Original Research - Special Collection: Spirit Rising Tracing Movements of Justice

Urban social movements in South Africa today: Its meaning for theological education and the church

Stephan F. de Beer
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 73, No 3 | a4770 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v73i3.4770 | © 2017 Stephan F. de Beer | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 14 August 2017 | Published: 27 November 2017

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Stephan F. de Beer, Centre for Contextual Ministry, Faculty of Theology, University of Pretoria, South Africa and Department of Practical Theology, Faculty of Theology, University of Pretoria, South Africa

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In the past decade, significant social movements emerged in South Africa, in response to specific urban challenges of injustice or exclusion. This article will interrogate the meaning of such urban social movements for theological education and the church. Departing from a firm conviction that such movements are irruptions of the poor, in the way described by Gustavo Gutierrez and others, and that movements of liberation residing with, or in a commitment to, the poor, should be the locus of our theological reflection, this article suggests that there is much to be gained from the praxis of urban social movements, in disrupting, informing and shaping the praxis of both theological education and the church. I will give special consideration to Ndifuna Ukwazi and the Reclaim the City campaign in Cape Town, the Social Justice Coalition in Cape Town, and Abahlali baseMjondolo based in Durban, considering these as some of the most important and exciting examples of liberatory praxes in South Africa today. I argue that theological education and educators, and a church committed to the Jesus who came ‘to liberate the oppressed’, ignore these irruptions of the Spirit at our own peril.


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