A View of FWCC from the Southern Tip of Africa

I have tried hard to share the joy of FWCC happenings with my monthly and yearly meetings, but neither spoken nor written words can share all the social, emotional, spiritual, cultural, and physical joys along the way. All I can say is that I am ever so grateful for my turn and for the opportunity for other Friends to do the same.

I have South African roots in the Eastern Cape, emaXhoseni, the place of isiXhosa-speaking people (some of whom use red ochre on their faces), and I have ventured into Swaziland, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe. But it was only when working overseas as a physiotherapist in London, UK, and then sojourning at Friends International Centre in London that I realized I was African, and not European as I had been labeled in South Africa. (This realization was a result of my becoming aware of who I really am and not at all because in London hospitals I was employed as a South African alien and had to report as such to the police station each month. Now I wonder even more how it felt for so many to be labeled non-European South Africans. Ongoing reflection is amazingly enlightening.)

While attending FWCC Africa Section Triennial in Kaimosi, Kenya, in 1993, I was exposed to Western Kenya’s warm, musical, and vibrant Christian way of worship and I joined in, with heart and soul. I found that knowledge of isiXhosa enabled me to understand a fair amount of Kiswahili and even local languages, as they have Nguni links. Our Quaker meetings in Central and Southern Africa are mostly unprogrammed meetings, and many of us miss the music and song of other ways of worshiping. Friends ways in Kenya are not very different from friends who belong to other churches and from ways of worshiping at home in South Africa, except that those here at home in Cape Town travel for 12-plus hours east instead of west when we return to ancestral homes or to be with extended families. What warmed my heart in 1993 was how many East African Friends said they were praying with us for South Africa’s first democratic election in 1994. Friends in Kaimosi had prayed continuously night and day before and during the Triennial, and we could feel the spirit of Christ’s love among us.

Our Central and Southern Africa Yearly Meeting Friend Dudu Mtshazo, then clerk of FWCC Africa Section, gently and firmly guided Friends who had gathered together at Kaimosi, through truth in the Light into many sensitive and familiar church-related issues. Charles Lamb’s call to "Let the Light Shine—everywhere you go and in everything you do" was warmly received and many lives have been brighter since then.

I give thanks for the vision of the founders of FWCC and those who carry the Light still, to strengthen links of Quakerism between Friends in all the world and to celebrate wonderful and challenging diversities among us. I give thanks also for Evelyn Cadbury’s vision when she left monies in trust for Friends in Central and Southern Africa Yearly Meeting to travel to meetings of Friends both near and far.