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Orania: A living example of the Benedict Option in South Africa

There is a town named Orania in South Africa, that is a private community aimed at preserving Afrikaner identity.

Orania owns only a small area of land and has its own community rules. The town is known for its extremely low crime rate, in contrast to South Africa’s high crime levels. The primary language spoken in Orania is Afrikaans, and the community emphasizes language preservation as part of their identity. They have also focused on becoming self-sustaining, with their own businesses, schools, and even a solar farm.

Despite misconceptions, Orania does not have a “whites-only” policy; skin color is not a requirement to live there. Orania is seen as a modern attempt by Afrikaners to carve out a place in the world through a self-sufficient community.

Peter Burns writes in Providence Magazine :

On a dusty country road in the North Cape province of South Africa, a colorful blue and orange sign greets you with the Afrikaans words “Welkom in Orania.” This unremarkable farm town of 4,000 people is drawing attention domestically and has received international press coverage for its stated objective—the preservation of Afrikaner identity. As traditional communities in the United States wrestle with how to live in a country whose culture feels increasingly foreign to their own values, ideas like those expressed in Rod Dreher’s The Benedict Option seem more and more appealing. Counter to what many progressives believe about American Christians, many are not thinking about forcing their morals on others; in reality, they envision cloistered communities with the safety to shape their children’s identity. This little town in South Africa is proof that such a community is possible.

I visited Orania keen to understand their mission. What I found there was an extraordinary project of cultural preservation.

Simply put, Orania is a private town that owns roughly 3.5 square miles of land. They have set their own community rules that all entering the town must follow, which are listed on the town’s welcome sign. It reads, “You are entering private property… and the right of admission to these premises are reserved”. A following bullet point warns the newcomer, “No Crime will be tolerated,” a welcome message in a country with a homicide rate in the top ten globally. South Africa’s major cities have been consumed by crime to the point that different gangs have their own specialties, like cell phone thieves or carjackers, and it is not uncommon for petty crime to turn violent. The Central Business District of Johannesburg has suffered so much crime that 432 buildings have been abandoned and are now “hijacked” by squatters. Orania quite literally has no crime. Many inhabitants cite this as why they moved there.

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