About the Author(s)

Daniël J. Louw Email
Faculty of Theology, University of Stellenbosch, South Africa


Louw, D.J., 2017, ‘Black-White polarisation in #MustFall campaigns. Towards a practical theological diagnostics of “peaceful coexistence”’, In die Skriflig 51(1), a2220. https://doi.org/10.4102/ids.v51i1.2220

Original Research

Black-White polarisation in #MustFall campaigns. Towards a practical theological diagnostics of ‘peaceful coexistence’

Daniël J. Louw

Received: 22 Nov. 2016; Accepted: 09 May 2017; Published: 31 July 2017

Copyright: © 2017. The Author(s). Licensee: AOSIS.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


At stake in South Africa is the very eminent demands within #MustFall campaigns. Due to sharp schisms, harming and intimidating speech, the polarisation of white – black have become anew a threat to unity and cooperative collaboration in order to manage cultural diversity in a meaningful and peaceful way. In a practical and theological approach to life issues, fides quaerens viviendi (faith seeking lifestyles), an attempt is being made to address the civil societal schism of racial polarisation and the public degeneration of civilised reasoning, viz. hate speech. Within the framework of pastoral hermeneutics, a diagnostic chart for the assessment and analysis of intercultural dynamics within the paradoxical tension of differentiation (particularity) and integration (cohesiveness) is developed. The notion of coexistence is critically researched and supported by the pastoral notion of compassionate being-with. It is argued that a diagnostic approach should be directed by theological ethos of xenophilia.

Introduction and background

It seems that the dream of a rainbow nation is becoming a mirage. The ideal of a peaceful mode of living together despite cultural and tribal diversity, is crumbling away. Instead of reconciliation, the rhetoric of hate speech is surfacing time and again; instead of democratic stability, radical populism is tearing the society apart; separatism rather than cohesion and cooperation is framing the social civil dynamics of Southern African politics.

The real danger lurks that integration politics is exposed to a constant ignorance of paradigms concerning local particularity and national identity. Two important pillars for sustaining a free and just civil society are under huge pressure, namely democracy and dialogue.

  • Democracy is becoming the ideology of mass violent activism without wisdom and responsibility. Everything in the establishment #MustFall without meaningful alternatives and future vision – the pursuit of individualistic pleasure and the exploitation of resources prevail. Plato, in The Republic, warned against the monster of ‘democratic man’. He warns against the ideology of populist democracy and the appeal to democratic freedom without sound and internalised values and transformed human conduct. Plato (1946) states: And when the poor win, the result is a democracy. They kill some of the opposite party, banish others, and grant the rest an equal share in civil rights and government, officials being usually appointed by lot. (pp. 275–276)

According to Plato, the illusion of democracy is that all are free. ‘Liberty and free speech are rife everywhere; anyone is allowed to do what he likes’ (Plato 1946:276). If that is the case, hedonistic pleasure takes over as directive for life, and as Plato (1946:276) continues: ‘… every man will arrange his own manner of life to suit his pleasure. The result will be a greater variety of individuals than under any constitution’. The implication of an ideology of democracy and liberalism is that democracy becomes so free that anything goes and anyone can visit an own ‘… emporium of constitution and chose the model he likes best’ (1946:276). The further implication for Plato is that one is so free that authority becomes a ‘merry-go-round’: if you do not like authority, you can do what you like …

you need not fight when your fellow citizens are at war, not remain at peace when they do, unless you want peace; and though you may have no legal right to hold office or sit on juries, you will do so all the same if the fancy takes you. A wonderfully pleasant life, surely, for the moment. (p. 276)

  • Dialogue is becoming hate speech and when conversing is becoming impossible, the courts must make decisions about what is truth and a moderate lifestyle (constitutional hegemony). With hate speech is meant speech that attacks a person or group on the basis of attributes such as gender, ethnic origin, religion, race, disability, or sexual orientation. The Act, the Prohibition of Hate Speech (South Africa 2016), reads:
    No person may publish, propagate, advocate or communicate words based on one or more of the prohibited grounds, against any person, that could reasonably be construed to demonstrate a clear intention to be hurtful, be harmful or to incite harm.

