SACC slates Zuma's Christian comments
Johannesburg - President Jacob Zuma's comments that Christianity brought orphans and old-age homes to South Africa have come as a shock, the SA Council of Churches said on Wednesday.
"We are just taken aback. We are shocked and we don't understand," said SACC general secretary Reverend Mautji Pataki.
Zuma was quoted on TheTimesLive website as saying that "as Africans, long before the arrival of religion and [the] gospel, we had our own ways of doing things".
He was speaking at the launch of a road safety and crime awareness campaign at KwaMaphumulo in KwaZulu-Natal.
"Those were times that the religious people refer to as dark days, but we know that, during those times, there were no orphans or old-age homes. Christianity has brought along these things," he said.
Zuma's office has since issued a statement that sought to clarify his comments.
Pataki said that the council was "deeply disappointed" by the president's comments.
"We do not understand why the president, whom we have always counted as one amongst us Christians, would find the Christian faith to be so hopeless with regard to building humanity."
Pataki said that it was the "calling" of Christians to care for the vulnerable of society.
"The Lord Jesus Christ was a friend to orphans and widowers and the old and the disabled. Wherever they are, we will do our ministry... which is to take care of them. It's a calling. It's not a choice."
Co-founder of the International Orphan Network website, Sean Grant, said that South Africans needed to focus on the present.
"There is a great need for social services and care of orphan and widows.
"While there may have not been these institutions in the past, certainly we will see that the current culture in South Africa is abandonment and negligence. If it weren't for religious groups and non-profit organisations, there would be far more lack of care, if not dying," he said.
In a statement on Wednesday, the presidency said that what Zuma had meant in his comments at KwaMaphumulo was that South Africans should not neglect African culture, while embracing Western culture and Christianity.
"While we should embrace Western culture and Christianity, we should not neglect the African ways of doing things," presidency spokesperson Mac Maharaj said.
Maharaj said that the faith-based sector had made a "sterling contribution" for the struggle for liberation and justice for over a century in SA.
He said Zuma would meet religious leaders in the new year to discuss how they could work together on various social problems.
Maharaj said that Zuma's comments at the campaign conveyed his views that "while we welcome the advent of Western culture, some useful traditional ways of doing things and aspects of African culture were undermined or even eroded".
"The president indicated, among other things, that Western culture had brought about the end of the extended family as an institution, leading to the need for government to establish old age homes, orphanages and other mechanisms to support the poor and vulnerable.
"He added that even poverty was an unknown factor as neighbours were always ready to assist each other, giving one another milk or cattle where needed."