Faiths at odds over calendar

2012-06-22 00:00

CHRISTIANS yesterday said they feared Good Friday and Christmas celebrations might be lost as the government attempts to accommodate other religions.

The Christian contingent that attended the Durban hearings on national holidays conducted by the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL Rights Commission) said followers of the faith believed the exercise by the government was an attempt to take away two of their most important holy days.

Muslims, Hindus, Rastafarians and members of the Shembe Church who also attended proceedings at the Durban City Hall argued that their respective holy days also needed to be recognised.

They said the general feeling among minority religions was that there were too many Christian public holidays.

It was announced at the hearings that the commission would submit its findings to the Department of Home Affairs and the Presidency, which would in turn present them to Parliament.

The Christians said they were not willing to compromise.

“There is no way we will be willing to come to a compromise and lose any of those holidays,” said the deputy president of the African Christian Democratic Party, Wayne Thring.

“There was no consultation before the removal of Ascension Day. It is this heavy-handedness that has resulted in this feeling of fear within the Christian community,” Thring told The Witness.

“Christmas is attached to Good Friday. Without Christmas there would be no Good Friday.

“Without birth there would be no death,” he said.

“We also would like to see Ascension Day restored as a public holiday.”

Ashwin Trikamjee, president of the South African Hindu Maha Sabha, said Hindus did not want to see Christian holidays removed becuase that “would be unreasonable”.

“All we want is for Diwali to be recognised as a public holiday. We want to share the spirit of Diwali with the rest of South Africa.”

Trikamjee said a lot of practising Hindus in South Africa were at a disadvantage at their workplaces because they needed to apply for leave to observe their holy days.

“All religions must be treated equally. We are asking the commission to look at Diwali very seriously,” he added.

Commissioner Nogwaja Zulu said that the intention of the hearings was not to scrap Christian holidays, but to ensure other religious holy days were officially recognised.

Rastafarians want the birthday of Ethiopia’s Emperor Haile Salassie, among other sacred days, observed as a national holiday.

“The calendar is full of Christian holidays,” said Ras Sabelo Mthethwa.

They also wanted January 7, the Nativity of the Christ, to be observed.

“We do not celebrate Jesus’ birthday on the 25th of December,” he said.

Members of the Shembe Church want March 10, the arrival of Isaiah Shembe, to be declared a holiday.

The Muslim contingent wants a public holiday to observe Eid ul-Fitr, the last day of Ramadan.

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