June 15, 2010

The 2010 FIFA World Cup: Will South Africa “Score”?

Posted in South Africa tagged , , , , , at 6:17 pm by randallbutisingh

The 2010 FIFA World Cup: Will South Africa “Score”?

by (Brian E. Konkol)

On May 15th 2004, South Africa was named as hosts for the 2010 FIFA (Federation Internationale de Football Association) World Cup, which is widely regarded as the greatest sports competition in the world. The opportunity to welcome thirty-two of the world’s greatest soccer teams (and their numerous adoring fans) was celebrated as proof that the African continent was making significant progress in its bid to contribute on the global economic stage.
The initial announcement brought incredible excitement for South African citizens, as the 2010 FIFA World Cup was considered a fantastic breakthrough in the ongoing developmental efforts of the nation, for it was widely communicated that “every South African” would benefit as a result of the month-long tournament.

In the past weeks, FIFA announced a $196 million surplus for 2009, as overall revenues soared over one billion dollars. “The market trusts South Africa”, said FIFA President Sepp Blatter, making reference to lucrative television and marketing deals, such as Coca-Cola, Emirates Airline, Hyundai, Sony, Adidas and Visa. In addition, the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa is projected to earn FIFA its largest revenues in history, with $3.1 billion in corporate sponsorship and broadcasting rights already secured for the next four years, and more generous funding likely to follow. In terms of FIFA revenues, South Africa is set to become the most “successful” World Cup host of all time.

With ongoing news of massive FIFA profits, the question lingers: What about South Africans?

As the June 11th opening match of the 2010 FIFA World Cup draws closer, South Africans have increasingly expressed their discontent at the massive disparity of benefits. For example, in July of 2009, South African trade unions led a nation-wide strike after learning that some of the 70,000 labourers assigned to building and renovating World Cup stadiums were earning about $1.50 an hour and others $5 a week (minimum wage in South Africa is supposed to be $200 a month). In addition, the United Kingdom newspaper News of the World reported how young Chinese workers in Shanghai earned 2.30 rand (approximately $0.30) a day to manufacture models of “Zakumi” – the official mascot of the 2010 World Cup (the product typically sells for $48). Also, reports surfaced that Adidas was manufacturing its “Jabulani” soccer balls (the official ball of the 2010 World Cup) in Asia as well, paying workers marginal wages, and leaving South African workers and industrial leaders completely out of the picture and unable to enjoy financial profit.

As multi-national airline industries increased flight costs to and from South Africa in the early months of 2010, and with expendable income of potential tourists reduced because of the global economic crisis, the amount of visitors expected in South Africa has declined steadily from 450,000 to 250,000. In addition, South African government projects on mass transportation have been met with heavy resistance, and port workers have also participated in various strikes across the country. All in all, hosting the FIFA World Cup is projected to cost South Africa far more than initially estimated, with stadium construction well over the 9.8 billion rand ($1.28 billion) budgeted, $1.5 billion spent on Johannesburg’s Gautrain light rail transport system, and $90 million for security, including new helicopters and body armour for police. The country has also upgraded seven of its airports, and built an eighth, the King Shaka International Airport in Durban, completely from scratch. These various developments have added significantly to South Africa’s public debt, in the hope that the long-term investment will eventually pay off.

The cheapest ticket for a 2010 FIFA World Cup match is 140 Rand ($19), whereas most will cost well over $100. While FIFA has offered free entry to a small percentage of construction workers and various local contest winners and schoolchildren, the fact remains that most South African citizens will be left outside the stadiums built by their own hands, while foreign tourists will have the best views of the greatest soccer players on the planet. The country has an unemployment rate of nearly 30% and the average monthly income is widely estimated at R2700 ($360). The country’s most loyal soccer supporters are among the poor, and as they rarely pay more than R15 ($2) to attend a local professional match, their attendance at 2010 FIFA World Cup venues is highly doubtful.

As a fan of international soccer, I am excited for some of the best athletes in the world to arrive on African soil, and I am indeed planning to take advantage of the opportunity and attend a few matches. Nevertheless, while I am eager for the competition and ready to support the South African and USA teams, my conscious is troubled, for the question remains: What benefit will the 2010 FIFA World Cup have for South African citizens? Yes, one can find examples of a few development projects surrounding the tournament, but what about the “big picture”? What about the long-term? Will the quality of education in South Africa increase, or will less funding be allocated as South Africa pays off its bloated stadium construction debt? What will happen to the 70,000 workers who no longer have stadiums to build? Will South Africa see the boost in tourism that it seeks (and so desperately needs to pay off its debts)? What happens if it does not? What about the ongoing spread of HIV/AIDS? What about public health? What about land-distribution?

FIFA is expected to earn billions, yet South Africa is expecting to owe billions for years to come. Whereas foreign business leaders and a small number of well-connected South Africans will reap incredible rewards long after the closing ceremony in July, the debt repayment process will most certainly leave its most negative impact upon the poor and marginalized throughout the nation. And so, the most important questions leading up to the grand tournament is not who may win the golden trophy. But rather, I hope the millions of soccer fans around the world who will be following each match are led to consider the facts surrounding the event and boldly decide not to ignore such blatant exploitation. More specifically, my hope is that fans will consider not only what is taking place within World Cup stadiums, but also what is taking place around them.

Posted by ELCA – MUD

Source: http://briankristenkonkol.blogspot.com/

Comment by Randall Butisingh:

Hello readers:

This is an article from my friend Brian Konkol, who now lives in South Africa,  which I would like to share with you.  This Blog has many articles by Brian and his wife Kristen, which you could access using the search button.

Football is the most popular sport in the world as it is inexpensive to play … all you need is a football.  As a child we played a lot of cricket, but there was always football as an alternative, easy to set up and play, and requiring little space to play – the field and goalposts being whatever we decided was right for the space that was available.

Today, football has grown into a worldwide game played between nations, all aiming for bragging rights as the best football nation, or at least the chance of creeping up in the world standings.  Like any competition, football can be divisive as it pits one nation against the other.  However, it can also serve as a cohesive force of bringing nations together as building blocks for harmony and common purpose.  Let us hope that this World Cup in South Africa, helps in the positive process of awakening all mankind that we are all one with common destinies, so we must all work together, even though we compete, for the good of all mankind.

