Guest Column

Editorial: Stop the abuse of religion

2017-04-16 06:03

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The Easter weekend is a significant one for various religious denominations in the country. A Passover for Jews and an Ijtima (Islamic gathering) for Muslims, these are often overshadowed by various Christian activities. From Moria and Shembe gatherings to those in soccer stadiums, Christians come to remember Jesus Christ’s last supper, and his death and resurrection after three days.

At City Press, we feel it is time for those who practise any form of religion to reflect on how religion has been used and misused over the past year. Way too many desperate congregants have been taken advantage of by unscrupulous criminals disguised as men and women of God.

Many of these congregants are poor and believe that the church is the last salvation. They would do anything their pastors and bishops or spiritual healers tell them to do.

Many have been made to drink petrol or eat snakes, have been sprayed with insect killer such as Doom, and have allowed cars to be driven over their bodies, all in the name of the Lord.

As if the manipulation is not enough, many more dig deeper in their already empty pockets to contribute to the church’s coffers – often to ensure that whoever started the church lives a comfortable and expensive lifestyle. All this while the members live in abject poverty, with no idea of where their next meal will come from.

The Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities conducted investigations into the abuse of poor congregants and the commercialisation of places of worship.

We await its final report and recommendations.

What is clear, though, is that communities must stand up against such practices.

Churches should stand up and collectively say: “Not in our name.” But over the past few years, we have seen church leaders remain silent while fraud and theft are committed in their name.

Government, too, cannot fold its arms. Authorities must walk into any place of worship and demand to see compliance with regulations and the bona fides of these pastors.

With so much going wrong elsewhere in the country, churches should be places of refuge where the community can find emotional support and counselling.

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