartheid, which we had to dismantle.

I remember the mosques used for the same purposes.  I remember the synagogues used for the same purposes.  I remember when in 1989 Archbishop Desmond Tutu was the caller for the famed peace march where in the most brutal period of apartheid, 35,000 gathered behind faith leaders from across denominations and made statements that ultimately led to the dismantlement of apartheid.

Communities were mobilized in very innovative ways to bring about this unity. We understood that even burying our dead was an opportunity to voice our defiance against the apartheid regime at the time. I remember that one funeral attracted 35,000 people. And religious leaders from all faiths and denominations were walking right in front. As a united community, these were the ways in which we demonstrated our defiance against the ravages of the apartheid system.

Nonviolence was the order of the day. Religious leaders were the voice of the voiceless communities. Faith leaders also led in the humanitarian relief that had to take place in our country.

We don't all have to believe in the same way. Our affiliations are part of our identity. But we have to understand that we have a common origination from God Almighty. He says in the holy Koran, in the final testament if you wish, “Oh, humankind, we created you from one single male and female, and we made you into nations and tribes. The purpose for all of that is that you may learn to know one another, not that you may despise one another. And that the most exalted and honorable of you in the sight of God are those who are more conscious and those who live in the service of humanity.” Thank you very much. A-salaam-aleikum.



To go to the 2018 Africa Summit Schedule page, click here.