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Anti-Apartheid Activist to Speak at Southwestern Oct. 4

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    Allan Boesak

Allan Boesak will speak at chapel service and give a public lecture

Allan Boesak, an important figure in South Africa’s anti-apartheid movement, will speak at Southwestern University on Thursday, Oct. 4. Boesak will give a talk at 4 p.m. in Mood Atrium titled “’The Glory that is Not Steeped in Blood’: War and Peace in a Globalized World.” The lecture is free and open to the public.

Boesak also will give an address titled “Quietly Bringing Justice” at Southwestern’s 11:30 a.m. chapel service Oct. 4.

A native of Kakamas in the Northern Cape province of South Africa, Boesak entered the University of the Western Cape at the age of 17 to study for the ministry. He was ordained in 1968 and served his first congregation at Immanuel Dutch Reformed Mission Church, Paarl in the Western Cape.

Two events early on in Boesak’s ministry irrevocably changed his life. The first was the implementation of the Group Areas Act in Northern Paarl, where his church was situated. Boesak learned that he could not minister, preach nor serve God’s people if he did not face honestly the political realities that daily destroyed the lives of the members of his church. The second event was the visit of Professor Johannes Verkuyl from the Free University in Amsterdam. This opened the way for him to leave South Africa and earn his doctorate in theology from the Theological University of Kampen.

Returning to South Africa in 1976 shortly after the Soweto uprisings, Boesak was immediately plunged in the vortex of political and church activities that prevailed at the time. While serving as chaplain to students at the University of the Western Cape, The Peninsula Technikon and Bellville College for Teachers, he played a major role in the political student movement in the Western Cape and across the country. 

In 1982, Boesak was elected president of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, a position he held until 1991. He is largely credited for the leading ecumenical and public role the Dutch Reformed Mission church played nationally and internationally throughout that period.

In January 1983, Boesak’s call for a united front resulted in the formation of the United Democratic Front (UDF), an umbrella organization that quickly became the main anti-apartheid group in South Africa.

In 1990, Boesak resigned his ecumenical position and became involved with politics full-time. In 1991, he was elected chair of the Western Cape region of the African National Congress, which has ruled South Africa since the establishment of majority rule in May 1994. 

Boesak has written numerous articles on theology and politics and is the author of 16 books, including a 2009 book titled Running with Horses: Reflections of an Accidental Politician which details his 30 years as an activist.

Boesak has received numerous awards, including the Martin Luther King Jr. Prize from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, The Roy Wilkins Civil Rights Image Award from the NAACP, The Robert Kennedy Prize for Human Rights, and The Black Congressional Caucus Human Rights Award.

Boesak is currently Extraordinary Professor of Public Theology at the University of Stellenbosch. He serves as chair of the Advisory Council of the Trans-Atlantic Roundtable on Religion and Race and is a regular columnist on socio-political and religious issues in the secular press.

Boesak’s visit to Southwestern is sponsored by the Departments of History, Political Science, and Religion; the International Studies Program; the Global Citizens Fund; the Slover Fund; and the Willson Lectures. For more information, call 512-863-1527 or write   religiouslife@southwestern.edu.