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South Africa: the struggle against apartheid

Eknath Easwaran's article ``Mohandas K. Gandhi in South Africa'' (June 12) sheds interesting light on Gandhi's thought; it is less enlightening as a program for political action. It also contains a significant error: The author asserts that nonviolence ``freed India without a bloodletting. . . .'' In fact, as India left the British Empire, and as India and Pakistan separated, over 500,000 people lost their lives in religious-inspired slaughter. When assessing the suitability of Gandhi's methods to South Africa, one should recall the Hindu-Muslim violence of newly independent India. The British, against whom Gandhi directed his campaign, were aliens; once defeated, they quit India. The South African whites are, by contrast, natives; if ejected from power they will not disappear. Gandhi may have peacefully rid the subcontinent of its colonial masters, but he unintentionally triggered a bloodbath among native groups vying for power after the old order collapsed. Can one assume the same would not happen in South Africa? Steven Miner Bloomington, Ind.

Patrick Laurence's June 14 article, ``S. African churches which oppose apartheid are divided on tactics,'' barely scratched the surface of Christian attitudes in South Africa. He notes that within the white Dutch Reformed Church ``there is a reformist school of thought.'' That is a gross understatement. One would be hard-pressed to find a Dutch Reformed theologian in South Africa who supports apartheid in any way. The so-called theological basis for apartheid has always been argued in an unsophisticated manner by largely uneducated, rural clergy. DRC intellectuals find no scriptural justification for it, and many predict that the church's 1986 general synod will condemn apartheid categorically. Richard E. Sincere Jr. Ethics and Public Policy Center, Washington

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I find it unconscionable that the Reagan administration would endanger the existence of the International Fund for Agricultural Development by insisting on making a point of burden-sharing [``Small UN agency, with big impact on famine, faces hard times,'' June 11]. If funds are cut off, arguments of principle will mean nothing to the poor who are now being helped by IFAD's programs, and who were not previously being helped by other development agencies, none of which have as their only target group the small farmers and landless peasants who are IFAD's specific concern. Roger D. Peterson Torrance, Calif.

Letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published and none individually acknowledged. All are subject to condensation. Please address letters to ``readers write.''

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