Hate speech is a kind of verbal intimidation and violent attack on the identity and integrity of the other; it attacks, threatens, or insults a person or group on the basis of national origin, ethnicity, colour, religion, and gender (See Figure 1).

FIGURE 1: Julius Malema’s attack on white people.

Malema (2016) said:

I am here to disturb a white man’s peace; the white man has been too comfortable for too long … we have never known peace. … They have been living peacefully swimming in a pool of privilege because they always owned our land. Our peace was disturbed by white man’s arrival here. They committed a black genocide. (7th of November, KwaZulu-Natal)

The #MustFall campaigns feed social polarisation rather than social cohesion. Violent activism and racial prejudice fuel xenophobia rather than xenophilia. A deep concern is busy to develop, namely that the South African Society is heading for turmoil of social chaos.

How should the Christian community and church respond to the polarisation within civil society: separation rather than integration? If one can accept that ‘peace’ is one of the key issues in Christian wisdom thinking, the following question surfaces: Is it possible that the notion of coexistence can help practical theological thinking to promote a more peaceful atmosphere for public debate and dialogue and to explore meaningful alternatives for creating a fair and just society? What would be the role of caregivers within a ministerial context in this regard?

With dialogue is then meant not merely conversing, but probing into the paradigmatic frameworks of discourses and social dialogue. Dialogue then in the deeper sense of dia logos: the ability to probe beyond achievement into the flow of meaning and the economy of means (Jaworski 1996:13).

The option of peaceful coexistence is not merely a South African wish or artificial idea coming from privileged people and opportunistic politics. In a publication on strategies for peaceful coexistence and sustainable development Mbaku’s (1999:5) plea for ‘peaceful coexistence’, is based on the fact that colonialism implied that Africans were marginalised and prevent from participating in civil structures and political decision-making that determine the experience of human dignity on grassroots level. Even in post-independence period, European settlers made a concerted effort to hijack the transition to independence, and manage or manipulate it so that the outcome would be a dispensation that maximised their objectives and not of those of the greater civil society (1999:5). Very specifically in South Africa, opportunistic Afrikaner nationalism and apartheid subjected African peoples to exploitation by the cruel and inhuman apartheid system (1999:5). Instead of apartheid and separation, coexistence is for Mbaku nearer to the African spirit of communality and sense of belongingness.

Coexistence is based on the principle of cooperation and coparticipation. To consider coexistence as a principle for peaceful cohesion is necessary due to the fact that reforms and transitions, even the 1990–1994 Mandela miracle did not effectively address the question of African participation in the postindependence society. The failure should be connected to the fact that critical domains like economic, cultural and bureaucratic systems do not make them appropriate for people struggling on grassroots level with civil societal injustices, extreme poverty, violence, crime and fraud. The basic argument and fundamental complain is that the institutions of a postindependence society do not represent the cultural identity and particularity of local contexts. Even the constitution of South Africa is viewed by many as merely a compromise and does not really represent African peoples. Constitutional reforms do not necessarily transform the effectiveness of the institutions many African countries inherited from the so-called colonial oppressors. The plea for coexistence is thus an attempt to create a sense of social, societal togetherness with the people within the contexts of cultural diversity in order to readdress the option of living together in peace.

The importance to address collectivity and togetherness in processes of democratisation and transformation in South Africa is emphasised by Udogu (1999:161–166). Ethnic clashes and conflict create unhealthy competition. According to Udogu (1999:162), the Xhosa sentiment as symbolised by Mandela should not be underestimated. Gradually the question surfaced: What of the ethnic groups not in power? ‘In a nutshell: What would become of the Zulus?’ (1999:162). Thus, it is the quest for theories of symbolic interactionism, collective definition alongside what Udogu calls ‘the ethnicity paradox in the republic’s politics’ (1999:163).

The concept of coexistence should be seen as part of the attempt to attend to theories of symbolic interactionism within the reality of the ethnic and racial polarisation in South Africa: blacks – whites; natives – colonists. Within a practical theological paradigm,1 peaceful co-existence should be accompanied and supplemented by the Christian spiritual category of compassion: peaceful coexistence as compassionate being-with.

