Valerie Anderson is the Conference Producer for The Justice Conference South Africa. She is committed to inspiring creativity, collaboration and generosity and engaging people in the long and steady pursuit of justice.
Facing the Challenges to Build a More Harmonious South Africa
“Forty years ago, the youth of South Africa rose up in protest against apartheid in a movement that changed the course of South African history and forged a generation of activists that ultimately caused the law of apartheid to crumble. Followers of Jesus were a key catalyst of this movement, giving it energy, ideas and hope.”
“Over the past two years, we have seen the emergence of a new generation of young South African activists rising up with a determination to finish what their elders started, to see the spirit of apartheid fall. These conversations and movements in the public space have highlighted the need for deep transformative work in multiple sectors of society – access to health care, improvements in the criminal justice system, affordable housing, adequate sanitation and basic service delivery, land redistribution, decolonisation of educational and theological spaces, poverty reduction and the narrowing of the income inequality gap, including the call for a living wage.”
“Young Christian leaders have participated and engaged enthusiastically, and inspirationally, in this movement, speaking out boldly into the economic, educational, social and political realms. They have garnered national attention, have walked boldly in the public space, and have spoken truth to power at every turn.”
Valerie believes that these young leaders will frame the struggle for justice in South Africa over the next two decades. “Over and again, we have heard South Africans young and old alike, struggle to find coherence between their faith and their pursuit of a just world. This disconnect between the theology we hear preached in church and the theology we’re walking into on the streets has left some disillusioned and discouraged. Many students have struggled to find the language of justice they hear spoken by their peers echoed back to them by their churches, by their pastoral leadership, or in their reading of Scripture.”
“At the 2017 Justice Conference, we asked participants what they felt were the top 5 most pressing justice concerns facing their community. Overwhelmingly, a ‘disconnected church’ was taken as the most pressing justice issue.” But what do people mean when they talk about a ‘disconnected church’? “Perhaps we’re talking about a body of Christ, both communal and institutional, that is unaware of the social context in which it moves and is struggling to speak into the spaces of deepest pain in our world. A disconnected church is one that still overwhelmingly sees justice as a mission, rather than as a theological imperative. Justice speaks to the nature of God’s heart and character. It speaks to the theological vision of God’s kingdom coming to earth. It speaks to who we are, and how we act as human beings.”
“We, like the young leaders we see in the public arena, are thirsty for a faith that has something significant to say – in thought, in word, and indeed – to the fight for justice, we’re finding ourselves engaged in day to day. We stand at a critical juncture in our history: teetering between hope and desperation, restoration and destruction, faith and fear. It’s time for us to put Jesus and Justice back together – first in our theology and then in our lives.”
Engaging in the Process of Change
“The Justice Conference seeks to nurture a community of engaged Jesus-followers and Justice-doers in South Africa. We believe that this is done holistically by raising social consciousness about current justice issues in South Africa and globally; disrupting theological paradigms and giving tools and lenses for reading and understanding the God-story through Scripture; creating spaces to engage with prophetic imagination and nurturing dreamers and rabble-rousers to paint a vision for a new reality; and dismantling the paralysis of inaction to move people from merely talking about justice, to doing justice. The inaugural Justice Conference South Africa took place on March 17 & 18, 2017 in Cape Town – a two-day event filled with plenary talks, panel conversations, spoken word, art, dance, music, worship, prayer, and conversation spaces.”
Taking the Lead on The Way Forward
“To do this work in the fraught South African context, we need to learn – as individuals and as communities – how to stay in the uncomfortable spaces for longer so that the deep transformative work has time and space to take place. So often we attempt to rush the work of change – ‘How quickly can we get from our current reality to a preferred reality?’ we ask.”
Valerie believes that this kind of question only leads to quick-fix behavioural changes that give the appearance that transformation has taken place, but in fact leave our deeper beliefs, patterns of behaviour, attitudes, assumptions and world-views untouched. “How might we sustain the disequilibrium in a way that is healthy and takes the justice conversation in South Africa deeper, so that we can begin to ask that all-important question: How then shall we live?”
More about Valerie Anderson
“I have a deep passion for creating environments in which others can thrive and nurturing spaces for shalom and fullness of life. I believe that “thy kingdom come on earth, as it is in heaven”, is the most important prophetic invitation for our time. Another world is not only possible; it is imminent.”
Valerie holds an MPhil in Development Studies (UCT) and has worked in development and transformation spaces at uThando leNkosi, the Human Sciences Research Council (Cape Town), and The Simple Way (Philadelphia). While in the US, she served as Operations Director for Common Change, a collaborative giving platform helping people to pool resources with people they know, to share with people they care about. In 2015, she returned to South Africa and launched Common Change locally. Valerie currently serves as the Conference Producer for The Justice Conference South Africa.