- Parish and Church
nelson mandela’s oath
When South Africans hurl insults and inflict violence on migrants, when they strip migrants of their belongings and set alight their businesses, they recklessly go against the solemn oath of Nelson Mandela, the revered father of the post-apartheid South Africa. Nelson Mandela made an oath that never again shall a human being be oppressed by another human being. This oath was proclaimed by Mandela on behalf of the New South African nation. He and many other leaders paid dearly. They sacrificed their lives so that South Africans might embrace freedom and walk tall among the nations. Mandela is an iconic symbol of peace. This symbol is inextricably associated with the nation of South Africa. He was the incarnation of the hope that South Africans would triumph against all the odds. Inflicting pain on migrants and refugees is a tragic betrayal of the sacred oath he made on behalf of the people of South Africa. He bequeathed South Africans the values of human dignity, reconciliation, peace, freedom and hospitality. It is hardly 25 years since his death, yet South Africans already trample his legacy underfoot and make a spectacle of themselves. The on-looking nations are no longer impressed.
atrophobia and memory loss
If the unwarranted violent attacks on migrants and refugees are not brought to a halt, South Africans run the risk of becoming like the oppressors of the apartheid era. The apartheid system brutalised people. It stripped them of their dignity, humiliated them and inculcated a sense of self-hate. Indigenous people were physically segregated and declared foreigners in their own country of birth. This treatment entrenched feelings of revengefulness and bitterness amongst the oppressed. At the launching of the 70’s Group (April 2019) the former President of South Africa, Kgalema Motlanthe recalled a visit of Ali Mazuri immediately after the celebration of Democracy (1994). He said Mazuri prophetically warned that now that South Africa is free, South Africans should be careful not to become villains themselves. Hardly 25 years have passed, some of us South Africans do to our African fellow migrants what our former oppressors used to do to us. South Africans considered their former oppressors as monsters. Today we have become those very monsters. In meting out violence against African migrants we show open hatred. Such hatred against others impairs the dignity of the other and unfortunately reveals the brokenness of the South Africans themselves. The shameless physical attacks on migrants and refugees on spurious allegations that they have robbed South Africans of their jobs is simply disgraceful.
South Africans are put to shame by the migrants who simply show a superior quality of self-restraint in the face of such blatant provocation. A conclusion could be drawn that South Africans who indulge in xenophobia have simply not healed from the wounds of the apartheid era. They are still hurting and are now taking out their anger on their fellow Africans. The apartheid ghosts are ubiquitous. The pillaging and looting of the belongings of the migrants are unashamedly done by the youth while the adults stand by gloating. They received the stolen goods unashamedly into their homes with a misguided sense of triumphant satisfaction. The absence of a consciousness of guilt will continue to undermine the moral fabric of the South African society.
the hardening of attitudes
The skirmishes between migrants and locals happen intermittently at various places. They are unplanned. At times they happen on the back of a service delivery protest over the lack of clean water, electricity, housing, pit-toilets, schools etc. On such occasions the anger and frustration of the local people at government’s empty promises have tended to engulf migrants who live in the same neighbourhood as the protestors. These sporadic confrontations if they go on unchecked, are likely to set up a bad precedent. They hurt people who are involved in them, deeply. They are likely to lead to the hardening of attitudes between locals and migrants. Migrants who are currently the victims will one day seek to retaliate. It is not as if they have taken out an insurance for personal injury or for the loss of their belongings. Whatever they suffer or loose in the unplanned attacks is lost for good. Because these are mob attacks, very few people get arrested, if at all. The victims do not get to see justice being done. They then carry on with their lives burdened with the memory that they have been unjustifiably attacked. They now also have to entertain the fear that such attacks may erupt again in the future.
the anti-foreigner sentiment
The xenophobic attacks reached a point where members of the diplomatic corps felt it necessary to request an explanation from the Minister of Foreign Affairs. As representatives of the African countries in South Africa they could no longer stand by while their compatriots are being attached by local people for no apparent reason. The attacks on migrants cannot just be reduced to hooliganism. These attacks are patently fuelled by anti-foreigner sentiment. Hooliganism under these circumstances is an expression of the anti-foreigner sentiment. If these attacks continue unabated, tension between South Africa and other African countries will begin to show. Foreign governments expect the South African government to quell and diffuse the inchoate tensions brought about by the xenophobic attacks. They expect the government to protect all foreign nationals who live in South Africa. The migrants themselves expect to be treated with dignity, respect and equality. They do not need to be reminded time and again that they are outsiders.