Basic assumption

In a practical theological approach to the factor of inequality, the danger of schismatic separatism and xenophobic polarisation within cultural diversity, the intriguing question in practical theological thinking is: How should the church translate theological language and ecclesial terminology into a diagnostic framework in order to help caregivers and ministers to understand the paradigmatic issues at stake in social, political activism? Therefore the emphasis on a pastoral hermeneutics.

The aim of this article is to probe into the theological notion of compassion and to link paracletic thinking in practical theology to social models of transformation that will enhance peaceful coexistence. Instead of the human tendency of apatheia, compassion summons us to a lifestyle of compassionate and hospitable being-with and suffering-with. The latter should be ab exemplification of a sacrificial ethos and cruciform of love: xenophilia (love for the other; neighbourly love).

It will be argued that a theopaschitic approach to cosuffering could help caregivers within a ministerial context to formulate a practical theological theory that can promote different modes of peaceful coexistence and social integration. An integrative approach should keep in mind that intersubjectivity, in all forms of existential encounters is framed and determined by the bipolar directives in human attitude and social-cultural orientation: differentiation (the distinguishing factor of dissimilarity, unique identity, particularity and a sense of otherness) and integration (the coherence factor of intimacy, togetherness and a sense of belonging). Can this bipolar tension be transferred into a praxis hermeneutics of peaceful coexistence within the schisms of xenophobic polarisation?

Interculturality: A practical theological challenge

Practical theological reflection on civil societal issues should reckon with the fact that in globalisation, societies are becoming more and more culturally diverse. Hegemonic thinking and national exclusiveness are not any more appropriate in order to address the notion of multiculturality and interculturality.

According to Lartey (2006), theory formation should therefore reckon with the reality of cultural diversity. He (Lartey 2006) postulates:

Crossing boundaries and helping others do so has been the main activity of much of my professional life and ministry. Over the years I have gained the conceptual framework and the philosophical apparatus to understand cultural and systemic differences. (p. 8)

Within interculturality one has also to deal with what Bauman (2016:124) calls ‘cosmopolitical consciousness’. Global interconnectedness rather than historical periods frames daily life events. Due to the commodification of life and technological interdependency within the networking framework of virtual reality and online spirituality, it becomes difficult to divide the history of humankind in certain periods that demarcate specific paradigmatic stages.

The core question in interculturality is the following: How to deal with difference, diversity, strangers (strangeness), the outsider (Augsburger 1986:101) in a multi-cultural context (the quest for contextualisation; Weiss 2002:26)? The aim is to create a shared space for meaningful life and coexistence, co-understanding. The basis for such a shared space for interliving is the notion of cohumanity (interactive human dignity), mutual acknowledgement and a creative experience of interconnectedness.

Interculturality in pastoral care is less about the technique of counselling (counselling and communication skills) and more about the quality of the interaction and encounter (being with skills). The core question is then: How can I encounter people coming from a different cultural background (Schneider-Harpprecht 2002:38) without the danger of prejudice and stigmatisation, as well as the threat of xenophobia?

Interculturality is in fact a creative response to the diversity, difference and pluralism which is a fact in present-day society and the postmodern culture of globalisation. According to Lartey (1997:11) it calls for the affirmation of three basic principles, viz. contextuality (the framework of surrounding beliefs and worldviews), multiple perspectives (the listening to and dialogue within different perspectives), and authentic participation (mutual concern for the integrity of the other).

The core issues and challenges facing intercultural care are the following:

  • A paradigm switch: from the autonomy of the individual with the emphasis on the self-culture (the myth and preoccupation with individual and personal self-maintenance) to the dynamics of eco-systemic networking (shared interconnectedness; ubuntu2). Interculturality is about systemic thinking and care (Weiss 2002:37).3 Within the intercultural encounter, one comes across the healthy tension between the paradox of Albrecht Grözinger (quoted in Schneider-Harpprecht 2002:46) calls difference blindness (justice to the stranger) and difference awareness (sensitivity for difference and diversity).
  • The emphasis in intercultural care is less on therapeutic talking and more on therapeutic being-with (the therapeutic encounter). It is less focused on self-expansion and more on perspective building or the widening of horizons. In a hermeneutic encounter the focus is horizon-expansion (Horizonerweiterung, Federschmidt 2002:10).

