This Week's Comment from Network 7 News 

Edition 357 – May 1, 2004.  

 This weeks comment was written by AWR's  English Language Service Director, Victor Hulbert.  The full programme can be heard in Real Audio on our web-site.

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Time to Celebrate

Celebrations are always nice – and this week we manage a couple.  South Africa , on Wednesday, celebrated a decade of democracy and the end of apartheid.  It was a big party with a national holiday and 40,000 official guests gathered in the capital, Pretoria .  

It’s a celebration too, because despite the expectations of the pessimists, South Africa has not slidden down into chaos, but has dealt with many of the problems of the post-apartheid era.   

One little incident brought the joy of the modern South Africa home to me.  I was standing looking out the window of our AWR office in Johannesburg watching a couple of kids playing in the street below.  “Watching” is not perhaps the correct word.  I was just aware of their presence, but nothing more.  “Isn’t that a beautiful site,” the man next to me commented.  “That is something that could not have happened ten years ago.”  And then it struck me.  The two kids were from two different races, black and white.  For me, brought up in multi-ethnic England , something quite normal.  For my South African friends, something special.  Something to be cherished.  Something I would love to see more of in this increasingly divided world.  

That’s a thought emphasized even more by an email from a listener to this programme.  He may just have been having a bad day, but he wrote:  

Having lived, worked & travelled in 50-60 countries, I made a decision to settle in Perth , Australia . It had everything, climate, infrastructure, setting, hospitality, low-crime etc. . . . Of late, the city is changing for the worse and adopting the habits that make many overseas cities unbearable. After returning from abroad recently, I was confronted with Somalis with weapons chasing down unfortunate aborigines in the nightlife district on a Saturday night. It's a pity Australians do not realise how fortunate they are (were).  

The poor guy wrote this letter to the wrong person.  I am British married to a Portuguese.  I have close family in America and Denmark .  My son has a girlfriend from Indonesia .  I have friends from many countries.  More then that I believe what the apostle Paul writes to the church in Colossi:  

Col. 3:11-13 (NIV) 

    Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  

There are good and bad in every race and culture, including my own.  Sometimes the worst comes out in "nightlife districts" but we have to balance that with the best that can come out in other areas.  

Those kinds of issues are provoking large debate here in Europe as we celebrate another major event.  May 1 sees the EU expanding – adding another 10 countries to the current 15 member states – almost doubling it in size.  These new countries are, in the main, from the former “Eastern block”.  Poland , Hungry, Lithuania , the Czech Republic , and so on.  

As poorer countries there are fears of mass immigration west.  Fears of the richer, western European nations having to stretch their pot of resources wider.  Fears on issues of crime.  

All issues that have to be dealt with, and that, I’m sure we’ll come to terms with.  

It’s much the same as within the church.  Over the years I’ve watched the Adventist church here in England change in its ethnic mix – and along with it, in its styles of worship.  In the 60’s and 70’s that change came about mainly by immigration from the West Indies .  Now it is coming by an influx of members from Africa and Eastern Europe .  Again, it means people have to adapt and learn to appreciate differences.  That can be a challenge – and sometimes it’s difficult.  On the other hand, the greatest prejudices seem to come from those who have the least interaction with those from other races and backgrounds.  

In Jesus stories it was those who kept themselves segregated who ended up outside of God’s kingdom – particularly the Pharisees who felt they were above everyone.  Jesus worked to win those Pharisees over, but, he spent considerable parts of his ministry working outside the "Jewish" stereotype.  The story of the good Samaritan  (a despised race of people in Jesus time), the healing of the centurions servant (why heal the servant of a Roman oppressor) and many more stories indicated that Jesus loves and reaches out to all.  

So it seems to me that this week, amidst all the bad news of divided nations and peoples, Jesus would celebrate with us in the good news of peoples drawing together in South Africa and in Europe – and maybe for Christians, that is a reason for prayer, and, like Jesus, for looking beyond race and colour, to the individuals of many nations, that Jesus died for. 

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