COMMISSIONERS ISRAEL AND Eva Gaither and Doreen and David Edwards read the plaque commemorating The Salvation Army’s submission to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa.
– photo by Sue Schumann Warner
In the July 1997 issue of The Officer, former Southern Africa Territorial Commander Commissioner Paul du Plessis (a South African) wrote about the Army’s submission to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The Salvation Army was the first church in South Africa to do so. He said: “The decision for the Army to make its own submission was not taken easily, but the conviction grew among the executive officers of the territory that this should be done. We were aware of the international integrity of The Salvation Army and that making a submission was effectively including IHQ and the Army worldwide with its stance on South Africa.”
The following is excerpted from the submission:
There are ways in which we know we have failed–a growing consciousness brought about in our collective mind by the Holy Spirit. All Salvation Army gatherings since our 1883 beginnings have been open to all races. Our failure has been in allowing the recognition of separate ethnic groupings, seen as normal at the time, but which fostered the idea of separate development. We did not see God’s justice as being grounded in God’s love and some of our people have been morally violated by the inequitable distribution of resources available to us…
“…While we did care for body and soul, we ought more strongly to have attacked the evil which wrecked both bodies and souls in the first place. Professing an apolitical stance, we used this to avoid the kind of protest for which the early Salvation Army was known. We became self-satisfied and paternal, introspective about our own affairs and insensitive to what was happening around us…As an Army we did not willfully commit racial acts. Indeed, we were able to bring healing and help in some of the worst affected areas simply because we were trusted not to become embroiled in party politics. Still, we failed to ‘stand up and be counted’ when it mattered most–and that is painful for us…
“The Salvation Army would want to uphold the principle of not being involved in party political issues. We will endeavor, however, not to hide under this umbrella as an excuse for silence when we should be prepared to speak prophetically and fearlessly on matters of justice.”