What Christian voters should be asking of parties

2009-04-19 00:00

KwaZulu-Natal Christian Council views contained in a pastoral letter from the council’s chairman, Bishop Rubin Phillip, and CEO the Reverend Phumzile Zondi-Mabizela:

“We are greatly concerned that political intolerance seems to be growing in many communities as we prepare to cast our votes. To agree to differ is a noble idea which stems from a fundamental belief of our Christian religion, and indeed of all major world religions, that we should do to others what we would like them to do to us.

We earnestly call on all people in KwaZulu-Natal to desist from any activity or utterance which may prevent our fellow citizens from exercising their right to participate fully – a right for which so many have struggled and died in the past.

Political parties have presented their election manifestoes. They have signed the Electoral Code of Conduct and must be held to every clause of that undertaking.

KZNCC as an autonomous ecumenical body does not support a particular and specific political party. Our members must enjoy freedom of choice and association without hindrance. KZNCC distances itself from individuals and churches who explicitly pledge support to precise political parties.

We pray that the 2009 elections may readily deserve the authentic stamp of “free and fair” and that we will elect leaders whom we can proudly say have been chosen by the people. Such leaders would:

• adhere to a high standard of ethical behaviour in public and in private;

• have a concern for all people, but special compassion for the poor and marginalised;

• be able to see beyond personal or party interests;

• accommodate and encourage open debate;

• be willing to listen to all citizens;

• be accountable with regard to the promises in their manifestoes;

• ensure delivery of services, especially to the most needy.

Political leaders should make democracy work for all our people.”

Message from Pastor Leslie Chetty, chairman of the KZN Midlands Christian Council:

“We call on our incoming government:

1. To do well, by listening to the prophetic voice of the church, whether that voice presents encouragement, praise or criticism.

2. To consult church structures on a continual basis, in formulating government policy and legislation.

3. To guard against laws or policies that seek to undermine the churches’ autonomy in setting Biblical standards of morality for its members. Government should guard against the extremities of separating state and church, thereby denying government the benefit of the churches’ counsel for good governance.

4. To take measures to prevent its own officials from abusing state organs and resources, to gain advantage over political parties or individuals in opposition to the ruling party. Government officials must also not discriminate against those members of the electorate belonging to opposition parties,when it comes to distributing state resources. After all, people belonging to all political parties, pay taxes to government at various levels.

5. Government must give due respect to the fact that the church has unique strengths in society and come alongside these strengths, rather than compete with them.

6. At an international level, government should not side with or protect dictators and states that abuse the human rights of their citizens.

Views from Michael Cassidy, founder of African Enterprises

“A recent cartoon showed someone knocking at the Pearly Gates. A messenger answers and returns to St Peter announcing, ‘Oh, it’s just another South African politician wanting God to help him secure more votes.’

This is both encouraging and perilous. The hard fact is that God can never be made a pawn in anybody’s political processes, nor can He be domesticated to the aims and programmes of any particular party.

This does not mean, in my view, that political leaders should suppress their faith or keep the faith factor out of political processes.

However, it has become confusing to the electorate when all the parties are suddenly going overboard on being ever so religious and spiritual. Religious comments by political leaders should be measured against their behaviour, moral seriousness and track record.

Voters need to think prayerfully about which people or parties will best meet three leadership challenges:

1. National reconciliation: South Africa has in some ways of late been re-racialised and re-tribalised by irresponsible rhetoric, which risks becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. We now need to develop a non-adversarial partnership between blacks, whites and browns to heal us and restore our lost place as a beacon of light to the world.

2. The economy: by and large our economy has been well managed since 1994, but because poverty and corruption remain major challenges we need to look at the economic policies and leaders of parties and see where there is the resolution with integrity both to expand the economy by better free enterprise and to share the socialised fruits of that expansion more equitably.

3. Moral and spiritual leadership: we need to recapture both a sense of integrity among leaders and a national transcendentally-rooted ethical consensus.

As a nation we stand at a crossroads.

The rush of many leaders towards political power, and often self-aggrandisement and wealth acquisition, must give way to the spirit of humble and repentant service to a panting, and sometimes anxious country.”

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