the contribution of migrants
Migrants from Lesotho, Malawi and Mozambique have been involved in the mining sector for decades even though they do not have much to show for it. Migrants bring skills into the economy. Those who run businesses provide employment even to the local people. Many are involved in the informal sector of the economy. The contribution of migrants to the economy is significant. But they also contribute in other ways. Migrants bring along with them the passion to succeed, industriousness, cultural diversity, and sense of openness to the world as opposed to a narrow inward-looking nationalism and isolationism. Migrants display a rich cultural diversity in a form of customs, traditions, fashion, music and the arts. They are the bearers of the new religious movements which have swept South Africans off their feet. Finally, they demonstrate a strong virtue of courage to cross borders and to explore new possibilities in order to enhance their lives.
Migrants and asylum seekers demand that their dignity as human beings be recognized and that they be accorded the respect given to all persons. They frown upon being considered as foreigners or outsiders who deserve to be harassed, intimidated, punished and even threatened with deportation. Their desire is to be given a chance to find new opportunities and to live peacefully with their neighbours. If confrontations continue to dominate the relationships of migrants and the local people, South Africa should not be surprised one day when South Africans who live in different African countries are singled out, attacked or victimised because of the intolerance and resentment shown to migrants in South Africa. A fall out between South Africa and other African countries can only have disastrous consequences, hence the urgent need to dissipate tensions whenever they appear in the different communities.
an appeal to youth
Young people have invariably been always in the forefront of the struggle for justice. The youth of 1976 hastened the advent of democracy in South Africa. The Economic Freedom Fighters, a political party of young people, is a thorn in the flesh of the African National Congress. The Fees Must Fall movement of university students twisted the arm of President Zuma to authorise free university education for certain categories of students. The unplanned intermittent attacks on migrants and refugees are reprehensible acts of injustice. Such attacks are aimed at excluding and stigmatising migrants. Where then are the charismatic young people who would take the side of the oppressed migrants. Their silence is deafening. Their prophetic voices appear to have been muted at a time when their support and solidarity would have made a significant difference. The virtue of hospitality amongst South Africans is at present a scarce resource. They do not take kindly to Africans who share their skin-colour. The ruling party has a maxim: Bathʹo pele (people first). Migrants are also human beings (bathʹo).
+Buti Tlhagale o.m.i.
(SECAM’S 50TH ANNIVERSARY)
Today the Catholic Church in Southern Africa celebrates the 50th Anniversary of the Symposium of the Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagasca (SECAM). This forum is the embodiment of a collective aspiration to become one Catholic Church that embraces diversity and complementarity. But it also symbolises another aspiration of the people of the continent: the promotion of peace, unity, solidarity, economic progress and a freer movement of peoples.
Made in God’s Image
Male and female, He created them. He created them both in His own image. We all belong to one Father who created us in His image. Now, we celebrate the feast of all nations to remind ourselves of that reality of a collective belonging. We celebrate the day of all nations because the nations no longer stand together. The image of our common belonging and common origins, is no longer visible. It is perhaps the long and arduous journey through time that has made us strangers to each other or even worse, enemies to each other? The truth is, today we human beings, we appear to have been made in the image of the biblical CAIN. We appear to be thirsty for each other’s blood. We seem to delight in inflicting pain on each other.
Race, nationality, ethnicity, culture and religion – are the ideological walls we build in order to keep the unwanted people away from us. Do you remember the Berlin Wall. Now see the obnoxious wall in Bethlehem that keeps the Palestinians at bay. Listen to the distressing debate on the Mexican-US border.
Listen to St. Paul writing to the Corinthians: He uses the analogy of the body: “God has formed the body together, giving all the more honour to the least members so that there is no bodily rupture and members are mutually concerned about one another” (1 Cor.12.24). This powerful metaphor acknowledges the rich diversity of members and calls for mutual-recognition and collaboration. But these words of scripture do not appear to have moved our hearts. They are regrettably like water on a duck’s back. We are enjoined to embrace each other, to embrace the stranger with warmth because of the inborn love we possess in our hearts.
