These are many positive news stories that do not enjoy the same attention in the mainstream media as other violent and sensational narratives, claims Andrew Suderman, Director of the Anabaptist Network in South Africa (ANiSA).
2011 marks the first anniversary of ANiSA’s work in bringing inspiring stories to South Africans through its Alternative News service.
Among them are features about hungry children being fed, students of peace learning non-violent responses to conflict, and ordinary people making extraordinary sacrifices to bring hope and justice to those on the margins.
While peace and justice projects bring one kind of hope to the vulnerable, in sharing the news of these initiatives Suderman is seeking to spread a kind of prophetic hope and encouragement to an audience that is in a position to help empower change.
“There are amazing stories about amazing people all over South Africa who can inspire others toward peace and justice,” says Suderman. “There’s a small group of women in Ladysmith with very limited resources who feed hundreds of children every day. Others tirelessly walk with people who are marginalised. Yet others are educating children and adults in the ways of peace and conflict transformation. These are people who make sacrifices so that others can also work for peace and justice, so that all may have a hopeful future.”
Joe Sawatzky, a regular ANiSA columnist, declares: “I hope that someone will read these stories and columns and that it will challenge them to think in a new way… I hope that it can be a voice that offers a different perspective exposed through stories that might not be known or focused on. And I hope that readers will widely share these stories with others.”
Allen Goddard, Director for Theology and Citizenship for A Rocha South Africa and an another ANiSA columnist says: “South Africa suffers from the psychological and spiritual drag of generational bad news. For decades the media has not highlighted good news nearly enough. Reading contributions by South Africans of all walks of life, including rural pastors or community leaders such as Abahlali baseMjondolo [a shack dwellers movement], or reflections of the more prominent personalities and international theologians from South Africa has encouraged me to catch a glimpse of God’s reign of peace coming into the world where I live.”
“We receive a lot of support from the different online news sources as we gather stories of peace, hope, and reconciliation from all over South Africa – and we are grateful for that. The unfortunate part is that news of this kind does not enjoy the same attention as other stories—stories that tend to be more violent and sensational,” says Suderman.
He continues: “The news we read shapes our thoughts about the context in which we live and the imagination we have in exploring possible solutions in dealing with the violence, injustice, poverty, and social ills that we face.”
ANiSA, a network of people, churches, and organisations, aims is to walk with, support, and grow reconciling communities of peace and justice that are grounded in the life and witness of Jesus Christ. It encourages and supports South Africans to live lifestyles of peace building and walk the way of peace on a daily basis.
ANiSA also brings together those who draw inspiration from the history, teachings, and experiences of the Anabaptist Christian faith movement.
Anabaptists emerged during the time of the European Reformation in the 16th century. Historic peace churches such as the Mennonites grew out of this movement. Throughout its history, Anabaptists have worked to be an alternative voice in the face of violence and injustice.
Inspired by their 16th century forebears who suffered for their witness to peace, Anabaptists all over the world – about 1.2 million are represented by Mennonite World Conference today – continue to seek non-violent alternatives to resolving conflict. During the apartheid era, Mennonites were often prevented from entering or staying within South Africa on account of their emphasis on peace and justice and their commitment and willingness to walk with the poor and the oppressed.
Although the Mennonites historically originated in Europe, today there are slightly more Mennonites in Africa than in North America and Europe combined.