Randall Butisingh

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December 21, 2009

Standing on Shoulders – Brian Konkol

Posted in Philosophy, Psychology, Religion, South Africa tagged at 2:22 am by randallbutisingh

Standing on Shoulders

By: Brian E. Konkol

Throughout my life I have heard frequent stories of my adventurous uncle, Maynard Konkol.  Maynard, who was one of my father’s older brothers, was born in May of 1951 and was known for “breaking the mold” of typical Konkol family expectations.  Instead of settling down to raise a family in central Wisconsin, Maynard was inspired to pursue an alternative path, travel the world, and contribute to social development projects alongside various rural communities around the world.

Following Maynard’s graduation from the University of Wisconsin in Platteville, he applied to serve with the United States Peace Corps, and was eventually assigned to the city of Maseru, located in the Kingdom of Lesotho about four hours southeast of Johannesburg, South Africa.  From 1977-1979, Maynard applied his bachelors and masters degrees in soil and crop science at the Lesotho Argicultural College (LAC), which is located on the outer edge of the city.  In addition to Maynard’s high priority of building relationships and cultural immersion, his service at the LAC helped create numerous sustainable development projects, and his work has since been shared in the text, “Imperial gullies: soil erosion and conservation in Lesotho”, written by Kate Barger Showers, who is a senior research associate at the Centre for World Environmental History at the University of Sussex in England.

When Maynard departed Lesotho and returned to the United States in 1979, he decided to spend a few months assisting my father as they built a new home, after which Maynard would plan to accept a new job in soils research at Iowa State University.  My older brother was nearly two years of age at time, while I was only ten months old.  Instead of hiring a construction company to work through the various construction phases, my father, uncle Maynard, and other friends and family worked cooperatively and tirelessly on nights and weekends to lay a foundation and assemble the home which my parents continue to reside in today, over thirty years later.  Following each day of work, Maynard – who was known to be “green” and environmentally conscious long before it was trendy to do so – rode his bicycle to my Grandmother’s home each day to eat and sleep.

On September 17, 1979, following another day of hard work on my parent’s future home, what appeared to be a typical day of construction progress turned into an event that members of my extended family would never forget.  Maynard’s daily commute to my grandmother’s residence was cut short when he was struck by an oncoming vehicle less than a mile from his point of departure.  He died that day at the tender age of twenty-eight.  While I was clearly far too young to understand the seriousness of the heartbreak, my family and their friends were crushed by the news.  Maynard had traveled into distant lands around the world that many in central Wisconsin had never heard of, yet his life came to an abrupt close only minutes away from his childhood home.  My father, whose bond with Maynard was especially strong, was wounded in ways like never before.  Only moments after seeing Maynard peddle down the road, an accident would change everything.  Not only had my father lost a brother, but also a life-long best friend.

At numerous occasions during my childhood I viewed various photos of my uncle Maynard during our family “slide shows” in the living room of our home.  I can still remember the clicking sound of the slide projector and the smell of the buttered popcorn!  I loved to hear of Maynard’s amazing and adventurous travels around the world, especially those which took place in Europe and Africa.  Also, I could not help but laugh and smile at his bright-white long hair, stylish 1970’s clothes and glasses, and classic guitar.  It would not have been difficult to find him in the remote villages of Africa!  Through it all, I remember thinking about the far away places he visited, and how it all seemed like a world away.  As a young man in rural central Wisconsin, I always wondered what it would be like to actually visit some of the same foreign places where he served.  Amazingly, that day would eventually arrive.

Once Kristen and I were placed in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, in order to serve as Country Coordinators for the ELCA Young Adult in Global Mission program, I immediately knew that one day I would travel to see where my uncle Maynard spent much of the final years of his young life.  I wanted to visit the Kingdom of Lesotho, walk through the streets of Maseru, and of course, explore the Lesotho Agricultural College and learn if anyone remembered him, or if there were any stories to share.  I wanted to hear the sounds of the streets, the feel of the soil, the smells of the plants, and close my eyes in order to visualize what it may have been like for Maynard nearly thirty years ago.  As Maseru is only a six hour drive from our home in Pietermaritzburg, I knew it was only a matter of time before I would be able to make the opportunity a reality.

A few months ago, after nearly eighteen months living in South Africa, Kristen and I finally took advantage of an opportunity to travel to Lesotho and visit the LAC.  As one can imagine, the opportunity to listen to stories about what my uncle may have experienced was a truly amazing occasion, for while I had never truly “known” Maynard, I felt a sense of connection that could not be rationally explained.  As we were led through the area by one of the local LAC workers, I was able to see some the areas with my own eyes that I had once viewed only through photos and slides in the comfortable confines of my parent’s living room.  The sights, sounds, and smells were wonderful, and it was an amazing occurrence that I will never forget.

As I write this reflection, my parents are sitting in my own living room here in Pietermaritzburg, as they are currently visiting South Africa for the first time.  Kristen and I have spent the past weeks alongside them listening and learning, and of course, experiencing numerous sights and sounds of South Africa.  As their time in the region comes to a close in just a few days, tomorrow will most likely be a major “highlight” of their journey.  We plan to rise early in the morning and travel the six hours to Maseru in order for them to experience some of what Maynard had experienced so many years ago.  I have no doubt that it will be an emotional experience, especially for my father.  Over the past weeks I have heard numerous stories about Maynard and his time in southern Africa, and I believe our journey into Lesotho will be something we all will never forget.  With all the excitement in the air, I doubt there will be much sleep tonight!

As I reflect upon this entire situation, there is simply too much running through my heart and mind to even try to capture and share in written form.  Through it all, I am amazed by how my life has worked out in such a way that I am now able to visit places that I once dreamed unimaginable.  And not only that, I am incredibly thankful for the love and support that Kristen and I have received from both of our parents, and how they are all willing to travel thousands of miles to come and visit us here in South Africa.  When I sat in my parent’s living room so many years ago and watched the various slides of southern Africa roll by, I never could have imagined that one day I – a “small town kid” from Amherst Junction, Wisconsin, would be walking through the same areas.  These days I am reminded that with God all things are possible, even if they do not seem probable.

While my parents are usually thousands of miles away, over the past weeks they have been sleeping under the same roof as Kristen and I.  There are times that I have to pinch myself, as it often seems so strange!  As I watch them move around the country meeting and greetings those whom have so gracious welcomed Kristen and I to this beautiful country, I have been thinking a great deal about the connectedness of family, which is something a great deal of South Africans consider at length.  While those of us from North America do not pay much attention to “the ancestors” and all who have come before us in life, these recent experiences retracing Maynard’s footsteps alongside Kristen and my parents have reminded me that we are all products of those who have come before us, and our opportunities arise because we “stand on the shoulders” of family and friends who first paved the way.  In a sense, I am beginning to believe there is no such thing as the “self made person” or the “do it yourself” individual, for we have been given opportunities, gifts, and abilities as a result of our environment and social settings.  Yes, a large deal of success and happiness is based upon individual effort, but I am certainly beginning to believe that our nurture – the way that we were raised and the situations we dwell within – have a great deal of impact.  While I like to believe that I have worked hard in order to “earn” the opportunities which I have been given, the reality is that they are more accurately a result of the undeserved gifts which I have received by God through my parents, those who walked this Earth before me, and of course, those whom Kristen and I are now blessed and honored to accompany.

