University of South Africa recognizes CWM General Secretary with honorary doctorate

by Cheon Young Cheol

The General Secretary of the Council for World Mission, Rev. Dr Jooseop Keum, was conferred a honorary doctorate in philosophy by the University of South Africa in recognition of his contributions in various missiological fields that have made an indelible impact on the study of mission and theology; his unwavering championing of justice and human rights; and his outspoken, formidable advocacy for transforming Christian discipleship in ways that shape the contemporary world and empower youth and women.

The conferment ceremony took place on 31 May at the Winnie Madikizela-Mandela Building located at the university’s main campus in Muckleneuk, Pretoria, South Africa.

In his acceptance speech, Keum highlighted the educational work of the University of South Africa for the last 150 years as highly prophetic and transformative in promoting justice, liberation, human dignity, and democracy in Southern Africa.

However, Keum also noted that despite the glowing track record of the institution in producing stalwart leaders such as Albert Luthuli, Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo, Desmond Tutu, and Thabo Mbeki, the work in moulding future African luminaries will prove challenging in the face of a radically changing global landscape.

“Today, we live in a time of deep crisis. Environmental damage, economic injustice, military conflicts, and social and political polarisations threaten our existence,” described Keum. “The economic, political, and social systems are broken, leading to division, inequality, and injustice.”

Amidst the gloom, three silver linings

 However, despite the difficult global circumstances, Keum maintained that there has never been a better time for the Africa region as it stands poised to rise and be counted.

There are three major advantages, according to Keum, that the region has that will propel it to be a leading global voice in justice, peace, and the enabling of life-flourishing communities.

First, Africa has the youngest population in the world, with a large proportion under the age of 30. Keum highlighted that having such a large population of youth gives Africa the opportunity to grow exponentially.

This is key to achieving the University of South Africa’s vision “towards the African university shaping futures in the service of humanity” with the caveat that the new African generation be fully empowered to realise their best potential through the collective efforts of African educational institutions and churches as well as missional and ecumenical organisations.

Second is the observable shift in the centre of gravity within Christianity towards Africa, away from the West.

“This shift is not merely geographical but symbolises a profound spiritual movement that recognises the vibrancy, resilience, and deep faith of the African people,” declared Keum.

Keum believes Africa is emerging as a spiritual powerhouse. However, Keum cautioned against merely stopping with the spiritual, and urged working towards shifting the centre of intellectual gravity to Africa in fields including modern technology, medicine, and science.

Third, Africa has been a leader in liberation theology. Its leadership in this area is undisputed due to its unique context marked and grounded by a history of colonisation, oppression, and the unrelenting fight for independence.

This puts Africa in a position to be the voice that resonates with “the collective yearning for freedom and dignity” and offers an alternative leadership that will reconcile a broken and troubled world.

Keum exhorted the audience to continue to work towards collaboration and unity between global communities in order for life to flourish.

“[I] strongly believe that any journey towards justice, peace, and life cannot be walked alone. It requires the strength of unity, the wisdom of collaboration, and the grace of God’s guiding hand,” said Keum, who declared his will to continue working towards forging and fostering solidarity in higher education between South Africa and South Korea, particularly between the University of South Africa and Yonsei University.

“As I accept this honour with deep humility, I am conscious that it is not merely a reflection of my individual achievements but a recognition of the collective efforts of all those who embraced such costly discipleship and walked this path with us,” said Keum.

“In a world in which injustice and violence seem almost insuperable, where hatred and racism seem to thrive, we are privileged to join in the mission of the prophets, working together towards life, living out the values of the kingdom of God, and engaging in mission from the margins.”

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