n AFFRIKA Journal of Politics, Economics and Society - Reflections on the development and use of non-violent activism in the South African Council of Churches : a social movement theory approach

Volume 9 Number 1
  • ISSN : 1998-4936
  • E-ISSN: 2075-6534



While the use of non-violent activism in faith-based organisations (FBOs) is a much-researched topic, a systematic analysis of how such elements are influenced by the interactions of different internal dynamics within such FBOs remains under-explored. This article investigates this less-researched element in relation to the development of non-violent activism in FBOs. It does this through an analysis of both the socio-political realities surrounding the evolution of a South African FBO, the South African Council of Churches and the internal group dynamics during the early years of the organisation in South Africa (1968-1980). Relying heavily on data from semi-structured interviews of key actors within the FBO and on archival documents about activities of the organisation, the article explains how these dynamics influenced the decision for the development of the different forms of non-violent activism that evolved in the organisation. The paper applies the social movement theory, drawing on its political process model to demonstrate that such kinds of activism do not evolve in a vacuum, nor as a result of only religious ideological imperatives as a large number previous studies have posited. They are rather a result of the interaction of elements around the FBO. Once developed, such strategies become contested and escalate in accordance with the resources and opportunities available to the group.

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