I never would have imagined one day being able to live in South Africa, and I most certainly never would have imagined one day being able to visit where Maynard once lived.  And of course, I never would have imagined that my parents would be willing to step so far out of their comfort zones to come and visit!  Nevertheless, Kristen and I are here, and we have many people to thank for this amazing blessing.  I thank God for our parents, the various congregations who support us through faith, as well as family and friends around the world who continue to think of us, pray for us, and encourage us in numerous ways.  And of course, today I especially thank God for my Uncle Maynard.  I thank God for the ways in which he – and so many others like him – did so much for so many and how he inspired others to follow his lead.  And perhaps most of all, I pray that one day Kristen and I will be able to honor the blessings we have received by inspiring and supporting others just as so many others have done so for us.

As we come to a close on the year 2009 and look forward to 2010, may we all live our lives in a way that honors those whose who have come before us, and may we provide inspiration for those whom will eventually come after.

With peace and love this day and always,

— Brian Konkol

November 16, 2009

“A search for opportunity”

Posted in Philosophy, Psychology, Religion, South Africa tagged , at 8:17 pm by randallbutisingh

South Africa: October, 2009
“A search for opportunity” by (Kristen Faith Konkol)

To view with pictures, go to: http://briankristenkonkol.blogspot.com

She looks up from the washing and rests her weary hands on top of the bucket to see where all the sound is coming from. As she walks out beyond the gate and down the path to the small patch of red dirt the sounds become louder and more familiar. When she reaches the area where the sounds were emanating from, she steps forward with uncertainty to the small group gathered. As her calloused and tiny bare feet come into the circle, all eyes are upon her. The sounds she heard were familiar ones…those of the neighborhood boys playing and kicking around a make-shift soccer ball in one of any number of informal spaces in the area. But when she approaches, she is met with many looks of displeasure, restlessness and discontent. The cackling and sighs under their breath make their feelings transparent. The “ball” rolls to her feet, and with one touch she unlocks a palpable sense of vigor and excitement. Small posts made of sticks and old bottles are put on either side of this makeshift (garage-sized) space and the competition begins. Although the first days and weeks of ‘toeing the line’ to be just ‘one of the gang’ [who used every spare moment to play] were brutal and sometimes defeating, she remained persistent, focused and simply tried not to screw up and hear the demoralizing criticisms with arms raised in her direction. She is eager to hold on to this rare opportunity.

Born in a rural area of KwaZulu-Natal (at the time simply Natal ), she was already faced with challenges that continued to test her and try to keep her down. As one of 6 children born to her mother and father, her life was quickly turned upside-down. With her father out of the picture from the beginning, she then faced an uphill battle as her mother died before she had reached two years of age. She and her siblings were then taken to an aunt in the Edendale Valley (just outside of Pietermaritzburg), where she still lives today. At the age of 5, she spent nearly a year of her life in the hospital fighting pneumonia for which they were told to plan a funeral. Today, her father, brothers and one sister have perished at very young ages (most presumably from HIV/AIDS) and one of her two remaining sisters is currently battling serious ill health. Her immediate family is all but gone. But it was from her father that she said that God placed this love and gift into her body…the physical gifts, love and passion to play the game of soccer. She knew she had to create that opportunity to shine.

Growing up in the Edendale Valley , she took advantage of any opportunity to play soccer. But as like many places in the world, opportunities for young women and girls to play sports (especially those “traditionally” for boys) was limited and she knew every time she got the chance to step out and compete with the boys that she had to prove herself. But she always asked herself, why? Why do people not want me to play? Why are there no girl’s teams? Why do they (the boys) get all the opportunities? As she got older, she heard that there were some girl’s teams in the country, but had no idea or resources to participate. It wasn’t until she was playing with a boy’s team that she was “seen” by someone in SAFA (South African Football Association) who had contacts with the likes of female teams. As her aunt had no phone and no way of really reaching her outside of finding the school she attended, she was a relative unknown. Her talent was not taken advantage of for lack of opportunity, exposure and ability to locate her. Then the call came in to the school…

Bayana Bayana (the female national soccer team) called her to come and train at a camp and play some matches with them when she was 15 and 16 years old. It was not long before that she was given her first pair of soccer shoes.  To put on the national uniform in the relatively new democratic country was an amazing feeling for her and opportunities she says she will never forget. Although the experiences were meaningful, she wondered what was next in store for her career, as there still remained relatively few opportunities for females to play in the area. ‘Here I was playing for Bayana Bayana and now I come home and it’s back to playing with the guys.’ Although she admits that playing with males helped her with her skill, speed and toughness, she always wanted the opportunity to compete with and against other females.

It wasn’t until the early 2000’s that an organized league for females in the area was available. She has been playing on this team ( Maritzburg City ) since its inception and feels very happy that it was created. Although, she says, that part of her always wishes that these opportunities came earlier in her life as opposed to the latter stages of her career. Above all, she remains determined to create and encourage opportunities for female players today that she herself did not experience.

She remains with the local women’s team, and continues to play at a very high level, although the gray hairs on her low cut style are apparent. She spends many a weekend working with and coaching the next generation of female players and continues to assist SAFA with scouting of female players around the region. Her goal is to provide the opportunities and encouragement for young girls that she always yearned for. Although the days of females getting kicked off the soccer pitch by male teams and being scoffed at when arriving to play against male or female teams still happens (and did while I was there), strides are slowly being made.

It has been my privilege and joy to be able to call the person in this story my friend. We have not only played together in practices and games, but coached young girls alongside one another from all over the surrounding areas. Walking alongside and accompanying one another in mutual respect we have learned so much about not only each other but also about one another’s country, language and culture. Above all, the passion that we share is for women and girls to have the opportunity to compete, participate and enjoy the gift of games and sport…no matter what sport that is or where in the world that female may be!

With peace and blessings,

— Kristen Konkol

A great story from a brilliant writer.  Kristen Konkol is a rising  scintillating  star in the  journalistic firmament,  and honest reporting.   We look forward to her first bestseller.

Randall.

