The last couple of months have been a very busy but very fruitful time for FOR SA. We thank God for the favour that we have experienced as churches and leaders representing millions of Christians in South Africa, have joined and continue to join FOR SA thus giving us their mandate to speak on their behalf on issues affecting our religious freedom.
One of the strategies that we felt the Lord gave us, is that there is strength in numbers. In Acts 18:9, we read that the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision and told him, “Don’t be afraid! Speak out! Don’t be silent! For I am with you, and no one will attack and harm you, for many people in this city belongs to me.”
Recognising that this is a time for the Church in South Africa to stand and act united, FOR SA has worked hard over the last few months to establish a national presence as a credible and effective organisation, to build relationships with key role players and develop partnerships with like-minded organisations, and to rally Christians across the nation around the principle of freedom of conscience, religion and belief.
We are grateful for the platforms that we have been given through national media, to make Christians aware of the current threat to our religious freedom and encourage them to stand together and act decisively. During this time, FOR SA was interviewed on Radio Pulpit and on Errol Naidoo’s “Watchmen on the Wall”. FOR SA is also invited by Gateway News, an online Christian news portal, on a regular basis to write on issues affecting religious freedom. The organisation also featured in the August edition of JOY! and JUIG! magazines. To view the article, click here.
In August, FOR SA was invited to Bloemfontein to speak to a number of leaders of churches and Christian ministries, Christian lawyers, academics and business people. This was a strategic time of engaging with each other about pertinent issues, discussing the way forward and praying for our nation. FOR SA is particularly encouraged by the way that Bloemfontein has taken ownership of the matter, and the efforts made by them to raise awareness and mobilise Christians in their own city and even wider.
FOR SA also met with the Institute for Public Justice (IPJ), another organisation working in this field, to discuss our working relationship and partnering together for the sake of religious freedom in South Africa. The outcome of the discussion was that the two organisations are confident that the cause of religious freedom in South Africa, and indeed the Body of Christ, will be best served by keeping the two organisations separate from each other. FOR SA and IPJ will therefore be working towards the same goal, alongside and with each other, but focusing on different mandates. While FOR SA’s primary mandate is to act as a voice on behalf of the Church in South Africa to government (including Parliament) and society on issues affecting our religious freedom, the IPJ’s primary mandate (as a body of Christian lawyers) will be to engage in legal cases concerning religious freedom and matters of public justice.
Other national organisations with whom FOR SA has been building relationship and developing partnership, include Errol Naidoo’s Family Policy Insitute (FPI), Cause for Justice (CFJ) and Christian Lawyers’ Association (CLA) both of who recently acted in the pornography case in the Cape High Court.
FOR SA was also invited to Kempton Park to address the Religious Liberty Commission (RLC), an organisation serving Christians who suffer violent persecution for their faith around the world. At the meeting, FOR SA had opportunity to explain the rising challenges for Christians in our country, and participated in discussions regarding the present persecution of Christians in Northern Iraq and Syria. FOR SA made certain proposals for, and assisted in, engaging the SA government, church and civil society with regard to the situation. FOR SA subsequently raised the RLC’s and indeed our own concerns with Members of Parliament, who then put those very concerns to the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation in a plea to government to intervene and act. To read more about the current situation in Northern Iraq or Syria and/or to make a financial contribution towards persecuted Christians, visit the Open Doors website.
On an international level, FOR SA has made contact with the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) who has been fighting the good fight in courts around the world for many years now and has had numerous successes in this field. Our hope is to learn from and partner with them, for the sake of keeping free our faith!
In 1 Chronicles 20:12, Joab (commander of King David’s army) gave the following battle plan to his brother Abishai: “If the Arameans are too strong for me, then come over and help me … And if the Ammomites are too strong for you, I will help you. Be courageous! Let us fight bravely for our people and the cities of our God. May the Lord’s will be done.”
There are many battles to fight and much work to be done in educating, equipping and rallying the Church around issues concerning our religious freedom. As different organisations, each working within the mandate that God has given us, we can spread the load and do so much more. We are grateful for every ally that God has given us, and trust that together we can make a difference – for the good of our nation, and ultimately to the glory of God!
In addition to mobilising the Church across South Africa on issues affecting our religious freedom, and developing relationships and partnerships with key role players, FOR SA has over the last few months helped a number of pastors, Christian ministries and Christian businesses who found themselves on the wrong side of the law because of their faith.
Perhaps the most well-known of these cases, is the Neethlings of Wolseley. The Neethlings have been taken to the Bellville Equality Court for refusing, on grounds of conscience, religion and belief, to make a double-room in their guest house available to a couple practicing homosexuality. As a result of FOR SA’s intervention in the matter as Amicus Curiae (“Friend of the Court”), the case was referred for mediation. We are currently still waiting on the Human Rights Commission (HRC) to put forward the names of persons that they propose as mediators, so that the matter may move forward and hopefully be resolved amicably and without the need to return to Court. To read more about this case, click here.
Other cases that FOR SA has been involved in and assisted with, include the “wedding venue cases” against Kilcairn, Beloftebos, Sha-mani and Oakfield Farm (still pending). To read more about these cases, click here. FOR SA also helped Pastor O.P. Bougardt of Mitchell’s Plain with the “hate speech” case opened up against him, which has now been successfully mediated in his favour. To read more about this case, click here.
As explained above, FOR SA’s primary mandate is not to become involved in legal cases against Christians (but rather to make submissions to government and Parliament on legislation affecting our religious freedom). As the IPJ (whose primary focus will be legal cases) was still in the process of being established however in the last few months, FOR SA recognised that it was necessary for it as an organisation to step in and help pastors, Christian ministries and businesses who were finding themselves in front of the Human Rights Commission, Gender Equality Commission and Equality Courts. And so we did – not only for their sake, but for the sake of ensuring that no adverse precedent is set against Christians in our courts, and in the interest therefore of defending the freedom of all pastors, Christian ministries and businesses in South Africa.
News about more cases brought against or involving Christians in the months of August / September, will appear in the next issue of FOR SA’s Newsletter.