Bishop Paul Verryn knew he had a problem when xenophobic violence erupted in South Africa in May 2008 and the threat of it spreading to Central Methodist Church in downtown Johannesburg became very real. Already there were over a thousand migrants living in the church, most of them having fled across the Zimbabwe border in search of a life beyond poverty and political oppression. Every square inch was occupied – at night men, women and children squeezed into makeshift sleeping places, on and beneath pews in the sanctuary and the chapel, and on every step of the staircases, on landings and in hallways. On the sidewalk outside the building, hundreds more lay head to toe under threadbare blankets.
Christa Kuljian’s Sanctuary: How an Inner-city Church Spilled onto a Sidewalk is based on how the Central Methodist Church in downtown Johannesburg and its controversial Bishop Paul Verryn came to offer refuge to people who had nowhere else to turn. Many ask, how did a place of worship turn into a shelter for thousands of refugees? Where did they come from? Why are they still there? Seeking to answer such questions, Kuljian fluently combines many elements: interviews with members of the refugee community and residents of the Church, and key figures like the head of Central Methodist, who has often been at the centre of the storm; historical material on the church and its role in the city since the early years; and an understanding of urban dynamics, migrancy, and South African and southern African politics.
Kuljian takes readers on a historic journey of how Central Methodist became a visible reminder of so many of the challenges facing Johannesburg and South Africa – poverty, migration, xenophobia, policing, inner-city housing and shelter, the vulnerable position of women and children, and the gap between rich and poor.
A complex, compelling book that grapples with some of South Africa’s most urgent social problems as they are refracted through one appalling, frustrating, inspiring place; “The story will always be told of how people came to Central Methodist and there was a place for them.”
About the Author
Christa Kuljian is a freelance writer, who holds a BA from Harvard (1984), a Masters in Public Affairs from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton (1989), and an MA in Creative Writing from the University of the Witwatersrand (2007), focusing on narrative non-fiction. As director of the C. S. Mott Foundation in South Africa from 1992–2003, she was in a position to support the work of scores of organisations in the fields of legal rights and of women’s development, encouraging community participation in South Africa’s new democracy and strengthening the non-profit sector. In 2010, she was awarded the Ruth First Fellowship at Wits Journalism and gave the Ruth First Memorial Lecture on the refugee crisis at the Central Methodist Church in Johannesburg, which led to her writing Sanctuary, her first book.
|Parameters of Book: Book|
|Sub-title:||How an Inner-city Church Spilled onto a Sidewalk|
|mobi file ISNB:||9781431405145|
|Colour:||Black & White with image section|
|Publication Date:||February 2013|