Veteran human rights activist honoured

Veteran human rights activist Coral Vinsen and Nomabelu Mvambo-Dandala, Executive Director, Diakonia Council of Churches.

THE Diakonia Council of Churches hosted the 12th Diakonia Lecture, which included the presentation of the 11th Diakonia Human Rights Award to veteran human rights activist Coral Vinsen on Friday.

Keynote speaker at the event was Sello Hatang, Chief Executive Officer of the Nelson Mandela Foundation and archivist, at the Diakonia Centre.

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Speaking on the evening, Hatang, who has a deep love, commitment and passion for South Africa, said it was not just his responsibility, but the responsibility of all South Africans to, “help build the country of our dreams. When I was asked to speak on the theme, it got me asking questions like: How do we harness the incredible power of the church as a force for good and for the church to treat not just the symptoms of poverty but also the underlying structures that underpin the system? How does the church become a beacon of hope for the people of the country without losing its way? A pilgrimage, a journey!”

“So, on this journey to justice, I would argue that the church must become a space of decolonization. The church should seek to break out of the comparative traditions of only looking to the west and instead look both internally and across the globe. It is within this broad paradigm of decolonization that new forms of thinking can emerge on what social justice looks like and what an universal humanity looks like. And it is from this that we can build the types of social justice activism required in our broken country. It is also from within this paradigm that we can imagine a truly liberatory future, a future that inspires hope in our people. This is the hope that exists not to placate but to liberate.

Coral Vinsen is a previous recipient of the Gandhi Development Trust’s prestigious Satyagraha Award, which honours people who have surmounted religion and ethnicity to promote democracy, peace and justice through non-violence.

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The 86-year-old who continues to be active and passionate about social justice said the high rate of unemployment, particularly of the youth, issues around education, inequality, health, poverty, food security, violence, particularly against women and children, climate change, energy and water issues and the shockingly high incidence of fraud and corruption were deeply worrying concerns for all.

“I wish to say that in all the things that I have done, I have always seen myself as part of a collective. My own life and my view of the world have been enriched because of others whom I have encountered along life’s path. They have challenged all of us to be the people we are and helped to shape the choices that we make,” Vinsen said.



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