Bishop Rubin Phillip awarded Diakonia Award

Bishop Phillip receives the Diakonia Award (Diakonia Council of Churches)

Right Reverend Rubin Phillip, Anglican Bishop of Natal, has been conferred with the Diakonia Award for devoted service to human rights, justice and democracy.

Bishop Phillip was honoured at the annual Diakonia Lecture and presentation of the Diakonia Award ceremony at the Durban City Hall on 12 August.

In justifying Bishop Phillip's choice for the Award, the Diakonia Council - the supreme decision making body of the organisation - noted his involvement with the anti apartheid movement as far back as the 1960s, through his advocacy and involvement in the Zimbabwe crisis to his solidarity with the shack dwellers movement, Abahlali baseMjondolo.

The Council acknowledged Bishop Phillip as a veteran anti-apartheid activist who was put under house arrest for three years by the apartheid regime due to his open protest in the 1970s.

"In the post apartheid era", the Council said, "when he saw that justice was under threat, Bishop Rubin openly took a stand in solidarity with the victims, and has not hesitated to apportion blame where it belonged."

They added that Bishop Phillip's commitment to justice and human rights was not confined to South Africa's borders. Rather, his firm conviction that a threat to justice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, saw him leading solidarity and advocacy work in support of human rights and justice in Zimbabwe.

"With the escalation of the socio-political dynamics in Zimbabwe, Bishop Phillip together with Paddy Kearney, successfully obtained a court interdict preventing arms shipments destined for the brutal regime in Harare - with its history of blatant violations of human rights - from being transported through South Africa", the Council said.

Recently, the Council noted, Bishop Phillip has had to deal with the Abahlali crisis. "Believing in the genuineness of their struggle, Bishop Phillip has openly and unashamedly stood by Abahlali through their trials and tribulations, offering his full support. He has released numerous press statements condemning the violent persecution of Abahlali in the Kennedy Road informal settlement blaming political interference and has repeatedly called for an independent commission of enquiry into the Kennedy Road violence of September 2009 ‘to establish the truth'", the Council said.

In conclusion, the Council said, the Award is to thank him for his devoted service to human rights, to justice and to democracy through many long years - from the days of the struggle against apartheid to the struggle against poverty, corruption and injustice.

In his acceptance speech, Bishop Phillip said he dedicates the Award to shack dwellers, especially those from Kennedy Road and all those who have stood in solidarity with them.

He urged politicians to fulfil their electoral promises or else the church will continue to pressure them to deliver. "The Municipality must provide water, electricity and adequate housing to shack dwellers. We will continue to knock at the doors of politicians until the situation is resolved. If we could host the World Cup, why can we not provide water and electricity to a handful of shackdwellers?" he asked.

Delivering the Annual Lecture at the same gathering, Dr Danny Jordaan, Chief Executive Officer of the FIFA 2010 Local Organising Committee, who was sharing the stage with his wife, Revd Roxanne, speaking on How does the church contribute to sustaining the spirit of nationhood, after the World Cup? said he had no regrets that South Africa hosted the World Cup.

Since 1994, Dr Jordaan said, South Africa was a deeply divided nation. It is only the soccer tournament that catapulted the nation to do what it had failed to do since the demise of apartheid.

Dr Jordaan said, "The soccer tournament was a second liberation for South Africa. If we attained freedom in 1994, with the 2010 World Cup we achieved our humanity".

Revd Jordaan said after the unity enjoyed during the World Cup, the nation is at a point where it cannot turn back to its old ways of division. It is therefore the role of the Church to make sure that the unity is maintained.

One way of doing that, she said, is for the church to stand in solidarity with the poor. "What is needed is a preferential treatment of the poor with the view of making poverty history".

Revd Jordaan added that the country has enough resources to change the lives of those who starve. "The Church must engage government and demand that they deliver on their promises to end poverty. There cannot be genuine unity when our children walk tens of kilometres to school and when millions live in shacks", she said.

(Press Release by the Diakonia Council of Churches and used by permission.Visit them at www.diakonia.org.za.)

Dr Danny Jordaan (pic courtesy Diakonia Council of Churches)