Baptist ethics of conscientious objection to military service in South Africa: the watershed case of Richard Steele

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Peer-Reviewed Research
  • SDG 16
  • Abstract:

    English: Although the Baptist Union of Southern Africa included relatively few outspoken critics of the apartheid system, during the 1970s and 1980s a small number of its younger members confronted the military system which supported that system of social engineering by refusing to comply with military conscription. Particularly noteworthy among these dissenters was Richard Steele, who had been influenced by the Anabaptist tradition of pacifism in the United States of America. Like his cousin and fellow Baptist, Peter Moll, he countered prevailing sentiments and practices within his denomination by going to prison rather than serve in the South African Defence Force. Steele’s action met with little support in the Baptist Union. During the last two decades of the twentieth century international scholarship shed light on the history of conscription and conscientious objection thereto in the Republic of South Africa as that country’s apartheid policy and the military apparatus which supported it came under severe critical fire. Such works as Jacklyn Cock’s and Laurie Nathan’s War and society: The militarisation of South Africa2 and the anthology War and resistance: Southern African reports which Gavin Cawthra, Gerald Kraak, and Gerald O’Sullivan edited3 thus illuminated previously tenebrous corners of this subject. Others, however, remained in the shadows. Almost completely overlooked in the pertinent scholarly literature, despite the