Compassion. A Defining Virtue of Christian Living
We ought to accept people as they are because they are people. We are moved by their plight and seek to be hospitable; to soften the blow of their predicament. That is what we would wish them to do for us were we to find ourselves in a similar situation. At any rate we show kindness and mercy because these virtues are the hallmark of being truly human and of being truly Christian. These are in fact the qualities of God Himself. For St. Paul, this is in fact the very essence of love. This is the power of God poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5.5). Reaching out to those who are in search of a home and in search of the basic necessities of life, is in fact showing love to a neighbour, “loving one’s neighbour as one-self”. One shows compassion to migrants and refugees because they are pushed from pillar to post. They are blamed for the tardiness and even incompetence of the local people. They are called names and castigated simply because they genuinely seek better opportunities for themselves and for their children.
Some of them have taken great risks in leaving their own countries. They have fled wars and persecutions. They have fled hunger and lack of opportunities. They have made the ultimate sacrifice a man or woman can make for his or her family; to rise, to cross boundaries, to move into unknown lands and countries and seek to establish oneself. It takes a specific courage for a people to uproot themselves from their country of birth in order to find a home elsewhere. Migrants and refugees are thus the vulnerable people of our society. They are like the many women and children in our communities who bear the brunt of us abusive men. Migrants and refugees are the ones whom Christ calls the least of my brothers and sisters. “When you show any kindness to them, you show it to me” (Mat. 25).
Exploitation of Refugees
Many migrants and refugees remain fearful and vulnerable. Many employers exploit their predicament and do not pay them a living wage. They exploit especially those migrants and refugees who do not have proper documents. Many receive slave wages and are continuously threatened with arrest. Some are victims of corrupt police officials. And, as if that was not enough, many have been victims of xenophobia. When local communities go on a service delivery protest, they take out their anger on foreign nationals. They harass them, attack them, destroy and loot their shops. It is most unfair for migrants and refugees to be made scapegoats for the glaring shortcomings of the government and local authorities.
Mention must be made of the fact that there are those within the migrant community who give migrants and refugees a bad name. There are those who are heavily involved in drug-trafficking. Drugs have become a scourge in some of our communities. Thus the palpable anger of the communities is understandable. There are those migrants who are involved in robberies and human trafficking. These aberrations by some should not lead to the wholesale condemnation of the entire community of migrants and refugees.
The freedom of individuals to host migrants and refugees into their homes should be protected and promoted. But, realistically, local families are themselves under tremendous pressure because of the shortage of housing. The rapid expansion of informal settlements attest to the chronic shortage of land and residential areas.
It makes ample sense for the Church to promote welfare institutions that will be of service to migrants. The efforts of non-governmental organizations and other religious institutions need to be strengthened in their serious attempt to alleviate the plight of migrants and refugees. As Church, as Christians, we are concerned with relieving human suffering and enhancing human well-being on a large scale. Every person, irrespective of origins, deserves to be given a change, a golden opportunity to make ends meet, to take care of his or her family. This is what the golden rule of the Gospel demands. The going out of our way to serving others. To do to others what we would greatly appreciate, if it were done to us.
Becoming Truly Human
The parable of the Good Samaritan cautions us “not to worry about who deserves to be cared for”. Rather, we should be concerned about (us, ourselves) becoming a person or persons “who treat everyone we meet with dignity, respect and compassion”. This is the heart of the Gospel message.
In the parable of Mary, Martha and Lazarus, Jesus says: “Mary has chosen the better part”, the listening part. Here the emphasis of Jesus falls, not on providing a service such as in the case of Martha, but the emphasis falls on receiving a gift, that is, receiving the other person who comes into our space. This person, this migrant or refugee, is a messenger of grace.
We are encouraged, not to see the migrant, the other unknown person as a threat, a rival, a competitor. No, we should see the other as a blessing in disguise; as an opportunity or as an instrument that brings the best out of us, making us worthy of being called: human beings with a heart.
It has often been said that if we are not going to be helpful to others, at least we should not harm or hurt them. We should not burn their houses, destroy their properties, loot their shops or inflict pain on their persons.
Indifference. The Grave Sin of Our Time
The grave sin we commit in our times, is the sin of indifference to the plight of others. We walk on the other side of the road like the Priest and the Levite. We don’t want to see, we don’t want to know. We carry around with us hearts of stone. We measure the worth of persons by applying the misguided criteria of race, nationality, culture and religion. When we discriminate against our fellow-Africans, we betray our own humanity; we diminish our own honour and the worth as human persons. We obscure the image of God imprinted on our faces and in our hearts. The fact is, we are creatures that find our perfection only by establishing a relationship with others. It is this mutuality that makes us truly human. It is a mutual relationship that cuts across man-made boundaries, geographical frontiers, cultural fault-lines and racial divides. Person to person relationships irrespective of origin, language, race or culture, are generally warm and pleasant. Relationships are poisoned by a prejudice that is embedded in society.
