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Allan Aubrey Boesak (born 23 February 1945 in Kakamas, Northern Cape) is a South African Dutch Reformed Church cleric and politician and anti-apartheid activist. He was sentenced to prison for fraud in 1999 but was subsequently granted an official pardon and reinstated as a cleric in late 2004.
Along with Beyers Naude and Winnie Mandela, Boesak won the 1985 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award given annually by the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights to an individual or group whose courageous activism is at the heart of the human rights movement and in the spirit of Robert F. Kennedy's vision and legacy.
Theologian, cleric and activist
Boesak became active in the separate Coloured branch of the Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk and began to work as a pastor in Paarl. He became known then as a liberation theologian, starting with the publication of his doctoral work (Farewell to Innocence, 1976). For the next decade or so, he continued to write well-received books and collections of essays, sermons, and so on. An anti-apartheid speech of his was sampled by British electronica group The Shamen on their album En Tact.
Boesak was elected as president of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches in 1982, a position he held until 1991.
He rose to prominence during the 1980s as an outspoken critic and opponent of the National Party's policies and played a major anti-apartheid activist role as a patron of the United Democratic Front (UDF) from 1983 to 1991. In 1991, Boesak was elected chairman of the Western Cape region of the African National Congress (ANC).
Boesak resigned from the Dutch Reformed Church in 1990 after details of an extramarital affair with television presenter Elna Botha emerged; they later married.
In 2008, Boesak publicly challenged the South African leadership to remember why they joined all races to create a non-racial South Africa. In the annual Ashley Kriel Memorial Youth Lecture, Boesak suggested that the ANC was well down the slippery slope of ethnicity preferences and "had brought back the hated system of racial categorization."
Also in 2008, while serving as the Moderator of the Cape Synod of the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa, Boesak, to the shock of many senior church leaders, announced that he would resign all of his positions within the church because of the church's discriminatory position on homosexuality and gay and lesbian persons. Boesak invoked the anti-apartheid 1986 Belhar Declaration, which lambasts all forms of discrimination, to say that the church should welcome gays and lesbians and begin to perform gay marriage ceremonies and appoint gay clergy. Dr. Boesak had originally come out in favour of same-sex marriage in 2004, a year before South Africa's Constitutional Court ruled that the denial of marriage rights to gay people was discriminatory and violated the country's constitution.
In December 2008 he left the ANC to join the Congress of the People party. In reaction, the ANC leaked a memorandum written by Boesak, detailing how Boesak discussed different roles he could play to help the organisation. His preferred choice was the post of South African ambassador to the United Nations.
The same month saw Boesak voicing his views on the Zimbabwe crisis, calling on citizens of the stricken country to rise up in opposition to President Robert Mugabe and his authoritarian ruling party. He also censured Mbeki for failing in his role as the Southern African Development Community's official mediator to heed the churches' call for a peace-keeping force.
In June 2013, Christian Theological Seminary and Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana appointed Boesak as The Desmond Tutu Chair for Peace, Global Justice, and Reconciliation Studies, a new four-year position held jointly with both institutions.
In the late 1990s Boesak, at the time chairman of the Western Cape branch of the ANC, was accused of misappropriating over R400,000 of funds received from the Danish humanitarian organisation Danchurch Aid, the Coca Cola Foundation and the singer Paul Simon. Meant for development projects of Boesak's Foundation for Peace and Justice within the province, the funds were apparently transferred to a private trust fund by Boesak. After police investigations, Boesak was charged and found guilty of fraud on 24 March 1999. He was jailed in 2000 and released in 2001, having served just over one year of his three-year sentence.
Although Boesak applied for a presidential pardon from Thabo Mbeki after his release, it was not granted, as the government felt that he had not admitted that he had committed an offence. However, on 15 January 2005, it was announced that he had received a presidential pardon and that his criminal record would be expunged.
Boesak has written a book on his 30 years as an activist – Running with Horses: Reflections of an Accidental Politician – which was published in late March 2009. Boesak said that in his book he will explain why the banning of UDF affiliates meant the money could not be accounted for. Boesak declined to testify in his trial in 1999. He maintains that keeping this silence was one of the main reasons for his conviction.
Boesak joined the new Congress of the People party in December 2008, and was selected in February 2009 as the party's premier candidate for the Western Cape in the 2009 Provincial and National Elections. In November 2009, Boesak resigned from Congress of the People.
- Boesak, A A 1976. Farewell to Innocence: A Socio-Ethical Study on Black Theology and Black Power. Maryknoll: Orbis Books. ISBN 0-88344-130-6.
- Boesak, A A 1982. The Finger of God: Sermons on Faith and Socio-Political Responsibility. Maryknoll: Orbis. ISBN 0-88344-135-7.
- Boesak, A A 1984. Black and Reformed: Apartheid, Liberation, and the Calvinist Tradition. Maryknoll: Orbis Books. ISBN 0-88344-148-9.
- Boesak, A A & C Villa-Vicencio (eds) 1986. When Prayer Makes News. Philadelphia: Westminster Press. ISBN 0-664-24035-6 [= A Call for an End to Unjust Rule. Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press. ISBN 0-7152-0594-3]
- Boesak, A A 1987. Comfort and Protest: Reflections on the Apocalypse of John of Patmos. Philadelphia: Westminster Press. ISBN 0-664-24602-8.
- Boesak, A A 1987. If This Is Treason, I Am Guilty. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. ISBN 0-8028-0251-6.
- Boesak, A A 2007. The Fire Within: Sermons from the Edge of Exile. Glasgow: Wild Goose Publications. ISBN 978-1-905010-38-7.
- Boesak, A A 2008. The Tenderness of Conscience: African Renaissance and the Spirituality of Politics. Glasgow: Wild Goose Publications. ISBN 978-1-905010-51-6.
- Boesak, A A & C P DeYoung 2012. Radical Reconciliation: Beyond Political Pietism and Christian Quietism. Maryknoll: Orbis. ISBN 978-1-57075-976-5
- Boesak, A A 2014. Dare We Speak of Hope: Searching for a Language of Life in Faith and Politics. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans. ISBN 978-0-8028-7081-0.
- Terreblanche, Christelle. "Review affirmative action – Boesak." The Star, 22 December 2008: 2.
- Terreblanche, Christelle, and SAPA-DPA. "Zim must rise against Mugabe – Boesak." The Star, 23 December 2008: 6.
- "Robert F Kennedy Center Laureates".
- "Reverend Allan Aubrey Boesak | South African History Online". Sahistory.org.za. Retrieved 27 August 2014.
- ANC entrenches racism – Boesak News24
- Allan Boesak – reflections twenty-five years after the launch of the UDF Africafiles
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- "Africa | South Africa to have gay weddings". BBC News. 1 December 2005. Retrieved 2 December 2012.
- "afrol News – Same-sex marriage approved in South Africa". Afrol.com. Retrieved 2 December 2012.
- ANC refusal to clear Boesak's name pushed him to join Cope. Cape Argus
- Terreblanche "Zim must rise against Mugabe – Boesak" 2008.
- Terreblanche "Review affirmative action – Boesak" 2008.
- Anti-Apartheid Activist Allan Boesak Appointed by Butler, Christian Theological Seminary Butler University Newsroom, 14 June 2013
- Boesak plans to name names IOL
- Allan Boesak joins Cope Cape Argus, 16 December 2008
- Boesak quits Cope News Today, 3 November 2009