September 20, 2009

Discussions with Brian Konkal -13 : South Africa

Posted in Education, Environment, Religion, South Africa tagged , , at 6:01 am by randallbutisingh

Discussions with Brian Konkal -13 : South Africa

Clearing away the smoke (Kristen F. Konkol)

To read with pictures go to: (http://briankristenkonkol.blogspot.com)

Smoke billows into the air, covering the landscape. The clear sunny skies have a hazy look to them as the fire burns away at the earth. The acrid smell hits your nose and you merely look into the distance amongst the rolling landscape to spy the source stimulating your senses. The dry Kwa-Zulu Natal winter months bring many controlled (and some uncontrolled) burns to the dry, crisp and pale landscape. The charred and blackened earth can be seen in vast hectors of land in both rural and cityscapes alike. As you travel down the roads, you are occasionally even made to detour as the smoke envelopes the sky and visibility is minimal. This blackened earth is commonplace throughout the months of June-August in our province (and some others) as a practice of cyclic renewal of the earth.

Oftentimes one may think how unattractive, stale and lifeless the landscape looks throughout these months. But with the first rains at the end of August, the green “fuzz” appears as you look over the vast areas of land. For amidst the charred and lifeless remains of earth springs new buds and blades of green. Renewal begins and the cyclic pendulum has swung, bringing beauty and color to the once inert landscape. The green “fuzz” gets thicker as the grass, plants and trees begin to taste the sweet drops of moisture from the swollen clouds. The beauty and fragrance of the flowering trees and plants tickles the senses as one walks down the road seeing eye-catching violets, corals, reds and other vibrant colors springing out from the buds. As the memory of the dry and charred earth fades, one is reminded that there is always more than meets the eye. For a snapshot in time of this blackened earth would not capture the potential and cycle of renewal that takes place in Kwa-Zulu Natal (and other parts of South Africa). There are so many life-giving occurrences that happen each and every day reminding us that there really is so much more than the senses can take in and process.

This can also be illustrated by a recent experience we were blessed with in Alexandra Township . “Alex” as it is known, is one of the oldest townships in South Africa and is situated on the outskirts of Johannesburg , close to Sandton, one of the very affluent and wealthiest suburbs in South Africa . In contrast, Alexandra is one of the poorest urban areas in the country. Picture over a million people sandwiched into a few square kilometers of space. As one enters the township many of the observed homes, hostels (housing thousands), dwellings and shacks are put together with any variety of resources. Here the color and vibrancy of trees, grass and flowers are replaced by dirt, garbage and bland colored materials of the make-shift small shops and densely crammed houses.

But just as the blackened earth provides one with the mistaken identity of a lifeless snapshot, the outward appearance of Alex is deceiving, for it is one of the most vibrant and alive places to have the opportunity to experience. The kids dancing on the corner, the soccer games happening in every available space, the women sitting, talking and singing as they sell their goods, the man sewing with amazing craftsmanship in his shop, people walking up and down the streets greeting one another with familiar smiles…life abounds! People flow in mass numbers up the main streets (6 in one direction, 22 the other) creating a notable buzz. The energy in Alex is contagious and one is reminded again that there is so much more than meets the eye. As we came to a seemingly ordinary and small room made of cinder block, we are told it was once the home of the world-renowned Nelson Mandela. Not only he, but so many other notable names such as Hugh Masekela (musician and trumpeter), Mark Mathabane (tennis player and author of the autobiography Kaffir Boy), Samora Machel (former Mozambiquan president), Alfred Nzo (South African Minister of Foreign Affairs 1994-1999), Wally Serote (poet), Annie Twala (the “Mother of Alexandra”), Sam Buti (reverend) and many others called Alex their home.

From one of the main streets we were then directed into an alley like area. From the portal of the road we entered the bowels of Alex and were treated to the sweet sounds of jazz. We were in one of the oldest jazz “clubs” in the country (oldest in Alex) and have an amazing cross-cultural exchange of learning local greetings with the people there. So many laughs occurred and so much was learned and experienced between two seemingly dissimilar people from different backgrounds. An observer would think it a group who knew each other for years. As dusk drew near, and we exited Alex, the “smoke” had cleared and we could see that this place was not the snapshot of a dry and blacked earth, but the green “fuzz” and vibrancy of so much potential, color and flare…the beautiful people!

What we are reminded of every day is how blessed we are to see the cycles of life here and to see beyond the snapshots and begin to piece together clips to the bigger picture. We are humbled each and every day to look beyond the sometimes challenging outward appearance and see the beauty and amazing gifts within the people we walk and serve alongside. For we continue to see that the blackened earth provides so many amazing green and vibrant blades of renewal and life-giving promise in so many ways!

With peace and love,

– Kristen F. Konkal

Rev. Brian & Kristen Konkol, Project Coordinators, South Africa
Young Adults in Global Mission, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
P.O. Box 28694. Haymarket.3200. South Africa.

August 20, 2009

Discussions with Brian Konkol – 12

Posted in Education, Philosophy, Religion, South Africa at 2:19 am by randallbutisingh

Discussions with Brian Konkol -12  – South Africa – August 2009
 Ill Communication -by Brian E. Konkol
 
When I was sixteen years old, my older brother introduced me to an album that quickly became a favorite. Ill Communication was a chart-topping hit for the Beastie Boys, enjoyed by massive and diverse fans from all around the world (including rural central-Wisconsin high-school students!). With their “punk-rock rap, alternative hip-hop” style (…which received much disapproval from my mother), Michael “Mike D” Diamond, Adam “MCA” Yauch, and Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz continue to sell records and pack concert venues more than twenty years after their debut.

Ill Communication was originally released in May of 1994, and last month it was re-mastered and made available online through the official band website. A renewed interest in “the Beasties” has developed, and as a result, I have been thinking about Ill Communication not simply as high-energy music, but “ill communication” as a daily reality of global mission service. Specifically, as citizens of the “global north” such as Kristen and I attempt to serve alongside our companions from the “global south”, there is a vast variety of miscommunication, misunderstanding, and misinterpretation – all of which could be designated the “ill communication”.

While ill communication can sometimes lead to complications (…to be mentioned a bit later), one can recognize the various humorous moments as well. Two examples – one my own, and one recently shared with me – come to mind.

One of my first experiences of ill communication in global mission service came during my initial days as a minister serving in Guyana. Much to my joy and amazement, within a few days of arrival my early morning jogging sessions included repeated shouts of “Pastor! Pastor! Pastor!” To hear members of the surrounding neighborhood recognize me and offer morning greetings was great motivation, that is, until about a week later when a friend finally explained: “Pastor Brian, they are not saying “Pastor”, they are telling you to run “Faster! Faster! Faster!” A humbling experience, to say the least!