When one assesses interculturality within the wider paradigmatic horizon of globalisation, it becomes clear that it is global multiculture miscalculated local issues on grassroots level. Interculturality and international politics acted as if nationality and particularity could be ignored due to processes of global massification and deflation of spiritual human values. Events in the political scenario and the international migrant crisis are pointing to ‘glocal radicalisation’, namely the impact of global networking on the quality of lifestyles as shaped by local contexts and cultural diversity, as well as the interpretation of global demands by people on grassroots level. Forohaar (2015) states in this regard:

And yet the idea that migrants could provide a long-term economic boon is hotly challenged by populist politicians across Europe trying to score with electorates that have become more nationalistic in the wake of financial crisis. (p. 60)

Radical populism, the upcoming of Malema-ism in South Africa, Trump-ism in the USA, Brexit in Europe and the closing of borders in the migrant crisis are pointing to another fundamental issue in human relationships and social politics, namely differentiation and particularity. Thus the necessity to reflect on the bipolar dynamics: particularity (segregation) – integration (togetherness) within the wider scope of cooperation and coexistence.

It is within this wider scope of coexistence that the following question surfaces: What about the spiritual dimension of habitus and attitude in civil societal dynamics? In Christian wisdom thinking it is about the quest for peaceful togetherness and meaningful being-with the other, the stranger, the opponent, the enemy.

Compassionate being-with: The civil societal challenge in public theology

According to Martha Nussbaum (quoted in Davies 2001:238), compassion should be preferred in order to express ‘the basic social emotion’, connecting both the cognitive and the affective. For Nussbaum compassion is in fact a certain kind of reasoning, a certain kind of thought about the well-being of others.

Compassion in a Christian understanding of a theology of compassion is essentially determined by Christ’s vicarious suffering (Gärtner 1978:724). His vicarious suffering took place ephapax, once for all (Heb 7:27). In the Synoptic gospels, paschō is used within the framework of the passion of Christ. Our sympathy and compassion is determined by the fact that Christ exercises compassion (Gärtner 1978:722). Instead of the emotional interpretation of compassion by the Stoics and their emphasis on the fact that passion (pathē) should be overcome in order that the ideal of ‘dispassionateness’ (apatheia) may be attained, active and practical compassion (sympaschō) is an issue of faith in Christ (1 Cor 12;26; Heb 10:34; Gärtner 1978:724). In this regard compassion should be connected to a ministry of serving (diakoneō) (Gärtner 1978:724).

Compassion in theological terminology is an exponent of the Christological principals of:

  • Salvific reconciliation: Human beings are new beings in Christ and restored by means of a relationship of grace: the indicative of justification.
  • Ethos of sacrificial love: We should display in daily life and all relationships neighbourly love and unconditional acceptance of the other: the imperative of neighbourly love (agapē) and the challenge of exchanging places with the other.

Compassionate being-with in ecclesiological terminology refers to the ecclesial structures of:

  • Diakonia: reaching out
  • Paraklesis: comfort and caregiving
  • Koinonia: mutual sharing and fellowship
  • Oikodomein: support and edification
  • Leitourgia: celebration and remembrance

Compassionate being-with should exhibit and enflesh the ecclesial structures within the dynamics of everyday life and societal relationship. In order to do this, a grassroots approach should be applied, namely to think and act on behalf of the outsider, the outcast, the marginalised and disadvantaged people of society. It should be directed by the notion that as homo viator we are all people from the exodus-tradition. Compassion is founded by the xenophilia-principle that:

God defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him/her food and clothing. And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt. (Dt 10:18-19).

In a sermon on Deuteronomy, Calvin addresses the issue of being a stranger. According to Calvin (quoted in Busch 2007:74), ‘… we must live together in a family of brothers and sisters which Christ has founded in his blood; and with very hostility he gives the opportunity to resist hostility’.

