Thousands of young Christians from around Africa are being hosted by families in Cape Town in what organisers say is a powerful demonstration of hope after SA’s recent xenophobic violence.
The 17 to 35-year-olds have joined the Taizé “pilgrimage of trust”‚ and are meeting daily to pray‚ sing‚ enjoy communal silence and share their faith.
They were asked to bring only a mug‚ plate‚ spoon‚ water bottle‚ torch and a mat to sit on. Everything else they need‚ including accommodation‚ is being provided by church congregations.
SA delegates have paid R250 to attend‚ while those from elsewhere were charged 50 (about R820) for the five-day event.
The Taizé community is an ecumenical monastic fraternity in France‚ founded in 1940. More than 100‚000 young people from around the world make pilgrimages to Taizé each year for prayer‚ Bible study‚ sharing and communal work.
Annual “pilgrimages of trust” are held at new year in Europe‚ and many others have been organised around the world‚ including one in Johannesburg in 1995.
The focus of the Cape Town event is a marquee in the grounds of St Joseph’s Marist College in Rondebosch‚ where pilgrims are meeting daily until Sunday for lunch‚ prayer‚ workshops and supper.
“The Taizé pilgrimage of hope is about so much more than young people coming together to celebrate their faith‚” said a statement by pilgrimage organisers.
“The most debilitating part of the xenophobic violence and the horrific killings of so many women in our country in the past few weeks is that our sense of trust and hope has been corroded. We are filled with fear and anger‚ which prevents us from reaching out to one another.
“By celebrating their cultural and religious diversity‚ the young people themselves are witnesses of hope that we can build a better world — a world that celebrates difference‚ a world that can find shared values‚ a world in which ethnic and gender violence have no place.
“The simple act of families opening their homes to strangers is a strong witness to trust and Christian love for neighbour in a time of fear.”
Workshops being held during the pilgrimage‚ which ends on Sunday‚ are designed to deepen spiritual life and include practical sessions‚ such as “how to release my potential”‚ “why marriage is still your best option”‚ and “how to be Christian in the corporate world”.