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Studia Historiae Ecclesiasticae

On-line version ISSN 2412-4265
Print version ISSN 1017-0499


VAN DER MERWE, Johan. From "Blood River" to "Belhar": a bridge too far?. Studia Hist. Ecc. [online]. 2014, vol.40, n.1, pp.137-155. ISSN 2412-4265.

2013 saw the 175th commemoration of the Great Trek. The festivities reached a climax on 16 December when many Afrikaners celebrated the Vow in commemoration of victory of the Voortrekkers against the Zulus at Blood River. At the same time the Dutch Reformed Church to whom the majority of Afrikaners belong decided at its General Synod in 2011 to start a process to make the Confession of Belhar part of the confessional basis of the church. This was followed up with a proposal for a new Article 1 of the Church order which included the Confession of Belhar at the 2013 General Synod. While Blood River and the Vow forms part of the foundation on which Afrikaner nationalism, which led to apartheid, was built, the Confession of Belhar constitutes the struggle against the very policy of apartheid. This article asks the question of whether it is possible to make a mind shift away from Blood River and what it stands for to Belhar, to unity, to reconciliation and to justice. To answer this question, the change that took place in the Dutch Reformed Church Bloemfontein, better known as Tweetoringkerk, as well as the decision of the recent synod serve as two examples to show that for some members of the church it may indeed still be a bridge too far.

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