Another story worth sharing was told to me a few weeks ago by a local South African Lutheran Bishop (…yes, he did give permission to share the story). He told me of a visit to the United States a few years ago, and how when sitting around the dinner table of a very kind and hospitable mid-western Lutheran family, he needed something to wipe his face. As he looked around for a piece of tissue paper or wash cloth, someone asked if he needed a “napkin”, which to him was quite a shock, as his understanding of “napkin” in his native language is associated with a dirty diaper! While the Bishop repeatedly refused the invitation to use a “napkin”, the host insisted. When the guests and Bishop finally realized what had taken place, they received a good laugh (and a fun story).
Naturally, many (if not most) forms of “ill communication” are not much fun or delightful (or worth repeating!). I know firsthand what it feels like when “signals do not match”, “wires are crossed”, and even when there are good intentions, the result can be a great deal of frustration and confusion on both sides of the interaction. And while ill communication is a consistent reality for Kristen, myself, and those from our host church here in South Africa whom we serve alongside, the fact of the matter is that, as our world becomes increasingly “smaller” through globalization and information technology, we as a human race are now attempting to communicate across various “boundaries” (geographical, cultural, social, political, generational, theological, etc.) more than ever before. As a result of these current global trends, one could make the argument that there is more “ill communication” now than ever before.

As Kristen and I coordinate the Young Adults in Global Mission volunteer program here in South Africa, we are given a firsthand view – not only of our own attempts to properly accompany our local companions – but also how challenging it can be for incoming young adult North American volunteers to be faced with language barriers, cultural differences, as well as alternative opinions on politics, faith, global economics, poverty, gender roles, etc (…in addition, we have been totally amazed at how gracious and forgiving our South African hosts can be in the midst of these interactions). While the initial “culture shock” can be quite daunting for some North American visitors, especially those who have never experienced immersion in a foreign environment, even in the midst of a multiplicity of differences, volunteers and local hosts come together as people of God, and awesome interactions and relationship building takes place. While ill communication takes place throughout the term of service, one can notice an increasing level of comfort, as both guests and hosts realize that God is present “in”, “between”, and “around” them. In the end, local companions and their North American visitors realize the goal of the overall program is not to ignore differences and/or try to make people more similar, but to embrace diversity, acknowledge those things which seem to be similar, learn throughout the process, and grow alongside one another like “God’s symphony of people” called to offer unique gifts which come together for a beautiful “sound” of peace, justice, and faithfulness in the world.
The recent history of South Africa has witnessed a significant decline in racial segregation and a steady increase in people of diversity joining together to build a “rainbow nation” of love, solidarity, and mutual respect. In many ways South Africa is a miniature example of the world in which we live – a world that is becoming increasingly smaller with a growing need for people to learn how to relate with those “others” whom are quite different from themselves. Due to these changing global circumstances, there are – in my opinion – essentially two primary choices: On the one hand, people can chose to retreat from the world and try to only accept and engage with those who look, talk, smell, and think the same as they do, and on the other hand, people can embrace the increasing diversity of this world, learn from it, grow, and remember that “different” does not always mean “wrong”, and that amazing things take place when people come together and relate with one another. My hope is that the people of this world will resist the enticement to “retreat” into small corners of isolation, overcome fears which often result from misinformation, and accept the beauty which is experienced through diversity.

One of the things I have learned over the past years with ELCA Global Mission is that, at its core, international companionship is not about projects or programs, but it is primarily about people. And specifically, it is about how people relate and accompany one another respectfully, acknowledging differences, learning from one another, and recognizing the “face of God” in their presence and the spirit of God in the deepening connection and growing bonds. As much as the mass-media might try to make North Americans fear “those people” who seem “different”, those who follow the call to “come and see” realize that day-to-day realities are much different from what is filtered through television, internet, or magazines. Whether it takes place thousands of miles from home or with those who live a few doorsteps down the street, when one is able to engage in genuine relationships with those who think, speak, believe, and act differently, the fears quickly wash away, and an amazing amount of learning and growth is the result.

While there is a natural temptation for “birds of a same feather” to “flock together”, the reality of our world is that no two people are exactly the same, and the result is that “ill communication” is a natural consequence to the way in which God has created us. One need not travel far to find diversity if it is truly sought. We are all different. Some are women, while others are men. Some are “baby boomers”, while others are “Generation X, Y, Z, or Millennial”. Some are North American, while others are South American, West or East European, Asian, Australian, African, and so forth. Some are Christian, while others as Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, Agnostic, Atheist, and so on. And in the midst of each “category” is an endless list of additional sub-categories, which in the end accounts to billions of global citizens who each hold different viewpoints, beliefs, and observations. The diversity that fills our world cannot be escaped, and even if it could, I cannot imagine why one would even try.

In the midst of it all, my hope is that we may all take a moment to consider how much diversity we choose to surround ourselves with. Yes, no two people are alike, but some are more similar than others. Do we only engage with people who look, speak, and think similar to us? Do we only read newspapers and magazines that confirm what we already believe? Do we only visit websites which place “stamps of approval” on our pre-set ideals? Do we only listen to politicians who fall in-line with our previously held understandings? Do we only associate with those who hold common interests? Do we only watch television programs that reinforce our longstanding perceptions and priorities? Do we only speak with those who perceive God and faith exactly as we do? Are we willing to allow ourselves to be challenged instead of only being comforted?

With increased diverse interaction comes various forms of ill communication, yet I believe it is a consequence fully worth the effort. Yes, it can be challenging, and I (as well as our South African hosts) can personally attest to the struggles which one is forced to endure, and the temptations to try and resist. Nevertheless, I believe the future of our global community rests not merely upon acknowledging one another exists, but actually meeting, embracing, listening, and accompanying each other in the journey of life as fellow children of God. Like the tune of a symphony, or high-energy bounce of punk-rock rap, we were not created to make indistinguishable “sounds” in this world, but we were made to bring all of our unique “joyful noises” together, and to enjoy the results of diversity coming together. Instead of trying to make our global harmonies identical, perhaps a willingness to experience the ill communication of diverse life is just the sound our world needs.

