Theology in South Africa

The Perkins Global Theological Education Program prepares Christian leaders for complex cultural experiences through seminars and significant immersion experiences in other cultures. Students learn to build intercultural relationships, resolve cultural conflicts and guide intercultural ventures. In South Africa, participants are gaining insights into Christian hope in the region by exploring the political, economic, sexual, racial, and gender-complex experiences of the people of South Africa, and by participating in varieties of church and community-based ministries in Cape Town and Durban. This course is led by Dr. Evelyn L. Parker, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Professor of Practical Theology.

Perkins students also are blogging this summer from France at blog.smu.edu/studentadventures/category/theology-in-france/

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Learning about Hope: Imprisonment, Displacement and its Impact on South Africa

Perkins Theology students, with Professor Evelyn Parker (back row, third from right) and South African guide Dulce (next to Dr. Parker), visit the Seth Mokitimi Methodist Seminary in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) South Africa.

Perkins Theology students, with Professor Evelyn Parker (back row, third from right) and South African guide Dulce (next to Dr. Parker), visit the Seth Mokitimi Methodist Seminary in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) South Africa.

JessicaAn update from Jessica, a Perkins School of Theology student studying in South Africa:

The first couple days in Cape Town, we were mostly tourists. On Sunday we went to a Methodist service, and then immediately following, we joined church members and served lunch to the homeless. We were humbled by the way they gave of themselves to the people; some of the volunteers were even homeless themselves. There were some mothers with their children, which was very hard to see — but expected. Some of the groups will be working with the homeless more later this week.

After lunch, we went to Table Mountain, Cape Town’s most well-known landmark and one of the world’s seven natural wonders. We took cable cars to the very top, and it was so sunny and clear we were even able to see whales in the ocean. Talk about a mountaintop experience!! It was one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.

At Robben Island

At Robben Island

Immediately following, we went on a tour of the town and to the city square where Mandela made his first speech after his release from a 27-year prison term, which he served on Robben Island, in Pollsmoor Prison, and in Victor Verster Prison. Afterward some of us went to Constantia Winery, which is a gorgeous vineyard at the bottom of a mountain.

On Monday, we went to Robben Island, where Mandela was incarcerated as a political prisoner for 18 years. After we left the port, we went to Museum 6, which is a museum commemorating apartheid and all of those who experienced displacement during that time.

Nelson Mandela's prison cell

Nelson Mandela’s prison cell

I was even able to speak to a man of Indian descent who was displaced. He actually heard about the government order from the newspapers on his way to work informing him that he would soon lose all he had. A few days later he stood outside and watched his house bulldozed by government officials. Today what few houses remain standing from the displacement are worth millions (many of them owned by the so-called “pure” whites who took over their homes). Thus, the same people who contributed to apartheid are still reaping benefits from the segregation today.

After the museum tour, we were able to decompress at a beautiful white sand beach and got to put our feet in the Atlantic Ocean (our second ocean of the trip!). It was freezing cold, but so wonderful to see a natural wellspring of hope after witnessing such devastation.

On Tuesday, the real work begins. We are divided into three groups: one will be working with Nazareth House Orphanage; another will be at Marsh’s Children’s Home; and another at parliament. We will keep you updated on our experiences and reflections on hope.

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