Moving beyond colour

2009-12-03 00:00

AN old friend of mine once said: “The world is my country and my religion is to do good.” I never realised the power of such words until recently. The world is my country — meaning that whether I am a Nigerian in Brazil or a Chinese person in Zambia, I am at home and I should feel safe. My religion is to do good — meaning that whether my church requires me to eat cold food on Saturdays or, as a woman, not to wear pants, my main aim is to do what is right and live according to the laws set in the Bible. Can you imagine what our world would be like if all human beings realised this?

I have always been fascinated by the different types of religions we have in South Africa, but the most interesting thing is that even though each one believes in its own ideas, they mostly use the same bible, they just quote it differently. For instance, there is a church that I visited and they believe that Jesus was born in October and not in December. They quoted the scriptures to substantiate their opinion and it actually made sense. Another church believes that a woman should wear a doek on her head and not wear any make-up or jewellery, because that is how God wants to see us when we come before him. They also quote the scriptures that make you understand why they believe this. Whichever way we look at it, the most important part of the Bible is Exodus and the 10 commandments. Whatever your religion — be it Jehovah’s Witness, Catholic, Muslim or other — we are all called to abide by the same rules, those simple 10 commandments. So instead of judging one another, finding fault in other ministries and travelling across the world to find the right church, why can’t we begin with the simple things, such as obeying the 10 golden rules stated in the Bible?

This draws my mind back to early last year when we had the xenophobia problem where many people were killed and intimidated just because they were not originally from South Africa. These innocent people were running away from unbearable conditions in their own homelands and our country was the place where they found shelter, yet we didn’t want to accommodate them. Instead we attacked them. We were so quick to forget that some of our own great-grandfathers sought shelter in those same neighbouring countries in the apartheid times, which brings me to my next point.

As unbelievable as it is, you still find black people who don’t particularly “like” white people because of what happened to their great-grandfathers during apartheid. What happened back then is in the past. Maybe it has not been forgotten but it should certainly be forgiven. There are few people who were around back then who are still alive today, so we have no right to be angry with white people now. It doesn’t make sense for me, only born in the late eighties, to be angry at the white girl who sits next to me in class just because there is a slight possibility that her great-grandfather treated my great-grandfather badly in the seventies. I was not there and neither was she. It is about time we all realised that, black, white, Chinese, Indian or other, we are stuck with each other and the only way we can live happily is to learn to live peacefully together. We have to remove the colour bar from the images in our minds. We have to get rid of segregation in our minds and embrace the diversity of this country and of this world.

As a young mother, I want this country to be a safe place for my son to grow up in. I want him to be proud of himself but to also appreciate the other racial groups of our country. I want him to know that he is free to make friends with anybody and should not be afraid of being labelled a coconut if he chooses to be friends with John instead of Sipho. Most importantly, I want him to know that this world is his country and his religion is to do good.

• Lungi Dladla is a freelance writer based in Pietermaritzburg.

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