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From Apartheid to Genocide?

  • Leendert van Oostrum,
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On 7th November 2001 the South African Education Minister Kader Asmal spoke at the inauguration of NAPTOSA House. (NAPTOSA = National Association of Professional Teachers Organisations of South Africa)

Among the guests were The President and General Secretary of the World Confederation of Teachers, and the General Secretary of the Pan African Federation of Teachers’ Trade Unions.

In his speech, Asmal made the following statement:

Regrettably there are fundamentalists – mostly Christian fundamentalists – who object to tolerance and respect for others, in the belief that they alone are custodians of “the truth”. In this day and age such a view of the world is an historical anachronism, and a teacher does a child no favours by pretending that this is the case. I intend to resist these right-wing conservative tendencies, and I will use the Constitution as the sole basis of my approach.

Note that, implicit in the ministerial pronouncement:

  1. Fundamentalists are religious people (especially Christians) who believe that they alone are custodians of "the truth". A "view of the world" comprising the notion that one's own god is the only true god constitutes fundmentalism. (Especially, according to the minister of education, if that god is the God of Christians.)
  2. Believing that other beliefs are erroneous consitutes, in itself, "objecting to tolerance and respect for others".

Is such an interpretation unfair on Asmal, or did he speak in haste, or is he alone in his thinking?

The most prominent of the education minister's chief advisors on religion in education are Proff Gerrie Lubbe and Kobus Kruger of UNISA. These two gentlemen have consistently been observed flanking the minister when he has met with delegations from Christian churches. Both have served in leading positions in South African and international interfaith organisations.

Kruger and Lubbe, together with Dr Chrissie Steyn of the same university department, co-authored "The Human Search for Meaning. A multireligious introduction to the religions of mankind" (Via Afrika 2002 - the second impression came off the press by May 2002). It is meant as a text book in religious studies for education and other students at universities, technikons and colleges of education.

Kruger, Lubbe & Steyn (p277) define a Christian fundamentalist as follows:

"...someone who views the Bible as the only and infallible word of God, thereby meaning that it is without error and should be interpreted literally."

To ensure that there is no mistake, the minister's advisors on religon education establish "The principles of fundamentalism" to include belief in some or all of the following:

  • Jesus Christ is God
  • he was born of the Virgin Mary
  • he died to atone for human sins
  • he physically rose from the dead
  • he will come again in the flesh
  • the Trinity
  • the reality of Satan
  • an eternal life of bliss with God or of pain and suffering with Satan
  • original sin
  • salvations by grace rather than by works
  • the coming millennium

Christians will recognise the above as a fair rendition of the Apostolic Creed which is confessed by most Christian churches, including the Roman and all Protestant churches. The way in which Kruger, Lubbe & Steyn identify fundamentalism also agrees completely with Asmal's ministerial definition.

In other words: The South African government labels Christianity itself "fundamentalism" that consitutes "right-wing conservative tendencies". This is in the words of a South African minister of state speaking in his official capacity. He singles out these "right-wing conservative tendencies" to be "resisted" with the full power of the South African state.

Asmal's position consitutes full-blown religious persecution.

Since these ministerial pronouncements, the national curriculum was promulgated (31 May 2002). This document compels children in numerous explicit and implicit ways to take part in and perform multireligious acts of devotion.

Finally, on 26th September 2002, the House of Assembly in Parliament adopted measures empowering the education minister to prescribe a national curriculum and a national assessment system to enforce the curriculum.

It can only be concluded that:

If government abuses the education system, compulsory school attendance, the compulsory national curriculum and the compulsory national assessment system as the instruments through which it "resists" religious beliefs, it abuses the power of the state to compel children to commit what their faith designates idolatry. If the programme achieves its aims as stated by the minister - to resist "fundamentalism" - it will change the religion of many Christian (and some other) children.

Such a programme, in accordance with the way in which the United Nations construes the word, constitutes all the elements of genocide.

  • Leendert van Oostrum
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