(This contribution was sent to Kairos SA by a group in the Vaal that has been reflecting on the situation in South Africa. We have not attempted to edit what was written….Your comments about this will be appreciated)
IT IS TIME TO SHAKE THE CHURCHES!!!!!
A cry from the Vaal area to all Churches in South Africa: WAKE UP!!!
We say: Evil thrives when good people become comfortable and complacent!
Looking at Churches and their role in the SA society today -2015
We, a group of community and church activists, have been gathering for the past nine months grappling with social issues, most of them related to Churches and their role in South Africa today.
We acknowledge that, we all belong to different churches, but we do not feel at home in the Church, since some are more powerful and privileged and this makes us feel neglected and betrayed and then we become passive in our churches.
Currently certain people in our Churches are not treated equally: albinos, gays, lesbians, disabled, youth. Many still face discrimination according to race, culture, sexual orientation, and to a large extent women and the poor are still marginalized, and kept unemployed and poor by the State and society.
Tribalism, xenophobia, patriarchy, and racist practices are still rife in some churches and communities. What are Church leaders doing to stop these?
We remember that St Paul said in his letter to Galatians: “For all of you who were baptized in Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor master, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus”.(3:27+28).
This is what church leaders used to teach us under apartheid. Now there seems to be a new kind of apartheid even in our Churches.
There is an acknowledgement that Churches contributed to the wider spread of education, however Churches have not been critical enough of colonialism, apartheid and the present global economic system, to bring about real and meaningful change to the majority of the people.
Poor quality of education is one of the causes of poverty, however the root causes of poverty is capital globalization perpetuated by the neo-liberal capitalism as adopted by the South African government in 1996.
Churches are not doing enough to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor. One example is the division between commercial and small scale farming and it appears that Churches are more supportive of the commercial farming: including practices like child labour, evictions, Genetically Modified Organisms , which have serious implications for food security and the environment. The problem of evictions is now experienced even in urban areas after 1994.
Food is for profit, not for people and, profit that is increasing poverty.
The present neoliberal policies of the SA government – such as privatization, Public Private Partnership , National Development Plan , Tax Incentive Act, the youth wage subsidy, Expanded Public Works Programme, Zivuseni and voluntarism are part of the exploitation of workers and the poor. When the poor have no money it leads to cut-offs (water and electricity); but also illiteracy, evictions, poor education, homelessness, landlessness, etc, which are signs of pure slavery. Yet, our church leaders for the most part are silent.
Are they silent because they gain and benefit from the exploitation of the poor by big businesses? As the prophet Amos warned: “Hear this you who trampled the needy and bring the poor of the land to an end. You buy the needy for a pair of sandal”. (2:6)
Now is the time to listen to our conscience as there are false prophets in our Churches, who are only interested in making profits.
Therefore we have become critical of our Churches
Church leaders were vocal, active in defying apartheid, however after 1994 they were quite. And this silence is worrying because we know that some Church leaders are co-opted and are benefiting by their alliance of the old and new elite.
Many churches have joined the privatisation process. How? By selling holy water, uniforms, and funeral services – yes, even prayers! The question must be asked: how can they do this and WHY?
Churches preach prosperity to the point that they demand tithes and payment for funerals from those who are poor and unemployed, without even looking at how they can assist those without income. WHY?
At the start of apartheid Churches were quiet and are still in denial regarding racism, however they have also been faced with the class division within their own midst. Churches are not doing enough to change the system where the rich are exploiting and oppressing the poor.
Even now after 1994 the new Black elite has joined the old elite in the oppression and exploitation. The Church leaders are quiet. WHY?
Churches have also been quiet regarding the debt situation of the country, including the odious apartheid debt that was accepted by the democratic government. Today it has serious impacts on the poor and the marginalised. How can Churches be quiet when our government has to pay the apartheid debt? And why?
We remember how we celebrated the Jubilee Year of 2000 and read in the book of Leviticus: “that the land should be returned, the debt should be written off, and relationships should be restored” (25:10).
Based on the above we call for meaningful action by Church leaders.
- Civil society including Churches and labour unions should be more vocal regarding social justice when it comes to land.
2.The programmes of Churches must use land in a sustainable manner but also promote especially organic and perma-culture, instead of commercial farming using GMOs and pesticides.
3.The formation of youth structures outside the Church should be supported, whilst the church youth cooperates with such structures especially in addressing poverty.
- Churches must be open to the communities where they are, and their teachings must also address the root causes of poverty.
The poverty eradication programmes of different churches must collaborate and not compete with each other for resources and prestige.
- We need the involvement of Churches in all community struggles – marches, campaigns, and protest against all manifestations of injustices in our society – be it xenophobia, drug abuse, but especially neo liberal policies, that are leading to these social ills. A recent example is that of four Boiketlong community leaders who are being sentenced to 16 years in prison and the other four who are being restricted from public activities in Sebokeng – Zone 19.
- Education is a necessary tool for progress, therefore, Churches must work towards changing the current education system, which is class based. There should be one education system for all that aims at bringing out the best in everyone for the common good.
Churches must stop playing “neutral” in the name of “peace and reconciliation” – Churches must be on the side of the poor, as these members are directly affected by current social ills.
Church leaders should openly support and pledge solidarity in marches, campaigns and service delivery protests. It’s a belief of the group that Churches must stand not only for peace but for the truth and justice.
Jesus took a prophetic stance against the religious authorities of his day, when he rode on the back of donkey into Jerusalem and people were crying to him for help to bring hope in their lives of suffering and oppression. (John 12:12-19).
We call upon Churches to play a meaningful role in educating their members to deepen understanding of total liberation from all social ills caused by neoliberal system.
We have learned that the Bible is good news for the poor and should not be used to oppress and exploit the poor, as was done under apartheid. Even today some Church leaders mislead their members by giving them false hope to get rich quickly.
Neoliberal agenda leaves the country suffering from unemployment, inequality and poverty, The masses continue to be victims of crime, police brutality, evictions, corruption, drug abuse, discrimination and racism. Churches should oppose this, and join those fighting the present neo-liberal system for a just and caring society we dream of.
In the Gospel of John (10:10) – Jesus said: “The thief comes only to steal and destroy; I came that you may have life, and to the fullest”.
Churches must not be quiet anymore, but should be vocal on the needs of the community in line with Batho Pele principles.
We pray that Churches will hear the cry of the poor and wake up to work with the poor and oppressed for true liberation.
For more information contact the following
Mr. George Makhanya @ 073 978 1193
Ms.Teatea Manana @ 083 549 7511