St. Paul writing to the Galatians reminds us that we are all sons and daughters of God: “All of you have been Baptised into Christ. Therefore there is neither Jew not Greek, slave not free, male nor female. We are all heirs according to the promise” (Gal.3.26).
We must learn to bring down the walls among us, embrace each other and “do as God would want us to”. This is the moral posture and attitude human beings should assume.
We owe this one to ourselves.
“All you nations, praise the Lord, for He is good”.
+Buti Tlhagale omi
St. Henry’s School
PPC ELECTIONS 2019
The Department for Evangelisation needs to reach out to all Deaneries and their Parishes in preparation for and after the PPC and DPC elections. This is following on to our letter of the 25thOctober 2018 to all Parish Priests and PPC Chairpersons declaring that time has come for new PPCs to be elected.
We need to assist parishes to have a smooth but spirit filled elections with leaders who are willing to serve and not to be served. This note is meant to help guide parishes in running good elections:
The process needs to be preceded with private and public prayer to the Holy Spirit by the entire Parish. The intention may be included in the prayers of the faithful during Mass.
1. Who qualifies to be elected to the PPC? (Potential Candidates)
1.1. Any catholic who has been baptized, confirmed and receives Sacraments. A person of proven faith with sound morals, who is in full communion with the Catholic Church (canon 512), participates in parish activities and is above the age of 21.
1.2. A person who is willing to commit their time, talent and wisdom in a consultative and collaborative manner, willing to work harmoniously with the Parish Priest. A person who is willing to unite the parish community.
1.3. A person who has not served in the PPC for two terms of three years in succession without a break. After serving for three years, a person may be elected for another term of three years and thereafter does not qualify for re-election. (PPC Statutes 3.3)
1.4. One who demonstrates the gifts of wisdom and prudence, willing to participate in an ongoing process of faith formation.
This has to be adhered to strictly.
2. Nominations Process: Suggestions for nomination of candidates.
2.1. PPC should comprise of representatives of different communities. Such as SCCs (Small Christian Communities), Sodalities, Youth, PFC (Parish Finance Committee – one member) and other groupings within the parish communities e.g. Schools, Religious Communities etc. (PPC Statutes 2.2.2/3/4)
2.2. Nominations can be made from the entire Parish community where necessary. This helps to represent all people even those who don’t belong to SCCs or any group within the parish. (PPC Statutes 2.2)
2.3. Elections must be conducted to determine the representatives by way of getting more votes from those nominated by communities. Whoever gets the highest votes will become a member of the PPC.
2.4. Leaders of groups are automatically members of the PPC provided they are not exceeding stipulated term of office. A committee member of a group/sodality may represent them in the PPC.
2.5. We encourage “secret ballot” to be used as the transparent method for this election. People have to feel free of influences to elect their Parish leaders.
2.6. Neutral people may be asked to assist in running the elections. Deanery leadership or cluster Parishes may assist each other by providing such people.
2.7. The size of the Parish will determine the number of PPC membership. All parishioners should feel represented.
3. Duration of Elections: When should elections be held? (Timeline)
3.1. Every Parish should aim at electing from the 3rd March 2019 and be done by the 24th March 2019. (See letter to priests dated 25/10/2018). The Synod Champion is an ex officio member of the PPC.
3.2. All PPC Chairpersons in a Deanery should meet to elect the Deanery Pastoral Council (DPC). These should be in place by 14th April 2019.
3.3. On the 4th May 2019 the eight elected Deanery Chairpersons will meet at the Cathedral Place to elect the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council (APC) Executive Committee.
3.4. On the 11th May 2019 All PPCs will come together at the Cathedral hall to be inducted by the Archbishop.
A complete list of the PPC, the Executive Committee and reps for the various portfolios should be sent to the Department of Evangelization signed by the Parish Priest before the 31st March 2019.
*Should parishes need more clarity or assistance of any kind, please contact us on 011 402 6400.*
We will appreciate your commitment
Yours in Christ
(Head of Evangelisation Department)