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Retired prof wants to bring youths hope

Where were you born and raised? I was born in Pretoria on 18 March 1939, but grew up in Cape Town.

Why did you retire in Hermanus? I have been living in Hermanus for the last 16 years. Hermanus has always been familiar to me since I visited the area when I was still a young boy.

What changes have you noticed in Hermanus now from when you were younger? When I visited in 1952 there were not as many developments as there is now. It was a small village then and now it is a big town with a lot of new buildings and people.

Where did you complete your studies? I first studied at the University of Cape Town in 1956 for a BA. I then completed the course at Rhodes University and also obtained a Bachelor in Theology. I received my Masters in Theology from Chicago Theological Seminary. I also became a Doctor of Theology from Unisa in 1972 and Doctor of Social Science at the University of Cape Town in 1991. I have received four honorary doctorates (Rhodes, Stellenbosch, Chicago, Ottawa).

Can you tell me about your career? I was a minister in Durban for 8 years. In 1973 I started teaching religious studies at the University of Cape Town and continued for for 30 years till I retired. I then became what they call an “extra ordinary” professor at Stellenbosch University.

What are the biggest challenges faced by religious communities, especially the Christian community? There are so many challenges, it is difficult to point out just one. One which I can point out is learning to be accepting of and tolerating of other religious traditions than your own.

When did you write your first book? My first book was published in 1977 and I named it The church struggle in South Africa.

Did you face any challenges? The only challenge I faced was that the book was not allowed to be kept in government libraries, but that was only for a short while. None of my other books were banned although they were mostly critical about apartheid.

How did the idea of a Varsity in Hermanus come about? It was a request made by some people of Zwelihle. They approached me to assist in making it happen. It was seen by them as a sign of hope for the future. My love for academics also contributed to getting involved.

Do you have words of encouragement for the young people? I feel strongly that education is important and that the Hermanus Varsity will provide the opportunities for young people which they did not have before. The young people should not rely on the older generation for shaping their future, but take responsibility for the future and get the best education possible in order to make a difference.

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