Methodist Bishop of the Natal Coastal District, Mike Vorster, has been conferred with the Diakonia Human Rights Award for being a true servant of God and champion of the poor and marginalised who has worked tirelessly to bring God’s love and compassion to the “least of these”.

Bishop Vorster, who was recently honoured as a Living Legend by the eThekwini Municipality, was presented with the Award during the Annual Diakonia Lecture on 29 September.

Bishop Vorster was described as an ardent advocate of social justice and a regular face at a variety of events related to those in need, most notably during the recent outbreak of xenophobic violence.

“The recent outbreak of foreigner violence in and around Durban has seen him engage in not just promoting relief work, but also seeking a more long term solution. For a number of weeks he was the only church leader going into the camps on a regular basis and reporting to the rest of us on the latest developments. By so doing, he opened our eyes to their plight and championed their cause. To date, Bishop Mike continues to be involved in initiatives that seek long term peaceful coexistence,” the Diakonia Council noted in the citation.

The Council also described him as an outstanding leader who demonstrates the true heart of a servant.

“His public witness is borne out of an inner drive to see the justice of the reign of God on earth. He is willing to engage with people who are experiencing difficulties and injustice in order to find out firsthand what the real issues are, and to ensure that it is those issues that are addressed and not the assumptions of the more fortunate among us.

“His commitment is always to ensure that the least, the lost and the last within our context are no longer disadvantaged because of our blindness or the weight of the systems that we have developed in order to shape our world. His vision is of a world that Jesus imagined for us,” the Council noted.

Bishop Vorster has also spoken out against the numerous injustices that plague the country: “He has been able to speak into environmental issues, economic disparity, and the continued racism that lurks below the surface within our context. Many a time, he has denounced global capitalism for the mess that it has led poorer economies into. He has also highlighted the need for healing in our hurting society,” the Council said.

The purpose of the Diakonia Human Rights Award is to promote a culture of human rights and to mobilise churches and communities to be actively involved in social justice issues.