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‘This is a cry for help’, say hunger strike supporters

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Community members rallying behind a Cape Town woman on a hunger strike say they are disappointed with the clergy’s lack of support for her plight. Reverend June Major, well known in Palestinian solidarity circles, is on day four of a hunger strike. While her body has begun to show signs of dehydration, her spirit remains strong as she camps outside the Anglican Diocese in Zonnebloem. Reverend Major’s protest is aimed at highlighting issues within the Anglican Church which includes their disregard for the Palestinian cause and abuses which she claims she has endured.

Community activist Aslam Toefy has positioned himself as somewhat of a bodyguard for Major during her action. Toefy says while some members of the community have shown their support for her, faith leaders and community organisations in solidarity with the Palestinian cause have shown little interest.

“Where are our imams and sheikhs? There is a cry for help here. She has got issues with the Church but besides that, the Palestinian issue is not just an Islamic issue. This is a human issue,” Toefy told VOC News.

“She is prepared to sacrifice her life. All she wants to do is be heard by the Anglican Church and they have still not come out of their office to engage with her, out of arrogance.”

Major’s hands were cold and her eyes seemed lifeless as she sat on the pavement outside the premises. She fought through tears as she listened to Toefy explain how he would give his life for her after all the courage she’s displayed.

“Boeta Aslam has been a pillar of strength. Rashaad Tesner also sleeps here in his car at night and goes straight to work in the morning. It rained last night and the neighbours took all my wet bedding and offered to dry it,” Major continued.

Major says her hunger strike will continue until her official documents have been handed over by the Anglican Diocese. She claims that after numerous attempts to speak out against rape within the church, she has been left homeless and unemployed. She is now calling for Archbishop Thabo Magkoba and Bishop Garth Counsell to engage with her, in the presence of her lawyer, Mr Dawson, in order to address her concerns. Major claims her fight is not one with the Christian Church but rather an individual.

“He is not a representation of the Christian faith. This is not a fight with the faith but a fight against an individual. The abuses took place over my twelve years within the Church. It was never dealt with by my Bishop. He always made me feel guilty and told me that I have issues with men. If someone tries to rape me or threatens my life and I report it, that doesn’t mean I have an issue with men. I knew I needed to leave this Diocese and go to another abroad,” Major further explained.

While she battles the hunger pangs, she is now experiencing nausea, fatigue, dizziness, headaches and the left side of her body often goes numb. Toefy and other supporters are making several attempts to have a doctor check her vitals.

“I will give my life for her. I wish I had the courage she has. We need to support and help her wherever we can to stand up against the injustices of this world. Our brothers and sisters and children are being killed in Palestine by people who have this little regard for human life. Through this form of protest, Reverend June is putting her life on the line in order to stand up against injustice,” Toefy related, as he fought through tears.

Toefy has called on the broader faith communities to come out in their numbers in Zonnebloem on Friday at 7pm to show full support. He says he’s worried about Major’s health thus far as she is already having trouble with walking and going to the toilet on her own.

On Friday afternoon Pastor Sebastian Peterson from the Independent Church paid a visit to Major. According to Peterson, the majority of support Major receives is from the Muslim community. Peterson said he has already mobilised a number of local Christian leaders to stand behind Major and add their voice to her cause.

VOC News reporters visited the offices of Bishop Garth Counsell, where his assistant Marlene Cozett said he would not be commenting on the matter. VOC

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