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At one of its recent meetings the leadership of the Apostolic Faith Mission of South Africa (AFM) became aware of the art exhibition by one of the Matric students at Grantleigh Curro School in Richardsbay which has drawn strong emotions from Christian leaders.

The AFM leadership immediately sought clarity on this matter from the Headmaster of the school in their letter dated 22 October 2019. This was an attempt from the AFM leadership to first try and gain information from reliable sources so that we can respond in a balanced and informed way.    Unfortunately, the Headmaster did not respond or have the courtesy to acknowledge receipt of our letter.

The response from the CEO (Curro Holdings) on social media, dated 23 October 2019 to parents and guardians has been noted. The apology and acknowledgement by the CEO, that the duty of care and guidance offered to the learner did not always adequately address the underlying issues and potential implications of producing such visual art, are welcomed. However, the tone of the letter falls short of the school taking full responsibility for their failure to guide the learner. It is not only their ‘dereliction of duty’ that is a serious concern for us, but it is the fact that this piece of art has seriously compromised one of their mission statement goals, namely “To uphold Christian values and encourage principled, caring and responsible behaviour at all times.” Our displeasure is therefore with the school, and not the learner.

The kind of justification of the art, posted on social media and purportedly, coming from the student is not acceptable to us. We know for sure, that this interpretation would not have been accepted as sufficient, if it involved one of the other religions with which we share space in South Africa.

Although we respect the role of art to ask difficult questions and challenge culture and religion, our view is that the way in which this exhibition was allowed to be presented is insensitive, disrespectful and derogatory to the Christian faith. As one of the Christian Churches in South Africa we will not keep quiet when the image of Jesus, who is our Lord and Saviour is presented in a compromising and demeaning manner.  We are appalled by the way pages of the Bible were torn apart and used in some of the artworks in question.

The Headmaster should be held accountable for his failure to anticipate the negative impact that this controversial artwork that was displayed in the foyer of the school, would elicit and to give relevant leadership and guidance to the teachers and learners involved.

It is problematic for us when schools don’t live up to their mission statements. We will encourage our members to carefully assess the alignment between their own values and the values that this school and other Curro schools are really subscribing to and practice.

Date of Release: 1 November 2019

Past. M.G. Mahlobo

(President of the AFM of SA)

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