A New Kairos Moment for South Africa

by Annemarie Paulin-Campbell

Two very different kinds of leadership. This is what we have seen dramatically highlighted through the events in our country over the past ten days.

In the Spiritual Exercises, St Ignatius asks us to reflect on the opposing leadership strategies of Christ versus that of Lucifer. He paints a graphic and metaphoric picture of Lucifer seated in that great plain of Babylon, on a throne of fire and smoke, a horrible and fearsome figure. He uses three strategies to ensnare people: the desire for riches, the desire for honour or status and pride. Once they are hooked by any, or all of these, they will do whatever they need to in order to protect them, whether lies, corruption, theft or manipulation of people.

In the second image we are invited to imagine Christ standing in a great plain in a lowly beautiful and attractive spot. His strategy is the exact opposite: simplicity instead of riches, service instead of honour, and humility instead of pride.

In our political landscape we have seen both kinds of leadership clearly in the last week. The leadership of extreme self-interest epitomised by Jacob Zuma, and the leadership example of service and humility epitomised by Ahmed Kathrada. The leadership of those who risk their positions by speaking truth to power, and the silence of a leadership whose agenda it is to protect their own interests even at the cost of the suffering of many others – most notably the poorest.

It is tempting to lose heart in the light of so many irresponsible and selfish decisions and their dire economic, social and political consequences. But as we move into Holy Week we can find hope in our faith. Acclaimed as King as he entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, Jesus was betrayed by the politics of those who hated the truth of his leadership. His message was so powerful that it unsettled those who wanted to keep their interests unchallenged. They wanted him dead.

At the time of his crucifixion it must have seemed that all hope was lost, that the one who could have done something was no more. But it is precisely because of the passion that we break through into the light of the Resurrection.

If the light of the Resurrection is to dawn for our beleaguered country we cannot hide ourselves away or sink into apathy or despair. The disciples were tempted to do this in the week of the passion. In our own context, while we are undoubtedly in a severe crisis, there have been glimmers of some hope as people begin to stand firm and to take risks. We have to each do what we can do within our particular sphere of influence. To act as if it all depends on us and to pray as if it all depends on God.

It is another Kairos moment of opportunity. If we face it courageously with God, the Resurrection will dawn.

Dr Annemarie Paulin-Campbell

Dr Annemarie Paulin-Campbell has worked in the area of Ignatian Spirituality for 19 years and heads up the work of the Jesuit Institute School of Spirituality. Her primary focus is the training and supervision of spiritual directors and the giving of retreats. She is also a registered Psychologist and her PhD focused on the interface between Christian Spirituality and Psychology. Annemarie is an editorial advisor to “The Way” journal of Spirituality and has authored a number of articles relating to the training of Spiritual Directors in an African context. She has contributed to several books, most recently co-authoring a book of Lenten Reflections: “Long Journey to the Resurrection”. She has contributed to international conferences and consultations in Spirituality in the United Kingdom; the United States; Rome; Spain, Ethiopia, Kenya and Zimbabwe.

a.paulin-campbell@jesuitinstitute.org.za @annemariepc_c
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