Fundamentally in his view on the equal value of human beings, Calvin operated from the perspective of neighbourly love as the sound principal for an inclusive approach to social and human issues. According to Calvin (1854):

The word neighbour includes all men living; for we are linked together by a common nature … The image of God ought to be particularly regarded as a sacred bond of union, but, for that very reason, no distinction is here made between friend and foe, nor can the wickedness of men set aside the right of nature. (p. 116)

A Christian understanding of coexistence therefore functions within the parameters of the previous theological principles and ecclesial structures. In a praxis and life approach to practical theological thinking, fides quaerens vivendi (faith seeking lifestyles), should be translated into a language and depiction that represents a systemic approach to the dynamics in civil societal relationships, namely the bipolarity of differentiation (particularity and diversity) and proximity (togetherness and belongingness).4 This challenge in a pastoral hermeneutics should bear in mind that coexistence is in essence a paradoxical category and not a harmonious category; it is dynamic and not static; bipolar (and-and) and not polar (either-or).

Coexistence: The paradoxical mode of living together

Being-with in social dynamics and cultural diversity has to deal with the paradoxical, existential bipolarities of differentiation (with danger of resistance) and integration (with the option of communality). The following diagram (Box 1) depicts the bipolarities as interconnected; a kind of simultaneous and-and reality with then the in-between option of coexistence. The latter should be viewed as a praxis principle in a practical theological approach to the question how to deal with cultural diversity in a more appropriate way. It gives an indication of what is meant by an intercultural hermeneutics in a practical theology of fides quaerens vivendi: faith seeking different styles and modes of living together.

BOX 1: The dynamics of differentiation and integration.

In a praxis design for social coexistence, one should always take these polarities into consideration in order to prevent the impression that coexistence is only a romantic concept of self-maintenance at the expense of the other; an artificial hide-and-seek polity of segregation (and eventual resistance and destroy of the other), or an ideology of utopian unification (eventual assimilation and negation of the other). Coexistence is therefore not a static condition or eventual ‘solution’. It is merely a description of a hermeneutical dynamics and reality, namely that togetherness, interconnectedness and a sense of belongingness is not a peaceful settlement. It is, however, a complex network of finding centrifugal communalities that reframe diversity and schismic tensions into a different and new framework of constructive and positive paradigms: patterns of thinking and idea-matic perspectives for lifestyles (vivendi) that will enrich and not destroy.

The suggestion to describe practical theology as fides quaerens vivendi (faith seeking lifestyles), means to link praxis thinking to lifestyles that will capture the core elements of pastoral thinking. Vivendi (lifestyles) should be read an understood as vivid embodiments of the fruits of the Spirit and expressions or enfleshments of the passio Dei principle in daily life experiences. Due to the factor of intersubjectivity and the mutuality of human relationships in multicultural contexts, coexistence could be viewed as an inevitable part of the dynamics of life. Lifestyles do not function in empty spaces, but in local places and by means of habitus (attitude and aptitude).

With reference to the theory of complexity in a networking dynamics of a systemic understanding of coexistence within social plurality and cultural diversity, one should deal simultaneously with the following dynamic factors that contribute to meaningful lifestyles (vivendi-categories):

