A high-level delegation of the World Council of Churches (WCC), who are being hosted by the South African Council of Churches (SACC) from 7-12 December 2019, have today kicked-off their official WCC Pilgrim Team Visit to South Africa with a courtesy call on H.E. President Cyril Ramaphosa and some Cabinet Ministers, at Lakes Hotel, in Benoni. 

This WCC visit is a historic occasion as it is the first time in a number of years that a delegation of the WCC has come officially on a justice mission to South Africa. The WCC first came in this manner after the Sharpeville massacre of 1960, and again to support the SACC when the apartheid government hauled the Council before the Eloff Commission in 1982, to try and prove that it was not practicing a Christian ministry. This was during Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu’s time as General Secretary of SACC, from 1978 to 1985. 

This particular Pilgrim Team Visit (PVT), is occasioned by two concerning issues that have plagued our country, especially in recent months, these being: the extremely worrying levels of Gender-Based Violence and Femicide in South Africa; as well as incidents of violence toward foreign nationals, which recently erupted again in different parts of the country, and widely reported both by local and global media. The WCC delegation, led by the General Secretary of the World Council of Churches Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, along with the Deputy General Secretary, Prof. Dr Isabel Apawo Phiri, includes members of the WCC’s Churches’ Commission for International Affairs, whose Moderator is Rev. Frank Chikane of South Africa.

“South Africa has a very special place in the history and the heart of the WCC and its leadership, also today. The struggle for justice and human rights and dignity in the WCC Program To Combat Racism, contributed to change the reality in your country, but it also changed the churches worldwide. South Africa has been a lighthouse in the world for how to work together for truth, justice and peace, as churches seeking unity,” said Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit. “Today we learn how the people in South Africa and in the neighbouring countries struggle again with violence and economic and racist injustices, and it is time to visit again as pilgrims of justice and peace,” he added.

The five day programme, which started with the group attending Sunday services at five churches in Gauteng, will also include further engagements with government officials, civil society organisations, activists, some Chapter 9 institutions, church leaders, and members of the public. The delegation will also have the opportunity to conduct field visits to women’s shelters and shelters for foreign nationals. The main objectives of the PTVs include to demonstrate solidarity with people who live in the context of violence and oppression, deepen contacts and solidify ecumenical bonds, strengthen support to those who work in seeking peace and creating conditions to overcome injustice and violence, and to advocate within international and national contexts.

On Sunday 8 September, during a week of heightened tensions and media coverage on both these issues, the SACC held a National Prayer Service Against Xenophobic Violence and Gender Based Violence at the Central Methodist Church, in the Johannesburg CBD. Unfortunately, and especially in the case of GBV, we have seen even more horrific reports almost daily, of gross harm against women and children. This even during the current period of the ‘16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children’ campaign.  

“The churches of the world, through the WCC, have heard and wish to hear from us and various stakeholders how we see the situation and what we are doing about it, so that they can accompany us in any efforts we may be making,” said Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana, General Secretary of the SACC.

This WCC Pilgrim Team Visit is intended to be both a journey of solidarity and spirituality which seeks a mutual transformation between people - both those who have visited and those who have been visited – walking together on a Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace.  

WW Pilgrim Team Visit Highlights:

Please Note: The below are learning sessions for the WCC delegation and identified participants only, however media are invited between 16:10 and 17:00 to conduct interviews to get reflections on the day from the delegation and programme participants. 

Monday, 9th December 2019

  • Courtesy call with the President of the Republic, H.E Cyril Ramaphosa, and some Cabinet Ministers at Lakes Hotel & Conference Centre, Benoni to broadly discuss Gender Based Violence and Violence on Foreign Nationals.
  • Meeting with Dr. Aaron Motsoaledi, Minister of Home Affairs, Lakes Hotel & Conference Centre, Benoni to discuss in more detail the issues of migration and refugee seekers’ management.
  • Policy Engagement at Sunnyside Park Hotel, Parktown – The afternoon session will focus on engaging organisations that deal with GBV and Xenophobia related policy matters, including SA’s Chapter 9 Institutions and NGO’s working in these spaces, including the following:

14:00 – 16:00

    • Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) – Represented by Commissioner Mbuyiselo Botha
    • The Presidential Interim Steering Committee on Gender Based Violence and Femicide – Represented by Advocate Brenda Madumise, Co-chair of Committee,
    • Sonke Gender Justice – Represented by Rev. Bafana Khumalo
    • Not In My Name SA – Represented by Mr Siyabulela Jentile, Founder and President.
    • South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) – Represented by Commissioner Chris Nissen
    • Crisis Action – Represented by Elinor Sisulu, Senior Advisor

Tuesday, 10th December 2019

Please Note: The below are learning sessions for the WCC delegation and identified participants only, however media are invited between 16:10 and 17:00 to conduct interviews to get reflections on the day from the delegation and programme participants.

  • NGO Engagements and Field Visits – This day will be dedicated to engaging organisations and activists on the ground. This will include site visits to projects run by them and time engaging with those directly affected.

09:00 – 14:00

WCC GBV Group:

POWA (People Against Women Abuse) -

10:00 -11:00 Visit to the ‘Republic of Sexual Abuse’ exhibition in Rosebank, a walk-through with POWA representative.
11:00 – 14:00 Visit to POWA women’s shelter.

WCC Xenophobia Group:

Northeastern Evangelical Lutheran Church (Marabastad, Pretoria)

09:00 – 10:00 City Centre Refugee Counselling Facility
10:30 – 12:30 Marabastad Foreign National Centre
15:00 – 17:00 Meeting with foreign national Pastors

Wednesday, 11th December 2019

  • Church Engagement Day - Convening with SACC member church representatives.
  • Case studies/presentations of successful church community projects will also be shared.


For more information and interview requests contact:

Ms Moagisi Sibanda
Director Communications and Programmes
South African Council of Churches (SACC)
Tel: +2782 295 1581 
Visit us online:
Follow us on Twitter: @OfficialSACC 

Ms Marianne Ejdersten
Director of Communication
World Council of Churches (WCC)
Tel: +41795076363 (WhatsApp)
Visit us online:
Follow us on Twitter: @oikoumene