First Published in: Dunia Magazine
The world is yet to forget apartheid in South Africa and its devastating impact on black South Africans. Under the apartheid regime, "non-white" South Africans - the majority of the population - faced state-sponsored and institutional racism of untold proportions. Blatant racism was the order of the day in apartheid South Africa. Racism and racially motivated crimes were backed by immoral laws designed to completely destroy a group of people and hold them captive in their own country. Immoral apartheid laws in South Africa included the Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act introduced in 1949 - a law that prohibited interracial marriages, and what was called the Immorality Act - which outlawed interracial sexual relations. [Source: Long Walk To Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela, page 98].
Apartheid, "a crazy concept born of prejudice and fear" - in the words of Jan Christiaan Smuts, collapsed in South Africa in 1994. However, 17 years later, practices akin to apartheid continue to be upheld in many communities around the world.
Recently in Kentucky, a church reportedly banned interracial marriage and denied a young couple the right to marry, as laid down in Article 23(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which the United States of America is party.
Members of the Gulnare Freewill Baptist Church, located in Pike County, according to news reports, voted to ban interracial marriages after a white member of the church engaged to a black African from Zimbabwe. Hell apparently broke loose after the engagement and a pastor, identified as Melvin Thompson, made a misguided recommendation against interracial marriage.
The congregation voted overwhelmingly in favor of the anti-interracial marriage proposal put forward by the pastor. [Source].
Some members of the church chose not to vote.
Those who abstained from voting are as guilty of racism as the architect of the proposal and those who voted in favor.
People of goodwill must always vote against racism - when it comes down to a vote.
It has been said that if you're neutral in a situation of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.
Ironically, the church is called Gulnare Freewill Baptist Church. A name-change ought to be considered.
A ban on interracial marriage strongly suggests that the word "freewill" should be erased from the name of the church, since the institution obviously does not respect the freewill of its members of marriageable age to marry - irrespective of race.
The right to marry should not be denied on grounds of race, color, descent or ethnicity.
It is worth mentioning that the Gulnare [Freewill] Baptist Church, which is now famous for all the wrong reasons, is not the only institution in the world that upholds practices akin to apartheid.
In November 2011, it was reported that a school is Norway racially segregated students. Bjerke Upper Secondary School in Oslo, capital of Norway, grouped students based on race, in a bid to retain ethnic Norwegians in the school. What a shame.
Racism is unconstitutional in the United States and other free countries, it is illegal under international law and should be stamped out in all its forms. Racism should be condemned in the strongest terms when and wherever it prevails.
A ban on interracial marriage has no place in a free and democratic society.
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