Faith and the current mood

2008-03-06 00:00

The Witness asked representatives of different religious groups how believers are responding to the current gloom in the country.

Dr Lucas Ngoetjana of the Churches Advocacy Office at the KZN Christian Council said that the “melancholic mood” had been expressed by the council chairman who said, “We are in a very desperate position. However, we should not sink into discouragement and hopelessness.”

For example, said Ngoetjana, “At almost every service people report experiences of crime. Because of that, this office is actively involved in establishing community policing initiatives to encourage people to protect themselves by co-operating with law enforcement authorities.”

Commenting on how their faith helps Christians to cope, Ngoetjana said: “The sermons of many Christian leaders currently encourage believers by reassuring them that God is with us and has not left us alone, just as during the struggle for liberation. They go back to the cross on which Jesus bore more than the anger, despair and pain that we experience. What we are going through is not beyond our ability to resist and survive.”

The president of the Midlands Hindu Society, advocate Ranjiv Nirghin, said that initially most people were horrified with the power outages and the level of crime in the country. However, when it was revealed that the crisis was caused by poor management at Eskom rather than a lack of capacity and expertise, they realised that with proper systems the country should be able to overcome the crisis.

He explained that “Hinduism offers different means and ways of dealing with the stress and anxiety in the form of communal prayer and chanting of the divine names according to each one’s relationship with the divine. There are more specific stress relievers that can help anyone cope with the pressures of life and our current situation, like practising Karma yoga, Prana yoga and Hatha yoga.

“Karma yoga allows one to serve the community by doing selfless service for the needy. Prana yoga and Hatha are breathing and physical exercises that focus on the complete wellness of an individual’s body.

“Hindus believe in the law of Karma, which literally means that we are the makers of our own destiny, so irrespective of the consequences always do the right thing and good is bound to follow. However, it does not mean sit back and do nothing, and hope that something good will happen. People need to take control of their destiny by being proactive.”

Commenting on emigration among Hindus, Nirghin said people emigrating are mostly professionals who have been hard done by the system of affirmative action and have been affected directly and indirectly by crime.

He also said: “There will always be doomsayers in every community. We have the potential to be the best nation in the world but we will have to overcome the hurdles of crime, nepotism and corruption that are prevalent in our country so that every South African truly has a fair opportunity to grow, and we will.”

According to a spokesman for the Jamiatul Ulama Pietermaritzburg, Islam helps Muslims to cope with living with uncertainty and anxiety because it encourages them to pray frequently. Prayer is a means of gaining divine assistance in times of difficulties. “In Islam we are taught that all conditions come from the Almighty and if we follow the teachings, do good deeds and pray, then good conditions will prevail. Muslims place more trust in the divine system than the human system. Even with crime and death, etc., Muslims are able to cope because they have strong beliefs.

“They have a strong religious reinforcement from their religious leaders and schools. Among Muslims the family structure is still strong, which bonds the community in times of difficulties. Islam is a religion that breeds optimism.”

On the subject of emigration in the Muslim community, he said: “Muslims don’t believe that by relocating elsewhere their problems will be solved. The same creator Almighty is everywhere. They believe that they should rather concentrate on improving their spiritual lives in whichever circumstances they are.

“It is very difficult to put a figure on this as there are no known records; however, South African Muslims are not emigrating en masse.”

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