South Africa bid farewell on Saturday to a rare white voice against the apartheid system of racial segregation.
About 1,000 mourners filled the church and a nearby hall and marquee in a state funeral that was broadcasted live on television and radio. During the service, speakers, black and white, praised Beyers Naude, an Afrikaner man of “the cloth cut from a different material” of many fellow churchmen who saw racial hierarchy in South Africa as ordained by God.
"The sacrifices he made guaranteed us our peace and reconciliation," South African President Thabo Mbeki told a packed church in Johannesburg. Naude had denounced the apartheid system four decades earlier from the pulpit of the same Aasvoelkop Dutch Reformed Church, shocking his white congregation.
Naude was a minister in the church and a member of the Broederbond, a secretive society aimed at keeping the dominance of Afrikaners, descendants of Dutch and French settlers. However, Naude turned against his upbringing long before it was fashionable to do so, becoming one of the leading white opponents of apartheid, and was forced to quit the ministry after being asked to choose between his church and his activism.
In doing so, Naude long suffered ostracism and harassment at the hands of the apartheid state and his own Afrikaner community.
Before the service, hundreds of people paid their respects as the funeral cortege passed along the road once named after apartheid Prime Minister D.F. Malan but renamed in Naude's honor before his death.
"We wish that the society we leave behind will not have to ask of its members the kind of sacrifices that a Beyers Naude had to make," former South African President Nelson Mandela said in remarks read on his behalf at the funeral.
Naude's ashes will be scattered near the church in Johannesburg's poverty-stricken and overwhelmingly black Alexandra township which welcomed Naude after his own congregation rejected him.
Naude, affectionately known as Oom Bey (Uncle Bey), died on September 7 at the age of 89.