Nazareth yesterday, today and tomorrow

 Manenburg Manenburg

Nazareth in Manenberg  South Africa

The reputation of the Nazareth where I live is as bad if not worse than that of Nazareth in Jesus’ time. We live in the Cape Flats where people were removed to during the Apartheid era. Manenberg is one of the many townships known for their notorious gangs. The first question people ask when we say we are from Manenberg is: "are you safe?" "We don't deliver goods in Manenberg". The gang fights take place between rival gangs usually safeguarding their honour or their drug territory. Other people get killed, caught up in cross fire. But the gangsters are children of people around. In better moments one can have deep conversations with them. Once, on my way to Mass a man shouted "Sister pray for me". Another man with him added "Sister tell him to pray for himself" and he replied very meekly "I do pray".

Not long ago 2 mothers faced each other at the trial of the son of one of them, who had murdered the daughter of the other. The sorrow of each one was so profound.  How can you live with such irreconcilable suffering. God is never absent and people who live with these moments of anguish often refer to God.

On a Capetown busOn a Capetown bus

But the people are also very humorous; the ride on the collective taxi is often a real 'live theatre,' with 'no masks'. Everything is said as it is. The drivers often call out where they are going. To an old lady walking along the road the Guard, as he is called, shouted "Ma, we are going to Cape Town, come with." She replied "No, I'm going to heaven" and the guard answered "Take me with".

Here is another true story: Once waiting for a bus a young immigrant came by selling socks. I thought to myself, I do not need socks but I'll buy some to encourage him. A lady standing next to me gave him some money saying "you can keep the socks, I do not need them". People around often provoke our admiration.

One day, a  little girl came with her grandmother to show us her school books and new school case. As they were leaving I gave her a hibiscus flower from the tree. She dropped everything. She did not worry about her books, she was so wrapped up in the beauty of the flower. It was a moment of contemplation which little children experience so spontaneously.

Our neighbours often comment, "the sisters are not afraid of living here" perhaps a confirmation of the choice Jesus made by living at Nazareth.