Two black journalists who were on assignment in Orania, an Afrikaans-only South African town located along the banks of the Orange River, in the arid Karoo region of the Northern Cape Province, were on Sunday barred from entering a church because it is “only for white people”.
According to Africa Review, the journalists decided to attend Sunday service at a Afrikaanse Protestante Kerk church before leaving for Pretoria, but were intercepted by one Theunis Oukamp, a leader in the church.
Oukamp was said to have told them that granting them access would be tantamount to violating the “rights of Afrikaans people,” as the church “is only for white people.”
“I am now in a difficult situation. You know that Orania is only for white people, this is why we are here. You must understand I know you want to serve God and everything but I have to protect the rights of Afrikaans people. So I cannot let you in, you guys can go to any other church, but this one is only for white people,” Oukamp was quoted as saying
The president of the South Africa Union Council of Independent Churches, Archbishop Modiri Patrick Shole condemned the incident, adding that it is sad that segregation still occurs, and sadder because it occurred in the church, even after apartheid ended 23 years ago.
“We don’t discriminate in church because before God we are one – whether white or black. I find it weird that we still have discrimination in the church,” Shole said.
A church member Sarel Roets also condemned the action. “I’m very upset that my church did this, it’s not right. I’ve already sent the Reverend a message. From me, I’m sorry, it’s completely unacceptable. We still have problems in Orania, this is one of the problems,” he said.
The church’s spokesperson, James Kemp, has said that an internal process will take place, adding that what Oukamp did was not in line with the church’s policy.
“The sensitivity of the Orania church is that over the last few years they have had six journalists visiting the congregation and it had a negative impact in the media. It was mainly European publications,” Kemp said.
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