– Rev. Brian E. Konkol
Project Co-Coordinator, South Africa, Young Adults in Global Mission
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. P.O. Box 28694
Haymarket. 3200. South Africa

July 12, 2009

Discussions with Brian Konkol -11

Posted in Education, Friendship, Psychology, Religion, South Africa tagged , , , , at 6:57 pm by randallbutisingh

Subject: South Africa – July, 2009

A must…perseverance, resilience (Kristen Konkol)

See with pictures at: http://briankristenkonkol.blogspot.com

She steps out of bed onto the cold, hard ground with a chill filling the air. She can see her breath with every exhale. She puts hot water on to boil for tea to warm her body before she begins her daily journey. She pulls on her tall socks and long skirt along with her hat and gloves and steps into the dark, star-filled sky. It is never easy to leave into the darkness of a winter morning, but she knows she must, for she must provide in the best way she can. She walks from her home to the main road and looks here and there for a ride on her first leg of the journey, but she finds none and continues on. She walks down to the highway and joins many others who raise their signaled hands and wait for the vehicles to pull over and give them a lift.

Finally, an old bakkie (pick-up) pulls over and she along with about 12 others climb into the bed of the truck. They huddle close together and pull the collars of their coats up high as the cold, swift wind of the highway screams by. The sun is now on the horizon as she climbs down out of the bakkie some kilometers later. She walks down the same familiar road to her final destination where she will work with her hands to make ends meet. She must make the journey, she reminds herself, for I have no other choice but to do it for my family. She perseveres, she is resilient

A sharp-witted man sits in his familiar place, nose in his books for hours on end. He studies the mounds of literature; he captures the precise techniques and scans the latest research day after day. When he is not studying, he is on his feet for hours on end, walking the corridors of the hospital, reviewing charts, studying up for the next time he is called upon. He has a gift and was blessed with those hands. His hands are skilled, practiced and proficient. He works flawlessly in the theatre (operating room), with the lives of so many in these hands with every precise procedure he very capably carries out. Years of practice and study have prepared him for the test and he is ready, he is confident. He sits for the written surgical specialty exam and knows he has done well. With only the oral exam to go, he knows he is but one small step away from being qualified as a surgeon able to practice in international medicine anywhere in the world.

He would be the first black South African to do so at this institution. He sits before the board of light-skinned faces and answers question after question without hesitation or intimidation. He has done all he can. Days pass and he finally receives word…they have not passed him and will now have to do it all over again. He is not demoralized, but yet is even more determined to overcome the obvious injustice and “make them” have to pass him when he is back later this year. I will not let them deter me, he reminds himself, for I will obtain the qualifications I deserve. He will persevere, for he is resilient!

She looks up from her garden as children come and go through the haphazard gate. With a limp in her step she makes her way to the house to see how the progress is coming on the inside. One young boy sweeps away the endless dirt that seems to blow in day after day. She sits down and looks at her feet. She has already lost two toes to diabetes and her swollen legs tingle endlessly from the lack of circulation. She looks at her ragged dress and wishes she could do more, but what can she do? Five of her children have already succumbed to the same dark fate of so many others, withering away from HIV/AIDS.

Only two remain, and her daughter has already taken to the life of prostitution to make a bit of money, and she knows her fate will one day be all too familiar. The children are left and she wonders what she can do. She must now look after the grandchildren, for they have so few other options. She worries about how she will put food on the table and clothes on their back as she cannot go out and work with her own poor health. All she knows she can do is pray, wipe the sweat off her brow, and head back out to the garden. For she must, she says to herself, for if the garden is all I can give them, then that is what I will do. She must persevere; she must rise above and be resilient.

Too many times I have seen, observed and heard these and other stores about perseverance and resilience. Injustice, poverty, discrimination and adversity weave a thread though the lives of so many here in South Africa . Even as some years have passed since democracy has so wonderfully been won, many continue to struggle each and every day. For it does not take days or months or even years to reverse the reality and life situations many have come to know, but generations.

I am humbled each day with what so many go through on a day to day basis and am sometimes paralyzed by the monumental peaks that have to be overcome. But what strikes me above all is the perseverance and resilience of those faced with challenge day in and day out. We must, it is said, for there is no other option. We must, we must, and we must…rise above and overcome for a better tomorrow!

Peace & Blessings

Kristen

Web (personal): http://briankristenkonkol.blogspot.com
Web (project): http://elcamud.blogspot.com

June 16, 2009

Why hope?

Posted in Economics, Messages, Philosophy, South Africa tagged , at 11:12 am by randallbutisingh

Comment by Randall Butisingh

Dear Bloggers, I urge you to read “Why Hope” Discussions with Brian Konkol – 10.

This is a brilliant treatise (which I consider a masterpiece) on one of the great virtues which has kept mankind from surrendering to adverse circumstances, which time and again threatened  to divert him from the purpose for which he was created.

The writer, a young missionary of the Lutheran Church,  Pastor Brian Konkol has accepted a call to serve among the poor and needy in South Africa, where he is not only preaching the Word but teaching and working in order to improve their lot.  I,  personally, look forward with expectation to his regular newsletters which he and sometimes his wife, a co-worker in His vineyard and a good writer also, help to produce.  These newsletters, I post in my web log for the inspiring  messages they convey, all in keeping with its aims and objectives, that in trying to help to make this world a better place.

Like the dedicated Pastor, I believe “there is a large tide of Hope rising throughout the world in “those who believe in our common Humanity” and is gaining ground against those who try to frustrate unity.

Why Hope?  As one writer puts it: “Hope springs eternal in the human breast”.  What is the meaning of Hope?  The dictionary gives it as expectation.  It is more than expectation.  It is expectation with a spiritual connotation.  Mere expectation is passive.  It can mean just sitting and waiting for something to happpen; but in Hope there is a dynamism which energises and motivates to the “boldness of action”.  Such hope, however can only come through Faith and Love..  Love always hopes, 1 Corinthians, 13; 7.Again “In His name the nations will put their Hope”. Matthew 10: 21, (spoken in fulfillment of the prophet Isaiah.

The mills of God grind slowly but very fine , and in the present crisis that has affected all the nations of the earth,  He has put down the mighty from their seat and exalted the humble and meek   This  is a sure sign that the God of the Good Samaritan and of the Prodigal Son is working his purpose  out, and that the time is near when men of Hope will begin to see “the woods instead of the trees”  and will join their divided links in a united chain of brotherhood that will encircle the globe.

Randall Butisingh

June 15, 2009

Discussions with Brian Konkol – 10

Posted in Economics, Politics, Religion, South Africa tagged , , at 1:32 am by randallbutisingh

Why hope?  – South Africa – June, 2009
by Brian E. Konkol)

If it were possible to record every form of communication in every corner of the globe, and if it were also possible to count and document the amount of times every word was used within those various forms of communication, I would be willing to bet the word “hope” has been utilized more often in the past year that in years previous.

Hope.