  • Realistic differentiation: being-with always presupposes the realism of separation within cultural diversity. It poses the reality of: I am different. Identity has to do with a kind of personal continuity within discontinuity. It deals with the quest for acknowledgement – the identity factor.
  • Accommodative togetherness: being-with presupposes sensitivity on an affective level for intersubjective togetherness and symbols that can transcend schismatic differences and xenophobic prejudices. Togetherness is about a basic sense of belongingness. Accommodation deals with the quest for a common place of shared values: I belong to – the coherence and tolerance factor.
  • Liberty of democratisation: being-with in a social dynamic operates within the parameters of the human plight for rights and dignity. Liberty as the need for freedom deals with the quest for constitutional safeguarding within civil societal structures for daily living: I need peace free from violence and abuse – the judicial factor.
  • Communality of integrative sharing: being-with presupposes the mutuality of empathetic acceptance, cultural exchange and sensitive sharing. Integration does not mean assimilation of the other in a process of social development, but an experience of communal and cooperative sharing of values, needs, expectations and functions: I am a citizen in this place and space together with others (Umuntu ungumuntu ngabantu or motho ke motho ka batho – approximately translated as: ‘A person is a person through other people’ (Mtetwa 1996, 24) – the inclusive factor.
  • Intimacy of unconditional acceptance: being-with is based on the principle of solidarity and empathetic sensitivity: I am accepted unconditionally for who I am without the fear for rejection – the humane philanthropic factor (love).
  • Spontaneity of imaginative participation: being-with is based on the principle of creativity and the ability to envision something new and different. It deals with quest for sincere cooperative partnership in terms of a shared future and the anticipation of an alternative option of coexistence. Participation thus needs the creativity of imagining a new society: I am dreaming of a different future society – the utopian factor.
  • Healing of societal wholeness: being-with anticipates a vivid hope of human well-being and civil societal welfare. Processes of relational coexistence are enhanced by means of mutual empowerment and intercultural enrichment: I need support and comfort in order to become ‘whole’ again – the caregiving and the diaconic outreach factor.
  • Peaceful cooperation of civil coexistence: being-with presupposes a very specific stance and disposition within political structures and civil societal attempts to deal with the complexity of polarisation: the integration – segregation tension. In this regard, the church can play an important role by trying to create constructive dialogue and provide public forums where different groups can meet in order to discuss various options for cooperation on the basis of mutual sharing, cultural exchange, equal partnership and co-humane trust building. In order to establish such a forum, it should be based on the principle of peaceful coexistence. This attempt should be performed as an exemplification of sensitive participation – the compassionate being-with factor.

Coexistence is an existential category that refers to the quest of livingly meaningful together within a shared space wherein it is possible to mutually exchange norms, values, philosophies of life, belief systems in such a way that centrifugal energy is released. Centrifugal energy like hopeful anticipation, courageous decision-making and creative imagining is necessary in order to move beyond schisms into peaceful settlements.

The following question comes into play: In the light of the previous vivendi-categories (being-with categories), what other constituents and directives are necessary to put a principle of coexistence into practice? One can call them categories that demarcate the praxis of coexistence and gives profile to an anatomy, body of coexistence. Altogether, the viviendi-categories and descriptive praxis categories create a vivid spiritual network of coexistent wholeness.

Diagnostic anatomy of coexistent wholeness: A pastoral understanding of social and political dynamics

Mamphela Ramphele (2012:184–195) refers to the Letsema Circle Open Hand Approach that captures co-categories that can help to explain the praxis dynamics of coexistence:

  • codiscover – identifying assets residing in communities that unleashes energy for sustainable development;
  • coinvest – processes that can help communities to decide on where they will invest their time, energy and resources toward becoming self-reliant;
  • cocreate – new ways of building community skills, shifting mindsets and finding resources to develop community initiatives;
  • coinitiate – facilitating conative factors that bring willing communities together with government, community agents and other partners;
  • coinspire – address fundamental human condition of pain, joy, hope and fear through proprietary methods to remove ‘social trauma’ and learned helplessness;
  • communicate – collecting stories, and radiate them to fuel the social development, to track progress and to ensure accountability, to work together with the media that help to conceptualise painful issues.

I want to add another co-factor which determines the character of meaningful coexistence:

Codialoguing within encounters of synchronicity. Three spiritual issues are then coming together within the happenstance of coexistence, namely:

  • The creation of safe spaces of caring and understanding (space as a hospitium publicum). Hospitium publicum is about creating spaces for distressed, homeless, displaced and dislocated people; spaces where they can be helped to come in contact with their very being in order to reorientate within the existential experience of disorientation. It is about a space wherein one can be reconnected to a meaningful framework that contributes to a sense of meaning, purposefulness and communion.
  • Encounters of dialoguing probing into the metarealm of paradigms – patterns of thinking; the philosophical, ideamatic realm of life. With dialogue is then meant an existential mode of reasoning on a metarealm of worldviews – the ability to probe beyond achievement into the flow of meaning and the economy of means (Jaworski 1996:13)
  • Synchronicity: A kind of existential coincidence wherein reorientation and paradigmatic transformation becomes possible in order to explore viable options and alternatives. According to Jaworski (1996:ix), synchronicity5 is more or less the same as what Jung had described as a meaningful coincidence of two or more moments where something other than the probability of a chance is involved. Synchronicity is a concept which holds that events are ‘meaningful coincidences’ if they occur with no causal relationship, yet seem to be meaningfully related. Jung’s belief was that, just as events may be connected by causality, they may also be connected by meaning. Events connected by meaning need not have an explanation in terms of causality. This does not generally contradict the axiom of causality except in specific cases.

