Christians gather for historic ‘route of suffering’ walk through CBD

St George’s Cathedral Dean Father Michael Weeder with a group who had gathered for walk of city sites of struggle, during Holy Week. Here they are pictured at the transport hub.

St George’s Cathedral Dean Father Michael Weeder with a group who had gathered for walk of city sites of struggle, during Holy Week. Here they are pictured at the transport hub.

Published Mar 31, 2024


Cape Town - A group of Christians gathered in Cape Town’s CBD this week for their own Via Dolorosa (route of suffering walked by Jesus), reflecting on the daily struggles of the people.

The walk, led by St George’s Cathedral during the Holy Week, saw a group of around 25 people joining for the “Via Dolorosa in our wounded city” on Tuesday.

The Latin name refers to the processional route in the Old City of Jerusalem believed to have been taken by Jesus on the way to his crucifixion.

Annually, a procession along 14 stations is undertaken in the Old City of Jerusalem.

In Cape Town, the “Stations in the City” included the Grand Parade, public transport hub, District Six Homecoming Centre, Caledon Street Police Station, Department of Labour, Department of Home Affairs and the arch at the entrance to the Company’s Garden, ending at the Cathedral Steps.

Organising team member Dr Bonita Bennett said: “This year we reflected on the places that are associated with suffering and trauma in our city, the sites that symbolically speak to the many ways that the most vulnerable in our midst continue to battle with an untransformed city.”

The Grand Parade was a gathering point for notable events in history. It was where the Dutch had built their first fort, the Castle of Good Hope, during the 17 century.

It was where enslaved people were punished and where thousands had gathered to witness former president Nelson Mandela on the balcony of the City Hall to deliver his first public address following his release from prison in 1990.

Nowdays, it is a bustling area of informal trading, parking and socialising.

At the public transport hub (buses, taxis and trains), the struggles of daily commuters who were dependent on public transport and at the mercy of taxi operators were recalled – how commuters were subjected to conflicts related to taxi routes and extortion, as well as the scourge of reckless driving and unsafe trains and buses.

At the District Six Museum Homecoming Centre, the plight of those who had been forcibly removed from their homes, and the struggle for restitution which continues to this day, were called to mind.

The site also evoked remembrance for all lives affected by displacement. For many, commuting long distances from home in order to work remains one of the persisting consequences of apartheid-enforced displacement.

At the Caledon Police Station, the apartheid-era arrest and detention of political prisoners was remembered, and how this space is still seldom devoid of people suffering various forms of violence such as robbery, break-ins, assault, intimate partner violence and gender-based violence, among other crimes.

At the Department of Labour, red tape and “uncaring bureaucracy” made claims for unemployment and maternity benefits difficult and uncertain.

During the Covid-19 pandemic when many workers were retrenched, it was a common sight to see those in desperate need of UIF payouts sleeping outside the building.

The Department of Home Affairs is another such source of frustration for both South Africans and asylum seekers, as queues seem endless, with people often leaving without having received any assistance.

The “Arch for Arch” at the entrance of the Company’s Garden, with its 14 arches representing the 14 lines of the preamble of the Constitution, was one of the many signs of hope, reminding one that a different world and way of relating to each was possible.

The Cathedral steps, also referred to as the “Freedom Steps”, has historically been a site of protests and acts of resistance.

As done before, and more frequently as the war on Gaza continues, the Cathedral has been a site for Palestinian solidarity through weekly vigils and other solidarity events.

“Like the journey from crucifixion to resurrection, we accept that no peace is possible without justice, and the ways in which people continue to suffer and struggle cannot be wished away. We have to acknowledge this before full freedom and full humanity is possible,” Bennett said.

St George’s Cathedral Dean, Father Michael Weeder said: “So the wound is something that causes pain, it’s something that is never healed because what causes the wound is continuing in our city - the lack of transport, the lack of affordable and relatively countable housing, access to good education, all that is what is wounding us and so there is a daily Via Dolorosa, a daily way of walking the road of pain.”

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