Witness: Bishop of Natal honoured in Germany


Bishop of Natal honoured in Germany
31 Oct 2009
Julia Denny-Dimitriou

THE Anglican Bishop of Natal, Bishop Rubin Phillip, received a prestigious international award in Germany last night.

In a ceremony in the Bremen Town Hall, Phillip received the 2009 International Bremen Peace Award in recognition of his work for “justice, peace and integrity of creation”. He received the award in the category for “persons in the public arena, who have shown sustainable and courageous commitment for peace and justice, especially in the ecumenical spirit of the reconciliation process”. He was accompanied by his wife, Rose.

Australian Susan Gilbey, who campaigns for the rights of asylum seekers, won the award for “an unknown peace worker”.

The award for “exemplary project work” went to Bulgarian organisations Animus and the Pulse Foundation for their work with women victims of human trafficking and forced prostitution in Western Europe.

The award includes 15?000 euros (about R170?000), which will go towards building a pre-primary school in Mpophomeni. Phillip said he and his wife are very committed to pre-primary education.

Phillip is chairman of the KZN Christian Council (KZNCC), which nominated him for the award. KZNCC CEO the Reverend Phumzile Zondi-Mabizela said the award is “fitting recognition of the bishop’s contribution to peace in Southern Africa and KwaZulu-Natal”.

“His activity is well documented, from the time of his involvement in the struggle against apartheid. He is on record as an independent prophetic voice at a time where the religious and the political leadership in southern Africa seem to be blunt and callous on matters of peace, justice, human rights, the plight of the poor and the integrity of creation.”

Zondi-Mabizela said Phillip worked actively to help victims of xenophobia and homeless people in the province, and is outspoken on human rights violations in Zimbabwe.

In April 2008, he and Paddy Kearney, executive of the Diakonia Council of Churches, got a court interdict to stop a Chinese ship headed for Durban harbour from unloading a consignment of weapons on their way to Zimbabwe.

More recently, he has championed the cause of Abahlali baseMjondolo, the body that represents the Kennedy Road informal settlers.

He called on the political leadership of KZN to “acknowledge the legitimacy of as Abahlali base Mjondolo as a democratically elected, non-aligned movement of the people and work with them and not against them”.

Phillip was a member of the Black Consciousness Movement and was deputy president of the South African Students’ Organisation (Saso) in 1969, when Steve Biko was president.

He was placed under house arrest from 1973 to 1976.

Launched in 2003 by the Threshold Foundation in Bremen, Germany, this award recognises individuals who, and organisations that “have the courage to cross thresholds” and display “exemplary commitment to justice, peace and integrity of creation”. It is awarded every two years in three different categories that cover the fields of reconciliation, human rights, countering racism, social justice, integrity of creation, and cross-cultural or cross-religious communication.

The Threshold Foundation was founded in 1979 by Ruth-Christa and Dirk Heinrichs, a stevedoring entrepreneur