In a nutshell, coexistence is about the mutuality of envisioning, changing mindsets, existential reorientation, probing into the dimension of ideas and philosophical worldviews, healing and enrichment in order to reframe paradigms and to restructure society6 according to democratic principles, constitutional coherence and purposeful directives. It wants to establish co-accommodation, co-humane tolerance and an ethos and habitus of cooperation and mutual trust. Peace is about the sustainability of trust and self-confidence.

Coexistence should then be directed by the following spiritual categories (directives for meaningful and significant change; See diagram: Dynamics of networking coexistence):

  • Sharing and exchange: co-sharing (A) – the intention is to enrich and to empower.
  • Imagination and vision: co-envisioning (B) – the intention is to anticipate something new.
  • Solidarity and participation: cooperative action (C) – the intention is to do, act and transform.
  • Caring and charity: compassionate being-with (D) – the intention is to display sensitivity, to affirm and to heal.

The four directives are bracketed by two telic dimensions in the teleology of Christian wisdom thinking, namely trust (the dimension of faith – stability and continuity) and hope (the dimension of future anticipation – creativity and imagination). Trust refers to faithfulness and sustainability – the need for continuity. Hope refers to anticipation and transcending acts of expectation – the need for something new and accomplishment (life fulfilment).

The overall coherence factor within this diagram for a hermeneutical understanding of the dynamics of a networking coexistence is the Christian ethos of sacrificial love (cruciform love). Coexistence is then determined and directed by a spiritual factor that supplies sustainability and continuity within the precarious and intermittent dynamics of life events and human relationships. Continuity points to the most basic, spiritual need in live, i.e. intimacy and the need to be accepted unconditionally for who you are without the fear for rejection and humiliation.

In a praxis approach, the challenge in a practical theology of habitus, my proposition is that a diagnostic chart can be most helpful in pastoral hermeneutics. The chart must be seen as a kind of experimental depiction of all the different components of coexistence, creating in their interconnectedness, a sense of belongingness and wholeness. One can say that it is a depiction of the spiritual dynamics of networking coexistence within a practical theological structure and bipolar, spiritual (meaning-giving directives) dynamics.

Towards a diagnostic approach in a pastoral hermeneutics of networking coexistence

It is my contention that conceptualisation should be translated into a diagrammatic depiction in order to see the bigger picture (See Figure 2). It creates a kind of vision for intercultural engagements. In terms of the presupposition of the article, namely that a spiritual ethos of cruciform love is foundational to ethics within practical theology, the depiction links a Christian spiritual approach to the existential dynamics of interculturality.

FIGURE 2: Dynamics of networking coexistence.

With peace in a practical theological framework is meant not the absence of violence and friction; it is not about balance and harmony. Peace is an indication of the theological principles of reconciliation, forgiveness, mercy, justice and unconditional cruciform love. Peace is about a sacrificial ethos as displayed by the fruits of the Spirit (charisma).

A theology of coexistence is founded and structured by covenantal thinking:

  • Covenant as divine promise: I will be your God (sacrifice motif and mode – a theology of the cross).
  • Covenant as divine demonstration: I will be there where you are (exodus motif and mode – a theology of homo viator).
  • Covenant as divine illustration: I will display mercy and compassion (sacramental motif and mode – a theology of the eucharist).
  • Covenant as divine invitation: I will be your host (hospitable motif and mode – a theology of home).
  • Covenant as divine reaching out: I will serve you (diaconic motif and mode – a theology of charity).
  • Covenant as divine being-amongst: I will have fellowship with you (koinonic motif and mode – a theology of worship and praise).

The attempt to design a kind of diagnostic chart for a pastoral hermeneutical approach to coexistence as a display of compassionate being-with, is not without possible dangers. Coexistence can easily become a façade for separation and eventual disintegration of peaceful interventions. Kunzig (2016:115) refers to the notion of a ‘parallel society’ that eventually can become a divided society. ‘In a word: Parallelgesellschaften, or “parallel societies”. … The part of cities where you wouldn’t know you were in Germany’ (Kunzig 2016:112).

