From the Worldwide Faith News archives

[PCUSANEWS] WCC honors racism program and its first director

Date Wed, 29 Sep 2004 12:13:03 -0500

Note #8500 from PCUSA NEWS to PRESBYNEWS:

Septmber 29, 2004

WCC honors racism program and its first director

by Ecumenical News International

GENEVA - The World Council of Churches has honored Baldwin Sjollema, the
first director of its Programme to Combat Racism, who has been decorated with
the highest award South Africa gives to civilian foreigners.

	During a ceremony at the WCC's headquarters in Geneva on Sept. 27, a
plaque was unveiled to pay tribute to Sjollema and to the anti-racism
program, which focused much of its attention and energy during the apartheid
era on southern Africa.

	"This is not something we did as one person but as a team," said
Sjollema, who in June was decorated by South African President Thabo Mbeki
for his commitment to the liberation of South Africa from its racist ideology
of apartheid.

	Still, "the end of official apartheid in South Africa does not mean
the end of racism," warned WCC general secretary Sam Kobia at the Geneva
ceremony. "Racism is still very much alive."

	The anti-racism program, which was launched in 1969, was among the
most controversial of the WCC's initiatives. While many member churches gave
strong support, there was also criticism, especially over support for
liberation movements fighting white
rule in Southern Africa.

	We rather welcomed the controversy," said the Rev. Philip Potter, WCC
general secretary from 1973 to 1984 at the height of the debate over the
program. "It meant that we were being heard. It meant that we meant

	Said Pauline Webb, vice-moderator of the WCC central committee at the
time, "Racism isn't just about attitude. It's about who holds the power."

	The support of churches from outside South Africa had been "immensely
important" to overcoming apartheid, noted Professor Francis Wilson of Cape
Town university, a prominent anti-apartheid activist.

	Baldwin (Boudewijn) Sjollema was born in 1927 in Rotterdam,
Netherlands. He joined the WCC in 1957 and worked on refugee and migration
issues before being named director of the Programme to Combat Racism. He is
now retired and lives in Switzerland.

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