What Easter means to us

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba
Archbishop Thabo Makgoba

Easter symbolises the resurrection of our country, the triumph of good over evil and is a call to pray that sanity prevails in cults, three of our elders tell Vuyo Mkize and Msindisi Fengu.

ARCHBISHOP THABO MAKGOBA

Anglican Archbishop Thabo Makgoba says it marks a turning point for the country in more ways than one.

Makgoba likened the resurrection of Jesus Christ, which will be observed this coming week, to the resurrection of the country, because of the renewed hope that came from the change of leadership from Jacob Zuma to President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Makgoba has been articulate in his criticism of Zuma’s “deeply corrupt” administration.

He was quoted as saying that the country descended into “painful distress” during Zuma’s tenure.

“Earlier I had been preparing for my Easter Sunday sermon and the message that came to me was that of this period being a turning point – not just for the church, but for the country,” he told City Press on Friday.

“We had reached the lowest point of our faith and now it’s been turned to joy. The resurrection, in Christian terms, is a time of celebrating triumph – good over evil, hope over despair and love over hate.”

Government’s goal should be to make the country “work” again.

“Now we can get our hands dirty and make sure the dividends of our democracy are felt by all.

"The government needs to ensure that those with tuberculosis have access to treatment and screening, that those with HIV feel loved, that where government is struggling or failing to bring services, like in the areas where children are falling into pit toilets, businesses and companies come in to bring those services.

“There’s a lot of pressure on the new leaders and, as we reflect on the past, we should hold on to a new hope for the country.”

The Anglican faith’s commemoration of Easter begins today, marking Palm Sunday. Tomorrow will begin the week of honouring Christ’s passion and sacrifice.

Makgoba says this holy week has always been of significance to him – particularly during his teenage years at Orlando High School in Soweto, during the height of the student uprisings.

“Back then, when people wanted to leave the country because it was such a tough time to live under, this period of Easter always reminded me of Christ’s own suffering and how he never ran away, but stood in his faith.

“That’s always carried me, even till today.”

He calls on South Africans to dedicate themselves to a “new struggle” – that of addressing persistent socioeconomic inequalities.

“We are all called by God to strive for something bigger than ourselves. There are obvious inequalities, but we must hold firm to the knowledge that we are never alone.” – Vuyo Mkize

BISHOP MALUSI MPUMLWANA

Easter offers a moment of reflection and renewal for the country and its leaders and is not just for Christians to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, says South African Council of Churches general secretary Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana.

“If we had to define post-apartheid, for example, in the resurrection image, it could be seen as the emergence of a just society and the death of an unjust one.

"That just society would be one that is peaceful, equitable, free of racism and tribalism, free of xenophobia and gender prejudices and one where each child can be born equal and live their full potential.”

It is up to everyone to make sure that a vision of a just post-apartheid society is realised.

“We as churches in the country committed ourselves to a post-apartheid South Africa, we committed to soaking the country in prayer and that we may all live in the country we prayed for.

"Good Friday becomes that moment when we put the pains of our nation and our pains on the cross and Christ absorbs that pain and carries it for us.

“And then on the day of resurrection, which becomes a moment of triumph, we are encouraged to live in the energy of joy, resurrection and hope.”

Mpumlwana says the country needs a “resurrection moment”, as provided through the celebration of Easter, to realise the goal of a united country.

He says the mistake we have made is thinking that our solutions lie with individuals.

“We looked at Mandela, who we surrendered all our hopes to in bringing us together. But it cannot all be achieved by one person. The Zuma era also proved that.

"The real value of Easter is that it opens the door and empowers all of us. We must all be accountable in keeping the values and standards of post-apartheid South Africa.”

Mpumlwana says people have to stand up for the values enshrined in the country’s guiding documents, such as the Constitution, Freedom Charter and Bill of Rights.

He says SA Communist Party leader Blade Nzimande used to quote the Freedom Charter’s words “the doors of learning shall be open to all” and say that the government had opened more doors of learning by building more schools.

“But what are the standards necessary to open those doors?” Mpumlwana asks.

“You can’t say the doors of learning are open when schools in the Eastern Cape do not have proper toilets.” In a “resurrected society” everybody has to uphold its standards and values, he says. – Vuyo Mkize

THOKO MKHWANAZI-XALUVA

The nation’s Christians should pray for wisdom to prevail in churches this Easter, following tragic reports of the growth of cults in the country, says Thoko Mkhwanazi-Xaluva.

She urged congregants to be vigilant of ungodly churches during this Easter and to reflect.

Mkhwanazi-Xaluva is chairperson of the CRL Rights Commission.

“Let’s dedicate this Easter to pray for those who have been misled. Let’s pray for wisdom to prevail for those in cults.

"We need to pray for the church to be boring again and for this excitement of getting people sprayed (with insecticides) and eating (snakes) to stop. We’ve seen an emergence of cults and that needs to be curtailed.”

Mkhwanazi-Xaluva, a Christian, says praying is one of the weapons to use against rogue church leaders.

The commission is still working on its plan to approach the Constitutional Court to test its recommendations about regulating churches, contained in a recently published report.

The country needs legislation to deal with cult leaders, she says.

Parliament’s portfolio committee on cooperative governance and traditional affairs has rejected the commission’s recommendations.

She says an inquiry into what happened at the Mancoba Seven Angels Ministry in Ngcobo, Eastern Cape, and the murders of five officers at the local police station, is needed to expose gaps in the country’s laws, so that these can be plugged.

Vigilance is required to look for signs of congregants worshipping their pastors more than God. Some pastors promise to perform miracles, while people donate all their belongings to such cults.

“If you know deep inside that something is far-fetched, walk away.

"Tell your relative to walk away and pray for your friends and their family, because not all churches are safe. Be vigilant, observant and be critical,” she says.

Easter is a time of cleansing for Christians, which means it is “time for introspection”.

“I hope Christians will pray for the religious sector, especially Christianity, to get its dignity back.

“There are those people who hide behind freedom of religion.

"Christians need to pray for guidance so we can have a clear vision, whether one is in politics or a bureaucrat. We need to pray so that we can solve this onslaught happening to Christianity.” – Msindisi Fengu

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