The danger that coexistence can develop into a parallel option of selfish self-maintenance at the disadvantage of the other, is real. This is exactly what happened in the apartheid era to the policy of separate and parallel development. In order to counter and prevent this danger, the notion of compassionate being-with is introduced.


Coexistence as a social category is framed and demarcated by the bipolar dimensions of differentiation and integration. Within a diagnostic chart, positioning (habitus) is compiled by four possible dynamic options, namely exchange, vision, care and solidarity. These could be viewed as directives for healing and helping within the dynamics of civil societal politics.

Within the schism of #MustFall polarisation in South Africa, a practical theology of life styles (fides quaerens vivendi) should be informed and directed by a theology of compassion and an ecclesiology of being-there-where-they-are (the other, the outcast, the outsider, the alien – a grassroots approach). In this regard, theopaschitic theology, with the emphasis on the notion of a co-suffering God (passio Dei) should be exhibited within the social dynamics of life by means of the ecclesial structures of diakonia, paraklesis, koinonia, oikodomein and leitourgia. This ecclesial framework is based on an ethos of sacrificial love and theology of compassion.7

In order to put xenophilia into practice, a diagnostic chart has been developed in order to help and assist pastoral caregivers in their participation in the social unrest. A pastoral approach should exemplify love as critical solidarity with people on grassroots level; people who are directly affected by schisms in the South African society in their search for a peaceful and meaningful settlement of conflict. In this regard xenophobia should be replaced by xenophilia: the cruciform love of Christian spirituality.


Competing interests

The author declares that he has no financial or personal relationships which may have inappropriately influenced him in writing this article.


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1. Practical theology deals with praxis questions, existential life issues, the why and how of human actions and their connection to the praxis of God; the how of God within different cultural contexts (compassionate being-with). All theology must in a certain sense become ‘practical theology’. Therefore, theology is not just about the practice (strategies for ministry of the Word, or how to change the community) but about the praxis (the exposure of theology’s theory through reflection about internalised ideas and intentions basic to human conduct and actions). ‘Practical’ in practical theology is demarcated by the ‘presence of God’. This presence of God is an ‘experiential reality’ through his Spirit, expressed in the confession: I believe in God. The theological basis for this confession and profession of faith is the incarnation, the crucifixion, resurrection and the indwelling presence of God in this world (pneumatological inhabitation; cf. Louw 2016).

2. In defining ubuntu, Gathogo (2008:45) points out that it is critical to underline that it is described differently amongst the various African communities.

For instance it is called Uhu among the Shona of Zimbabwe; Ubuntu among the Ngunie speakers of Southern Africa; Utu among the Swahili speakers of East Africa; and Umundu among the Kikuyu of Kenya, among others.’ (p. 45)

3. See in this regard the ‘systemischen Seelsorgermodel’ (Schneider-Harpprecht 2002:47).

4. R. Ganzevoort (2002:34–42) relates the spiritual care of human beings (geestelijke verzorging) to the existential conditions of life as demarcated by transience, guilt and violence.

5. Jung variously defined synchronicity as an ‘acausal connecting (togetherness) principle’, ‘meaningful coincidence’, and ‘acausal parallelism’. This article is included in his Collected Works, volume 8: ‘Synchronicity’.

6. Research in postcolonial theory refers to a quest for a beyond-approach; i.e. the imperative to move further than merely a postcolonial critique. The colonised must rise above their colonised beings (Memmi 1974:195–196).

7. According to Davies (2001:21), the essence of compassion is contracted by the principle of self-denying or kenotic love (a dispossesive and decentred model of the self). Compassion operates on the basis of self-emptying for the sake of the other. It contains a rational component based on altruistic ethics (the cognitive structure of compassion); an emotional component based on an attitude of empathy (the affective component of compassion); a volitional component based on the intentionality to be open for the other or Other (the conative component of compassion), as well as a spiritual component based on the encounter with the kenotic love of Christ – the compassion of God (the theological and divine or transcendent component of compassion). The latter constitutes the metaphysical horizon of openness and transcending hope.

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