South Africa is a beautiful country, one in which we enjoy peace and freedom.
And yet our peace is fragile and our freedom delicate. I’m not just saying that for shock effect, consider the violence in Alexander and Walmer townships during and immediately after the elections last month; and the ongoing debates around access to information. Surely peace and freedom, a gift given by those that died to win it, are ours to protect.
Within that general framework it would seem that Christian peace and freedom is under ever-increasing pressure. Consider some issues we’re currently battling:
- A proposal to amend the Children’s Act, making it illegal for parents to spank their children,
- A proposed bill defining the Church’s profession that the practice of homosexuality is sinful according to the Bible as hate speech,
- and that “increasingly the HRC [Human Rights Commission] presents as a mouthpiece of liberal activists seemingly determined to drive Christianity from society” (ACDP statement).
What can we to do in response?
Last year I was informed that a proposed Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill would mean that our church – which believes that the leadership of each local church should be constituted by a plurality of male elders – would be in contravention of the law. I wrote in, expressed our churches position, requesting that the bill be amended or an exclusion be noted. I was pleased to read in the minutes of the working committee that my letter was read, considered, along with other submissions from like-minded people, and the bill was withdrawn in its current form.
A battle won.
But what about the next one? Who’ll keep an eye on proposed legislation? Who’ll inform people like me of issues to which I should respond? I spent a day reading that bill, it was long, technical, boring. Who’ll simplify things so that pastors, like me, who aren’t politicians can understand and speak to issues that are relevant to our churches?
On Thursday the 29th May, 2014 I’ll be going to listen to one organisation who is suggesting that they’re the answer to many of the questions above. The organisation is called FOR SA (Freedom of Religion South Africa), and they intend creating a powerful united voice to government on issues affecting religious freedom.
Christian? Evangelical? Organised? Credible? Capable? I’ll write the answers to these questions after sitting the meeting on Thursday. Any other questions you think I should ask, or you’d like me to ask? Jot them down in the comments below.
The Meeting for Christian Leaders on Freedom of Religion takes place at Rosebank Union Church, cnr William Nicol & Sandton Drive, Johannesburg, on Thursday, 29th May from 10:00 to 15:00. The cost is R120 per delegate and includes teas and lunch. To book or for further information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or check out their website (http://forsa.org.za/crucial-meeting/).