Theological Day 2024
From left to right: Prof Lodewyk Sutton (Acting Dean of the Faculty of Theology and Religion), Prof John Klassen (Dean Designate), Prof Heinrich Bedford-Strohnm (Moderator at the World Council of Churches) and Prof Henco van der Westhuizen (Associate Professor at the Faculty of Theology and Religion) participated in the Theological Day event held at the UFS Bloemfontein Campus.

South African democracy, born from the crucible of struggle, stands as a beacon of hope on the African continent. Rising from the shadows of apartheid, it has evolved into a vibrant, pluralistic society with inclusive governance and constitutional protections. However, as the nation approaches its forthcoming elections and enters its fourth decade of democracy, persistent challenges such as inequality, corruption, and unemployment continue to test the resilience of the citizens.

On 12 February 2024, the Faculty of Theology and Religion at the University of the Free State hosted an event themed “The end of democracy? theological perspectives” on the Bloemfontein Campus, commemorating Theological Day with intellectual discussions and celebrations. 

Associate Professor Prof Henco van der Westhuizen, from the Department of Historical and Constructive Theology, introduced the keynote speaker, Prof Heinrich Bedford-Strohnm, leader of the World Council of Churches, who shared insightful thoughts during the event. 

Prof Heinrich Bedford-Strohnm articulated, "Dignity might be mere words, but it carries profound meaning. We must question whether the principles inscribed in the South African Constitution are genuinely upheld. Democracy, according to the Bible, is about treating everyone equally, showing respect, and fostering understanding. It transcends mere power; it entails using power to safeguard the weak and more vulnerable, mirroring the ideals of the South African Constitution."

Addressing the impact of digitalisation on society, he noted that while it unites the world, it also poses challenges for democracy. Despite its potential to enhance participation, transparency, and accountability, the digital landscape, saturated with social media platforms, inadvertently fuels the commercial realm. Countless hours are spent disseminating unverified information, and fake news, and fostering hatred to benefit algorithms and the commercial sphere.  

While the South African Constitution grants the right to freedom of expression, Prof Heinrich Bedford-Strohnm advised churches to carefully navigate their involvement in political issues. “It's crucial to be mindful of the context, manner, and openness of communication for effective public discourse. While supporting political views is acceptable, active participation should be avoided.”

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