Prophetic Witness in Cyberspace during Pandemics
AbstractProphetic witness has been around since Biblical times, when prophets spoke truth to power on behalf of God. In the South African context, prophetic witness saw the church speaking out against the injustices of colonialism and apartheid using various forms of protest. In post-1994 democratic South Africa, prophetic witness had to be reimagined in the public square, a process which appropriated various modes of prophetic witness. Cyberspace encompasses information technologies which manifest into a “virtual” world, and social media is one of the platforms of cyberspace. Theological and religious scholars have argued that the Internet is an essential space for religion, and this article further argues that cyberspace can also be regarded as a public space for prophetic witness. The role of social media users during pandemics, such as COVID-19, has the implications of spreading information, misinformation, and misconceptions at a rapid pace. Many churches used the virtual space to provide spiritual and emotional support during the COVID-19 pandemic. This article argues that the church also has a prophetic role to play, especially in the social media space, regarding the dissemination of information during a pandemic. Therefore, the main task of this article is to utilise Nico Koopman’s five modes of prophetic witness, namely visionary, critics, storytellers, technical analysts, and policymakers in cyberspace in the recent COVID-19 pandemic and future pandemics.
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