On Freedom Day it seems appropriate to look back on where we have come from, to celebrate the progress we have made, but also to reflect on why we as a country haven’t progressed further than we have…why we sometimes seem stuck. My husband, Thorsten, wrote this poem in 2019, and was willing to share it with a larger audience:
Supporting societal integration through Integration Coaching
I recently blogged about my coaching niche as a Personal Integration Coach, and also how beneficial it is to individuals to achieve cohesion of our emotional, psychological, vocational, relational, societal and spiritual dimensions.
The beauty of the word “integration” is that it does not just apply to an individual, but also to teams, organisations, communities and society. “Integration” also includes the process of incorporating different groups or races as equals into society – this still remains a challenge in South Africa, and will only be overcome through concerted and targeted efforts. Over the last five years I have been involved in and have facilitated many conversations and dialogues about inter-racial relationships, and overcoming the barriers cannot be a one-sided effort. The only way to move towards integrated diversity is together.
“Why bother?” is a question I have heard mumbled under people’s breaths. “It feels uncomfortable, and I have tried before and failed.” According to Desmond Tutu, “My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.” I believe we experience greater freedom ourselves if we flourish together. We want our organisations to be successful for the sake of all stakeholders (including ourselves). A more cohesive team will achieve better results. And better integration in the workplace can have an overflowing ripple effect into society. A greater societal cohesion could be part of our new normal – a positive application of lessons learnt from the experiences of the pandemic and lockdown over the last few months.
Our first Diversity Dialogue online!
A reason to celebrate – on Saturday 22 August we facilitated our first online Diversity Dialogue! We appreciate everyone who brought their time and energy into that space, especially those who felt some trepidation at doing something new technologically! Our topic was “Sensitizing the Church to Gender Based Violence”. We would like to share some highlights…
It was apparent during the dialogue, that there are many churches where the teaching seems to be more about rules and gender roles than about Jesus’ love for sinners. In many churches, women do not feel they are seen for who they are because they feel they have to fit into a small and rigid role and cannot be authentically themselves. There was a sense of mourning and lament for the loss of their potential skills and talents that could have contributed to life together but were not enjoyed by the community.
In both community life and Bible teaching, we need to develop an equal focus on the perpetrator and the victim. Bible teaching should be about the real people described in the Bible, with their faults and sins. The heroes of the faith should not be “sugar-coated”. In our practical lives, we can accept all broken people including those who are aggressive or alcoholics, and deal with their hurt. We can work with men who are in pain, allowing them space to heal before their pain leads to violence.
Dialogues virtual and face-to-face
I have tried a few times to get involved in uncomfortable discussions online or in whatsapp groups, sometimes with people I know personally, sometimes with people I have not met face-to-face. I confess that it has generally not gone very well. Even in the groups where I have known the majority of people, I have been misunderstood and have misunderstood others. The conversation has landed us in unfamiliar territory, where the expectation we have of “being known” by others, of sharing a common history of face-to-face contact, has been hollowed out. We feel unfamiliar, even to ourselves, strangers communicating with other strangers.
As a result, I tend to “listen” online more than I “speak”. Lately I have noticed some unwelcome changes in myself as I “listen”.
The Potential of Optimism
In a 2017 Ipsos MORI detailed survey of 26,489 people across 28 countries, South Africans scored high in pessimism and low in their knowledge of actual facts they based their pessimism on. Most South Africans can share personal stories of expressing and experiencing this pessimism.
Max Roser explains “This pessimism about what is possible for the world matters politically. Those who don’t expect that things get better in the first place will be less likely to demand actions that can bring positive developments about. The few optimists on the other hand will want to see the necessary changes for the improvements they are expecting.” 
There is a definite need for optimism in South Africa if we want to see some progress in our ongoing battles with inequality, poverty, gender-based violence and crime.
Killing in Schools
On 13 July, ten people gathered at Johannesburg Bible College in Soweto to dialogue around the topic of “Killing in schools”. Other themes included violence in home and society, rights and freedom vs. responsibility, and government’s failure – mainly in the education system, the unintended societal results of changes and laws, and the unintended results of institutions taking over responsibilities that were relational before.
Hillcrest Diversity Dialogue
St Wilfrid’s Anglican Church is hosting an NNI Dialogue with Diversity Dialogue. Join us for a face-to-face dialogue – an opportunity to connect, listen, speak and build community with a diverse group. No topic is out of bounds. Please arrive on time so that the process is not disrupted, and if you can, please bring a plate of eats to share. RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org or whatsapp 0738676864
In Randburg on 16 March, the topic chosen was “Missing Men”.
It feels like this was a “holy ground” dialogue, and any words are going to do it a disservice …
There is so much pain around missing men. The picture that comes to mind, is of an onion, one layer gets peeled away at a time. We feel the effects of exposing this pain and underneath is yet another layer. The pain of the women and children they left. The pain of the missing men themselves – historical and as a result of their own actions, mixed with guilt and shame. The pain of those who are standing in the gap they left – who are having a positive impact but will never be able to replace the missing men in the hearts of their children. The relational and inter-generational pain that this vortex of pain produces. The questions that each person sits with – Am I enough? Am I seen?
Randburg Diversity Dialogue
Family Life Restoration Church is hosting an NNI Dialogue with Diversity Dialogue. Join us for a face-to-face dialogue – an opportunity to connect, listen, speak and build community with a diverse group. No topic is out of bounds. Please arrive on time so that the process is not disrupted, and if you can, please bring a plate of eats to share. RSVP to Nhlanhla Zwane at 0789901031
On 16 February at the dialogue at Martin’s house, we had a diverse group of participants with the majority being men. After listening to and engaging with a talk about the Gospel and Blackness, the topic chosen was an “Appropriate sense of my own identity within my culture”.
During the dialogue it was apparent that our primary identifyer seems to be gender. It emerged that there is a lot of confusion around gender roles, dealing with stereotypes, how to adapt our roles so that it works within a partnership and our economic setting, how to still be accepted within our larger culture and not be othered as we experiment with our roles.
There were so many profound statements made – perhaps you will identify with one of the following …
- With the changes in technology and male-female roles there have been seismic shifts in our identity. We are trying to figure these things out. 50 years ago the idea of a man staying at home with the kids was not accepted in any culture. Now we have to adapt, but there is a lot of fear of the unknown. Why should I let go of what I know even if it is bad? I don’t think we should be pulling each other down but empower women upwards. We do not want to perpetuate the system of alternating the person that is on top, but we want to create a new system.
- I am beyond frustrated – they bunched us up here together, the angry black girls, and that is what happens in the world. Just put them there – I feel othered.