The Sharpville Massacre 

21st March 1969

The Sharpville Massacre occurred in South Africa when police officers opened fire on a protest containing over 5000 attendants, killing 69 of them. 

On the day of the massacre people had gathered to protest the government’s “Pass Laws” which required black people over the age 16 to carry identification papers which limited where they could go as well as work and contained the personal history of the carrier. This law became the primary instrument for racial segregation and was used to detain and harass leaders of the opposition parties.

The massacre happened after a day of peaceful protest organised by the Pan-Africanist Congress when a crowd of several thousand people arrived at Shapeville police station without their papers in order to deliberately get arrested. After protest numbers grew police called in reinforcements including armoured cars and fighter jets. After some initial scuffles and arrests the crowd surged forward. The police responded by opening fire killing 69 people, including 10 children, and wounding hundreds more, who were shot in the back trying to escape.

Following the massacre there was an immediate backlash with protests and strikes across the country resulting in more arrests and persecution. The international community strongly condemned South Africa and the opposition parties within the country began to move away from passive action to direct violent resistance.

The Sharpville Massacre marked a turning point for South African Apartheid with the situation getting a lot worse before it got any better. 69 people lost their lives in this day 1960.

A prayer for the Sharpville Massacre:

Lord God of all peoples and all nations we cry out in lament for the victims and survivors of the Sharpeville Massacre. We cry out for those who continue to live under racial segregation. We cry out for those who suffer under police brutality. We ask that you rain down your Justice on those places where justice only exists for the few and ask that courage is given to those who fight for the rights of others. In Jesus name we pray, amen.

Suggested Bible reading:

Revelation 7.9-14