Religion in Public Life: ME 1999

Religion in Public Life in Post-Apartheid South Africa: Multi-Event 1999 Resources

Transforming Public Life: Religion in the Making of Cultural Values and Public Policy
From the beginning of 1998 through to February 1999, RICSA organized and hosted a major series of events and activities known as the Multi-Event 1999 on religion in public life in post-Apartheid South Africa, backed by a Management Board consisting of prominent leaders in religion and society. 

The overall process addressed three interrelated areas: The task of constituting a civil public, the work of forming the cultural bases of a civil public, and the responsibility for shaping public policy. It emphasised the role of eligious experiences, phenomena and institutions in providing particular perspectives upon the transformation of public life and the making of public policy.

Three main processes defined the ME99:

  1. a year-long engagement with a dozen well established and locally credible community based organizations from around South Africa, designed to prepare them and their representatives for full participation in the final concluding conference;
  2. a three-day Academic Workshop in late 1998 aimed at defining as fully as possible the parameters and preparing the key themes that needed to be addressed in the final concluding conference;
  3. and the final conference itself, a complex set of interactions in its own right, between religious leaders, political leaders (including then Vice-President Mbeki), NGO leaders, the 12 community- ased organizations already noted, and academics, that took place over seven days in February, 1999. Approximately 220 people participated in the final conference, including forty or so specifically targeted international guests with special expertise ofrelevance to the themes under consideration.

Proceedings of the meetings and related documents represent an important historical point in South Africa’s rethinking of the significance of religion in public life in a post-Apartheid state, and because much of what was discussed in that context has far wider relevance well beyond South Africa, some of it is still of signficance today.

The main themes of the Final Conference included:
"African Renaissance" | Abuse of women & children | Faith & health | AIDS/HIV | Media & religion | Crime & corruption | Corporatee values & practice | Poverty & Jubilee 2000 | Religion & labour |
Globalization, poverty, women & the church | Land & faith communities | Ecojustice & religious communities | Religion, the Arts & transformation | Beyond the TRC | Nation state and xenophobia | Science & religion.

In addition, several public meetings and three International Symposia Roundtables were held, while three parallel meetings also formed part of the whole: The Western Cape Faith Health Consortium; the South African  Science and Religion Forum; and, the Alternative Budget Workshop.

Spin-offs from the ME99 included a series of workshops co-sponsored by the Centre for the Study of Religion at UCT and the World Conference on Religion and Peace at the Parliament of the World's Religions in Cape Town in December 1999, and a major initiative on religion and public health known as the African Religious Health Assets Programme (now the International Religious Health Assets Programme under the leadership of Dr Jill Olivier in UCT’s School of Public Health & Family Medicine).


Research Report on the Participation of Eleven Community-Based Organisations in the Multi-Event 1999 on "Religion in Public Life", by Jacques de Wet and Monique Viljoen

The report covers the following:

  • Introduction • Objectives
  • Action Research: What it is and why it is used
  • The community groups process
  • The first workshop
  • Between workshops
  • The second workshop
  • The community groups at the Multi-Event 1999
  • Evaluation of the ME99 -- The community groups' perspective
  • Some further comments by representatives of the community groups
  • Some comments by the reporters • Appendix 1: A note on action research by Jacques de Wet
  • Appendix 2: Agenda of workshop 1 summary of the proceedings
  • Appendix 4: The community groups' speech • Appendix 5: Examples of community group presentations included in mini-workshops at ME99