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Country analysis > South Africa Last update: 2019-09-16  

Life before death - Socio-economic justice issues and mission

The Economy, Poverty and the Church

Chapter 7 of the book, "Mission in the new SA - No quick fixes",
JJ Kritzinger (ed.), 2002, Pretoria, Univ. of Pretoria publication

Written by Piet Beukes1


Posted with permission of the author
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THERE CAN BE NO DOUBT that one of the central issues in the South African household is that of the poverty of so many of its people. It consequently poses to the church one of its most immediate challenges.

It is of basic importance that every Christian should be motivated by the example of the Master who was a friend of the poor. It is also important that Christians realise that, theologically speaking, the poor represent one of the important themes in Scripture. The church's dealing with the poor provides a kind of test of its credibility. It is therefore fine, and necessary, for the church and Christians to reach out to poor people with charity projects. However, this is not enough.

We live in societies - a global society - the shape of which is to a large extent formed by economic realities. Poor people are the victims of policies formulated by the rich and powerful. The church should also address these structural issues. That is what is done in this paper.

THE PURPOSE of this chapter, which focuses primarily on the South African society, is threefold:

  • to show that certain socio-economic structural issues in society have an above average impact on that society, especially on the poor, causing the poor to stay poor;

  • to show that globalisation is part and parcel of such structural impact;

  • and to show some Christian responses with regard to the poor in society, in the face of these societal impacts.

  1. UNTIL RECENTLY Rev Piet Beukes was the officer in the Dutch Reformed Church of the Southern Transvaal tasked with industrial mission. As such he was deeply involved with socio-economic issues in the economic heartland of South Africa, issues which can only be dealt with adequately in an ecumenical way. He was therefore involved in ICIM (the Interdenominational Committee for Industrial Mission in South Africa).

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