"Have you heard from Johannesburg?"

October 15, 2013 | 11 a.m.

Alumnus Seth Naicker leads social issues dialogue with students, faculty

Culture | Sean Miner for The Clarion

Odds are, you’ve participated in your share of handshakes, fist-bumps, high-fives, hugs and a long list of other intrapersonal gestures. Likely, however, you’ve never been “love-splashed.”

Anyone who attended “Have You Heard From Johannesburg?,” a dialogue featuring South African native and Bethel alumnus, Rev. Seth Naicker, experienced a significant amount of love-splashing.

It’s a simple gesture, as if the splasher were flicking water from his or her hands and fingers onto the splashee. The gesture is typically better received than splashing with real water.

The event with Naicker, which took place after chapel on Monday, Sept. 23, wasn’t all just metaphorical hand gestures. The name of the dialogue is shared with an award-winning film chronicling seven stories from post-Apartheid South Africa, matching well the tone and content of the Bethel event.

Naicker engaged with students and faculty, discussing ongoing issues with race relations, both in South Africa and the rest of the world. Relying on his own strong voice rather than a microphone, Naicker challenged the few dozen dialoguers to dive into conversation about racial differences and social inequality. He urged everyone in the room to leave behind feelings of discomfort in order to have meaningful dialogues that would facilitate social change.

Naicker’s life, filled with mission work and leadership in the church, serves as an inspiration for doing just that.

“Christ can go with me anywhere. I’m not afraid to be in any space,” he told the crowd passionately.

He urged the gathering of students and faculty to consider and promote the church as a hospital where the world can find healing, rather than a courtroom to judge followers and non-followers alike.

Naicker encouraged his audience to not only seek to understand “the other,” regardless of whatever difference could designate them as such, but also to love them. Though he hails from a nation that continues to struggle with social inequality, even nearly ten years after the end of Apartheid, Naicker was still insistent that “God calls [him] to love them.”

Most attendees of the dialogue walked through the doors already harboring a passion for reconciliation in Christ, and they certainly left with that passion bolstered and challenged. Naicker also spoke in several of Professor Curtiss DeYoung’s classes, including Introduction to Reconciliation Studies and Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Our Multicultural World.

“He’s very engaging,” noted DeYoung, whose history with Naicker goes back to his trips to South Africa in the early 2000s. It was at DeYoung’s suggestion that Naicker attended Bethel in his late twenties, double-majoring in reconciliation studies and biblical and theological studies before going on to earn a master of arts in organizational communication.

Naicker suggested that people, students particularly, “should be running to Bethel,” and then running away from it, into the world to spread God’s love. He also indicated that he “hopes that Bethel will stay true to its core value of reconciliation.”

Since finishing school, Naicker has worked with numerous social change organizations, and currently partners with IndiAfrique, which promotes social development in South Africa and beyond. The organization boldly combats social issues, in part by offering training and development in leadership.

Naicker’s visit was just one stop on a lengthy visit to the United States, during which he will be speaking at several other venues in New York, California and more. Accompanying Naicker is his wife Merrishia, his six-year-old daughter Mahalia Khanya and his two sons, Sedakiah Joaquin and Taidaeo Keddeh.

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