Parent Category: Library
Category: Opinion and Analysis

umm Abdillah, Radio Islam Programming | 2015.09.22 | 6 Dhul Qa'ada 1436


The 30th anniversary of the adoption of the KAIROS Document of 1985 was marked in South Africa this past week. In 1985, under a state of emergency, many concerned church leaders took a stand in calling for churches to end their support for apartheid. The South African sense of kairos inspired people globally in other contexts to examine whether or not their societies too lived in a time of kairos - at historic crossroads, confronting them and their churches with a choice to follow oppression or religion. An offshoot of this document was a debate on the question of violence: not the violence of the state, but the supposed use of violence to resist and indeed overthrow the state. Another offshoot of the debate was the distinction made between state, church, and prophetic theology. Of this document came the birth of a call by a number of Palestinian Christians to Christians around the world to help fight Israeli occupation. Similar calls were made in Latin America, North America and Central Asia too.




The word kairos comes from the Greek word for time. The ancient Greeks had two words for time, chronos and kairos. While the former refers to chronological or sequential time, the latter signifies a time lapse, a moment of indeterminate time. Chronos has quantitative connotations, and kairos has a qualitative connotations. Thus, while chronos means ordinary or chronological time, kairos means holy or God-given time, time laden with meaning, choice, new possibilities, a time of repentance, renewal and decisive action.


The document challenged the churches' response to what the authors saw as the vicious policies of the Apartheid state under the State of Emergency declared on 21 July 1985. They believed that a fundamental religious and political choice confronted them, and the only hope for the future required that churches be called on to condemn apartheid. The document was predominantly written by a group of pastors in Soweto, whose names have never (officially) been released to the public. Many believe it was a conscious decision to make the document anonymous, perhaps for security reasons since the Apartheid regime frequently harassed, detained, or tortured clergy who opposed the government. It is widely thought though that Frank Chikane, a Pentecostal pastor and theologian, and Albert Nolan, a Roman Catholic priest and member of the Dominican Order, belonged to this group.


30 years later – a new Kairos against Palestinian occupation and Imperial theology


Since 1985, Kairos documents have expressed resistance to realities in Central America, Europe, Malawi, India, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Nigeria and Palestine.


In their gathering this year they concluded that the context of suffering and pain created by Israel’s oppression of Palestine contains all aspects of empire. Palestine is noted by the committee is a microcosm of global empire, a critical site of reflection that can bring experiences in other locales into sharper focus. Palestine according to them does not eclipse other situations around the globe but instead intensifies the need for greater interconnection and mutual engagement.


They concluded that in its dominant forms, Zionism has been used to justify the dispossession, transfer, massacring, ghettoization and exploitation of the Palestinian people. Zionism has become an element within the dominant structures of empire. Politically, they called for an intensification of all economic and political pressures on the State of Israel, including the Palestinian civil society call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS).


“In our biblical interpretation, we strongly distinguish between biblical Israel and the modern State of Israel. Theologically, we declare to be heresy any Christian theologies that support the Zionism informing Israeli oppression.”


On the table too was the pain of Marikana and the reasons behind it – according to the committee - multinational profit before people and corporate greed.


Related, the Khulumani Support Group issued a call for a new Kairos document in SA. Their call is related to a large agenda of unresolved issues that have been left in suspension since the untimely closing of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's (TRC's) activities. In their opinion, post-apartheid state practices have been characterised by the extension of extraordinary benefits to perpetrators of the political crimes of the past while the state has remained intransigent in refusing access to justice for victims of these same politically-motivated crimes.


Listen to Radio Islam podcast link - Moulana Sulaimaan Ravat’s interview with Reverend Edwin Harrison [21 Aug 2015] - Kairos SA declares Christian support for Zionism as heresy - Reverend Edwin Arrison.