While “hope” as a message and state of mind has existed for countless generations, it has most certainly experienced a resurgence as of late.  In response to current challenges facing so many around the world, various individuals have responded through hope-filled political speeches, magazine articles, books, and television programs.  As a result, the declaration of “hope” is being received with passion and adopted with excitement by various global citizens.  Africans, Asians, South and North Americans, Eastern and Western Europeans, and various others from booming cities to rural farmlands listen to and speak of “new beginnings”, a “fresh start”, and making the global community function to its fullest.  Citizens on all continents are currently in the process of finding ways in which life can truly improve for the better, not only for a few, but for all.

While a large tide of hope is rising throughout the world, what I have long wondered is how people can possibly grasp to genuine hopefulness in the midst of such challenging social and economic conditions.  Yes, speeches and books can inspire, but at the end of the day, when the discourse is finished and the final page is turned, many people are left in extremely dreadful situations.  Why hope?  The World Bank reported that before the current global economic crisis, there were already more than one billion people living on less than $1 per day, while another three billion (…approximately half of the world’s population) were living on less than $2 per day.  In 2005, in what was considered “good times” compared to 2009, the poorest 40% of the world’s population accounted for 5% of global income, while the wealthiest 20% accounted for 75% of world income, and the wealthiest 10% accounted for 54%.  Why hope?

According to the South African Regional Poverty Network, the proportion of people living in poverty in South Africa has not changed significantly over the past fifteen years, that is, until the past twelve months.  Due in part to the global economic downturn, those households living in poverty have sunk deeper into economic despair, and the gap between rich and poor has widened.  Over 55% of South Africans live below the poverty line (…poverty estimates are calculated according to household size.  A household of four persons has a poverty income of R1 290 per month, which is roughly the equivalent of $161.25), recent estimates have shown a 25% unemployment rate (although these numbers steadily increase), a 30% HIV/AIDS infection rate has resulted in what some call “the death of a generation”, and the nation continues to struggle with crime, corruption, racism, sexism, and gross unequal distribution of land and resources.

Why hope?

A few days ago I asked a local friend this exact question, and I found his response to be quite enlightening.  “Why hope?”  I asked.  He responded with a quote from the fifth chapter of Romans: “…because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us…”  He expanded upon the biblical passage and commented that “hope does not disappoint” because “faithful hope” is not a matter of sitting around and waiting for something miraculous to happen, (which he poignantly called “stupid hope”!), but it is about taking inventory of one’s God-given capabilities, as well as the assets of the community, and doing what can and needs to be done for the welfare of all.  He reminded me that the “audacity of hope” must be followed by the “boldness of action”, and those placed in positions of power and authority are especially responsible to put their beliefs into action and help provide for those who simply do not have the resources to make a significant long-term and sustainable difference on their own.  He asserted that the current global economic crisis is both terrifying and exciting, for as people search for hope, it is an opportunity to redirect priorities for the greater common good.  However, he added, it is also terrifying, not only because of the terrible conditions people face, but because of increased desperation, the crisis may tempt some to look for answers in all the wrong places, and instead of helping others and thinking of ways to “build up” communities for the future, people will instead worry solely about themselves, perhaps blame and point fingers at others, and in the end “tear down” communities for the worse.  He concluded, “It is just a matter of ‘what message’ people are going to hear most loud and clear.”

I fully agree that the global economic crisis, and the resulting desire for global hope, brings both excitement and concern.  It is worth concern, because as people so desperately yearn for solutions, they are often willing to cling to just about anyone and/or anything that promises a better life.  The persistence of violence, extremism, discrimination, and intolerance in its various forms is a clear consequence of this reality.  But also, the search for hope brings incredible excitement, for this moment in history is an amazing opportunity for the “Good News” message of compassion, love, care, companionship, accompaniment, forgiveness, reconciliation, and justice to be received and shared in massive ways never dreamed of before.  This “crisis” is indeed an “opportunity” for better things, a space in time to re-evaluate our lives and priorities, consider what works and what does not, determine was is just or unjust, truly understand the ways we relate with others in our neighborhoods and around the world, and join together in solidarity to reshape the current day and age in which we live.

Why hope?

While the Church has its many imperfections (…I suppose I am one of them!), I am one who believes God is in the process of doing something incredible in and through this organization filled with faith-inspired people ready to act.  As a result of our current day and age, and out of a Spirit-driven desire to acknowledge and understand the connections we share with people across the globe, I fully believe the Church is about to experience an amazing renewal with an increased interest in global mission, advocacy, and heartfelt service which seeks to walk alongside companions publically and courageously in various walks of life, which can result in mutual respect, empowerment, understanding, and justice.  I believe this renewal is already taking place, and as it widens and deepens, it will result in increased involvement among youth and young adults, the often perceived disconnect between faith and “real life” will increasingly close, the often heard street-media message of hatred and fear will be replaced by the faith-filled proclamation that mutual empowerment and “abundant life” can be shared, and a new way of relating to one another can be learned and practiced.  With each passing day, as each person recognizes the face of God in all people and takes responsibility upon themselves and the communities that surround them, small steps forward will lead to gigantic leaps, and the message of hope will be transformed into the reality of progress, and the “new beginning” which so many seek will become realized.

And this, I believe, is why we hope.

We hope, not because of our own human greatness or importance, and not because of our individual intellectual or collective technological abilities to make life easier.  But rather, we hope because the same God who created us will not sit back, watch, and allow us and others to live in the midst of ongoing despair, injustice, and oppression.  We hope, not because it numbs our sorrows and allows us to survive the grind of each day, but because we have a genuine belief that our common humanity will inspire us to cooperate, our shared compassion will encourage us to love, our belief in wholeness of life will motivate us to act, and through God’s grace, those inspired to strive for the common good will far outnumber those with misguided motivations.  We hope, not because of rational calculation or skillful thought, but due to the unexplainable conviction that, through God’s strength and wisdom, and with the empowerment that comes through individual responsibility and collective action, that something better for all people is not a mere dream, but a beautiful reality that lies right around the corner.

We hope.
———————————————————————-.

Rev. Brian E. Konkol, Project Co-Coordinator, South Africa. Young Adults in Global Mission. Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. P.O. Box 28694. Haymarket. 3200 South Africa. Phone: (Country Code 027) 033-396-5494.  Cell: (Country Code 027) 074-121-7779.

