The Rev. David Russell, a soft-spoken South African Anglican [Episco palian] priest who defied a government order by attending a synod of his church has been sent to jail for a year, Monitor contributor Humphrey Tyler reports.
Mr. Russell has been under government restriction orders since soon after a 1977 incident in which he was arrested for lying down in front of a bulldozer demolishing black squatters' shacks in Cape Town. The orders, issued under the Internal Security Act, forbade Mr. Russell to enter black areas, restricted him to his home every day from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. and to a few miles around his home other time, and forbade him to attend any gathering of more than two people. He also had to report to the police each Thursday. Such restriction orders are issued without preliminary court hearings and without stated reasons. No appeal against them is possible.
There is little doubt that Mr. Russell's defiance of the government and his jail sentence will increase tensions between the main churches -- except the three white Afrikaans reformed churches -- and the government. South Africa's churches, particularly those with large black memberships, are becoming more militant against the government's policy of apartheid.
Senior bishops of Mr. Russell's own church have made it clear they support his stand. At his trial, one of them, Bishop Desmond Tutu, said he himself would have acted exactly the same way. He found Mr. Russell's actions "highly commendable," he told the court.