Journalist Fikile-Ntsikelelo Moya’s Way Back to the Faith
Leading journalist Fikile-Ntsikelelo Moya was raised a Catholic but spent about a decade in an angry conversation with God, making it known to God that he thought he had let him down badly.
Then one Sunday morning he decided to attend Mass at his childhood parish, and things began looking clearer.
Mr Moya, until recently editor of The Mercury daily in Durban, was born and raised in Dobsonville, Soweto.
His paternal family had arrived there in the early 1960s along with others from Roodepoort West from where they had been forcibly removed as a result of the Group Areas Act. His paternal great-grandfather had been the first in his lineage to be baptised Catholic.
As a result, his father went to the local Catholic school, St Angela’s in Roodepoort West, and continued at the same school when, after forced removals, the school re-emerged in Dobsonville. The young Fikile attended the same school.
Despite this Catholic lineage, Mr Moya’s formation had everything to do with his mother.
A Church-Saturated Childhood
“Although my mother was a great influence for me attending First Holy Communion and later Confirmation classes, she did not need to persuade me, the same could be said for attending Mass regularly,” he recalls.
“Apart from attending Mass as learners at the school — which is in the same complex as the church — my childhood friends and I practically lived in our parish. We did our homework at the church hall, played table tennis there in the week, and served on the altar on Sundays,” Mr Moya said.
Growing up in the 1980s when political turmoil was at its height in South Africa, he believes he was lucky to have Sr Christine Obotseng, a member of the Companions of St Angela congregation and an anti-apartheid activist, as teacher and principal.
Sr Christine, who died in 2009, was the first to draw the picture for him as to why social justice was a Gospel imperative.
“I remember Sr Christine saying that if black and white people did not learn to live with each other in harmony on earth, they would have a cultural shock when they got to heaven, because in heaven there would be no separation of people because of the colour of their skins, Fr Moya recalled.
“This simple illustration made me realise that the Church and our faith could not be separated from what could be termed political.”
Becoming an Atheist
As he grew older and his reading and learning broadened, Mr Moya started to adopt the Marxist notion that religion was the opiate of the masses.
“I increasingly became agnostic and eventually an atheist. I was not satisfied with how my own faith had not spared me from the harsh realities of social and economic life,” he said.
“It was made worse by the fact that an administrative bungle at the Johannesburg diocesan chancery resulted in a bursary that I had received no longer being given. Nobody could account for it. I reckoned that it would be pointless to trust earthly people who could not keep their earthly promises,” Mr Moya recalled.
“I spent about a decade in an angry conversation with God. I made him know that I thought he had let me down badly.”
There was no big Damascus moment that returned Mr Moya to the Church. One Sunday morning he found he had some time on his hands and decided to go to Mass—for “the fun of it”.
“I had no pressures from my family nor any situation that made me feel like I ‘needed’ God,” he said, adding: “I was sincere in my belief that I did not.”
It was his visit to his childhood parish, St Angela’s, that he said was like awakening from a dream.
“Things just looked clearer and grander. The choir seemed to sing more beautifully than I had last experienced. I felt like there was a welcome-home party for me. I returned the following week, and then the next and the next.”
A Return to Grace
Mr Moya said he is grateful for this time away from the Church because it has made him appreciate the compassion and love of God.
“I have felt that God had listened, even in my bitterness. I feel that contrary to what I had assumed as a child, God is a God of all situations and of all conversations. I feel my faith is deepened by this understanding of God being for better and worse.”
As a journalist, he is passionate about social and economic justice and feels that journalism is a vocation through which he can contribute to promote social justice in the country.
Scripture sustains that notion. “Luke 4:14 feels like a commissioning statement to me: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free’,” he said.
“I feel that I am blessed with the aptitude and the platform to proclaim the good news to the poor, freedom to abused prisoners, sight to those blinded by ignorance, and to send a message that freedom is around the corner.”
Mr Moya hopes that in time he will be able to start his own publication or media platform where the message of the Gospel would be lived and practised. In the meantime, he tries to be an exemplary father to his children, a good husband to his wife Lolo, and an overall good human being.