E-Mail: bekonkol@yahoo.com. Web (personal): http://briankristenkonkol.blogspot.com. Web (project): http://elcamud.blogspot.com

February 18, 2009

Discussions with Brian Konkol – 9

Posted in Economics, Education, Friendship, Guyana, Philosophy, Politics, Religion, South Africa tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 2:40 am by randallbutisingh

“f-words….” by Kristen F. Konkol

Report from South Africa : February 2009

(To read with pictures go to: http://briankristenkonkol.blogspot.com)

Super Bowl fever has now begun to subside as the days pass following all the publicity and fanfare. It is a strange phenomenon, really, when living overseas. You do see the international news showing bits and pieces of the multitude of stories leading up to the game, but you certainly don’t feel the same excitement surrounding questions of how sports fans will spend the day in the US. When I think about such an event, a lot of f-words” come into mind (not the ones where people are yelling at the TV!). Typically the football game is associated with food, fun, family, friends and funny commercials. In fact, I saw a statistic that said that Americans spend approximately $40 million dollars on food alone for Super Bowl parties….that is a whole lot of chips & salsa!!!

Outside of the US football means something very different as it translates to soccer to the rest of the world. Here in South Africa the preparations for very different football events on the world stage are underway as the nation prepares to host the Confederations Cup (champion national team of each continent) in June 2009 and the main act being the FIFA World Cup in 2010. Stadiums, roads, communication and many other facets are being prepared for the first ever hosting of a World Cup on the African continent. Both in Guyana and now here in South Africa I have been fortunate to be a part of football (soccer) both with children and young adults. To see the passion and the skills that are displayed are amazing where proper shoes, fields, goals, balls or equipment are not pertinent to get a game going. One simply plays with what you have where you are… whether it is out on the dirt lot with no shoes and a make-shift ball or on a nice thick lined grass field with all the nice uniforms, cleats and balls. I have thoroughly enjoyed these diverse opportunities and all the wonderful children and young adults I have worked with and played alongside.

When one also thinks of foods that would be typical for an occasion or event, I have enjoyed the variety of staples that countries around the world have in their diet. For example, it was typical for one to say in Guyana that you haven’t ‘eaten for the day’ if you haven’t had rice as it was synonymous with food in many areas. In South Africa the staple product would be corn, or mealies. There are seemingly endless varieties of mealie dishes that have been at the center of African family life for centuries. Mealie pap is the most widely eaten food in South Africa and it is thinner (porridge) or stiffer (like thick mashed potatoes) depending on where or when you eat it. It can be made sweet (thinner breakfast porridge), salty or rich. Thicker pap may be mixed with a variety of other vegetables or tubers and used with sauce or stew. Mealie meal is finely ground maize. Phutu (in Zulu) is a dish of crumbly maize porridge, often eaten with soured milk. Umngqusho (Xhosa word) would be samp (dried and crushed maize kernels), boiled, then mixed with beans, onion, potatoes, chilies, lemon and salt and simmered. Although these are just a few to name, I can not glaze over the mealie itself, which is simply a cob of corn that is popular grilled or boiled as a snack (although unlike in Wisconsin , most grill it without the husk). There is also a traditional beer (umqombothi) made from water, malt, maize and sorghum which is served at many celebrations from big beer pots. That is certainly an acquired taste!!

(See more at: http://www.zulu-culture-history.com/zulu_traditional_beer.htm)

Family is also something thought of very differently than we would think of as typical in the US . For many, when you say mother, father, siblings…this would constitute your immediate family. However, in some South African cultures, especially Zulu culture, your family is much broader. For instance, the same word in Zulu for mother and father are used for aunt (if it is your mother’s sister) and uncle (if it is your father’s brother) such that they act just as your parents. The word for cousin would be the same as brother or sister for the children of your mother’s sisters and your father’s brothers. It basically follows immediate lineage. The ties become much more communal and the family unit constitutes a larger circle.

The one f-word” that people here express very freely is that of expression of faith. For faith is not something that is taboo to talk about from Mon-Sat and is in so many threads of individuals everyday life. Personal faith life as well as congregational faith life stems into many aspects of ones existence, not just the time spent sitting in church. It is a topic talked about and discussed as frequently as politics and sports. It is a lesson that we can all learn in thinking about our comfort level and commitment to our faith and how we express it. In my experience here in South Africa church is not something to just “get over with” and get on with the rest of your day, but rather the main focus of the day for which the day revolves around. Attending worship here can take many, many hours…for instance, yesterday’s consecration of the South Eastern Diocese bishop was a 7 hour long service and program with approximately 9,000 in attendance. When the singing and dancing of songs takes place in that kind of setting, you are hard pressed to not be moved and feel blessed by the experience.

There are many differences in how various cultures express “f-words” such as family, football, fun, food and faith. What I am continually challenged with is how much I am able to appreciate the differences, embrace them and allow myself to be enhanced and learn from another culture. There are many preferences we have in how we express these f-words”, but the real question is how open are we to doing, experiencing, and seeing things in a new and different light as opposed to fitting it into that nice little box of the familiar.

With peace & blessings,

Kristen Konkol

February 1, 2009

Mandela congratulates Obama

Posted in Environment, Friendship, Philosophy, Politics, South Africa, USA politics tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 6:23 pm by randallbutisingh

Nelson Mandela sends congrats to Obama
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) – Here is the text of former South African President Nelson Mandela’s congratulatory letter yesterday to Barack Obama:

“Dear Mister President:

We are greatly honoured to join the millions around the globe congratulating you on taking office as the president of the United States of America . We believe that we are witnessing something truly historic not only in the political annals of your great nation, the United States of America , but of the world.
Your election to this high office has inspired people as few other events in recent times have done. Amidst all of the human progress made over the last century the world in which we live remains one of great divisions, conflict, inequality, poverty and injustice.
Amongst many around the world a sense of hopelessness had set in as so many problems remain unresolved and seemingly incapable of being resolved. You, Mister President, have broght a new voice of hope that these problems can be addressed and that we can in fact change the world and make of it a better place.
We are in some ways reminded today of the excitement and enthusiasm in our own country at the time of our transition to democracy. People, not only in our country but around the world, were inspired to believe that through common human effort injustice can be overcome and that together a better life for all can be achieved.
Your presidency brings hope of new beginnings in the relations between nations, that the challenges we all face, be they economic, the environment, or in combating poverty or the search for peace, will be addressed with a new spirit of openness and accommodation.
There is a special excitement on our continent today, Mister President, in the knowledge that you have such strong personal ties with Africa . We share in that excitement and pride.
We are aware that the expectations of what your presidency will achieve are high and that the demands on you will be great. We therefore once more wish you and your family strength and fortitude in the challenging days and years that lie ahead.
You will always be in our affection as a young man who dared to dream and to pursue that dream. We wish you well.”
Sincerely,
Signed N R Mandela

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