Let us make 2024 a year focused on reconciliation - Christian News
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Let us make 2024 a year focused on reconciliation

Church in the Community - Media Release in the Herald: 22nd January 2024

Source: TCN / Ds Danie Mouton
Date Added: 2024-01-22

Category: General NewsTCN NewsIssues - GeneralIssues - Politics
Being an election year, 2024 is widely predicted to be a difficult, conflict-ridden period riddled with inflammatory political rhetoric.

Cultivating distrust in perceived opponents is an opportunistic way to consolidate support amongst sections of the electorate. We all suffered under the colonial "divide and rule" and apartheid's divides.

Therefore, at a time like this, God calls the church to purposely embody the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The apostle Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:18 to a congregation which struggled with divisions, social class-issues and various conflicts: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation."

God's project, through Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, is to renew creation by establishing a renewed, reconciled community of faith.

God sends this community to be reconciled, to take hands across all kinds of boundaries - real or imagined – and to work together to renew God's creation.

It is therefore imperative for South Africans to reach out to one another, to cultivate friendship, to learn to understand each other and to serve one another.

We may be cynical about reconciliation and view it as an unattainable goal.

Not so quickly. The Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR) published it most recent findings on South African reconciliation in December 2023. This highly respected barometer was first conducted in 2003 and is now in its 20th year.

The Barometer continues to find, according to its executive summary, consistently high levels of support for a shared South African identity – and not just in light of the Rugby World Cup victory.

Most people (86%) agree that being South African is an important part of how they see themselves, and this has not been dampened by strong positive associations with other identity groups.

A further three-quarters (75%) of South Africans think a united country is desirable and 72% believe this is possible in the future.

The 2023 Barometer results show that there is still a great deal holding South Africans together and that considerable progress has been made in some aspects of reconciliation.

This is good news for Christians, being compelled by the God who reconciled us through faith in Jesus, to God self, and being sent to serve and to minister reconciliation.

A plethora of political and social forces opposes reconciliation.

Corruption undermines trust in leaders, the Barometer found, and the majority opinion is that national leaders are not concerned about what happens to ordinary people (81%) and cannot be trusted to do the right thing (79%).

Confidence in public institutions continued to drop.

Inequality remains a severe stumbling block.

After almost 30 years of democracy, South Africa remains among the most unequal societies in the world.

Many still live in deep poverty and according to the 2023 Barometer, in the past year one in four (25%) South Africans experienced food insecurity and 44% went without a cash income (several times, many times or always).

Survey data also confirms statistically significant differences in poverty, household living conditions and relative financial circumstances between people of different races.

South Africans have consistently identified the gap between rich and poor as the biggest source of division in the country since the first survey round in 2003.

Many view the country as fractured, with 49% in 2023 describing South Africa as either somewhat or very divided.

Christians may feel overwhelmed.

How will our humble efforts bear fruit against a tsunami of inequality, poverty and unemployment?

Personally, I am encouraged by a bridge event a number of Dutch Reformed pastors, together with clergy from the Anglican and Catholic Churches held during 2023.

We told our stories. It was painful, healing and hopeful.

The goal was to promote understanding to overcome division and to encourage friendship and cooperation amongst spiritual leaders in the Bay.

The initiative bore fruit through, for example, a joint initiative to promote early childhood development by the church partners.

For the last two years, on Reconciliation Day, a number of Christians from diverse backgrounds have held a "long table" event in the Bay West food court.

It was an opportunity to meet, to converse, and to make new friends.

The goodwill is truly inspirational.

Many obstacles remain.

Reconciliation is a journey, a marathon and not a 100-meter sprint.

Difficult questions regarding truth and justice remain, and practical action to embody reconciliation is needed.

Let us work intentionally, through thousands of small initiatives and conversations, for reconciliation.

Reconcilers will also need to hold politicians accountable. According to most commentators, the ANC is struggling to maintain its majority, and political coalitions are vying for power.

This cannot happen at the expense of reconciliation.

Please go and vote in 2024. Vote for those who embody justice, care and reconciliation.

Ds Danie Mouton
is the executive director of the Dutch Reformed Church in the Eastern Cape
Source: TCN / Ds Danie Mouton
Date Added: 2024-01-22

Category: General NewsTCN NewsIssues - GeneralIssues - Politics
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