Driving somewhere this week I heard a radio host speaking about retiring Constitutional Court Judge Edwin Cameron. You will remember that Cameron took a principled stand against our government during the days when our national leadership were questioning the link between HIV and AIDS and delaying the public distribution of life-saving antiretroviral drugs. Cameron announced to the world that he was HIV positive and said that until this medicine was available to poor South Africans, he would refuse to take his own ARV’s. His voice raised the profile of this fight for justice and contributed significantly to the eventual rollout of the internationally admired ARV distribution programme we have in South Africa today.
The radio host remarked that he didn’t need to do this – Cameron could have chosen to quietly take his medicine at home and no-one would have blamed him. Journalist Ferial Haffajee describes Cameron’s work as “making the invisible visible” - bringing into focus the plight of millions of faceless people through one courageous act. He stood with the poor, identifying with them, rather than clinging to his privileged position.
I don’t know whether or not Judge Cameron is a person of faith, but that kind of action is certainly kenotic – the word comes from Philippians 2, where the Greek word kenosis describes how Jesus “emptied himself” when he laid aside his glory and came into our world. Like the judge, Jesus turned away from his privileged position and identified with ordinary people, even to the point of going to Calvary to die our death for us.
Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng this week described Judge Cameron as “selfless and humble”. His example should especially inspire us as followers of Jesus, “who humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross!” (Php 2:8) What opportunities will we have this week to “make the invisible visible” in the name of Christ?
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