A story of forgiveness and healing

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By Rev Berry Behr

Pastor Khawulezile Msele runs an independent church in Khayelitsha, where he feeds more than 50 people three times a week from his premises.

Twice, his humble church constructed in informal settlements has been vandalised and destroyed. Now, he has turned his home into a church, and from there he continues to run his soup kitchen and conduct services for his community.

SAFCEI had the opportunity to visit Pastor Msele on Tuesday 29 November, and to learn a little more about him.

When we arrived at his house in Town Two, Site B, Khayelitsha, we were greeted by the aroma of cooking. Then the gate opened, and we met Lumka and Nandi, two unemployed women who delight in cooking for those in need. There was a dog sniffing at my hand and feet, joining in the general greeting, and Nandi told me that Cooper the dog had clearly come to say hello to me.

A few minutes later, Pastor Msele arrived. He had been shopping.

He was anxious to tell me the story about Cooper, his dog, whom he clearly loves very much.

I soon learned that Pastor Msele never liked dogs. In fact, he avoided them at all costs having been horribly malled by police dogs across his abdomen during the apartheid era.

However, one day he was introduced to SAFCEI and started attending Regional Interfaith Dialogues. One of our dialogues was focused on animal justice.

Pastor Msele started to think about the extended family of life, beyond humanity, that was part of God’s Creation and therefore inseparable from humanity. He started to think about his relationship with dogs, and decided to work towards healing of his painful memories. He decided the best way to face his fear was to befriend it.

And so, he adopted Cooper.

“I love this dog so much,” he told me. “I would never have believed this could happen, but he is such a good friend and companion to me. And it is only because of that time I came to a SAFCEI dialogue and started to think about the fact that these are God’s creatures too. There cannot be justice for humanity until there is justice for all of Creation.”