Church plays pivotal role in promoting social justice in SA - Christian News
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Church plays pivotal role in promoting social justice in SA

Church in the Community - Media Release in the Herald: 26th February 2024

Source: TCN / Bukelwa Hans
Date Added: 2024-02-26

Category: General NewsTCN NewsIssues - GeneralIssues - PoliticsIssues - Social upliftment
Churches, especially in the global south, have often been, and still are, an integral part of the struggle for political freedom and social and economic justice.

They have become people's platforms, where human rights and social justice issues are taken up directly by people in their own contexts.

The South African churches’ involvement in the fight against apartheid is a great example of taking ownership of building a better, just reality.

In an increasingly globalised world, problems that require advocacy often cannot be solved within the limits of the influence of local actors.

Often even the national stage is insufficient to address the root causes of suffering.

Successful advocacy needs to address its issues on multiple levels – locally, nationally, regionally, and globally – to affect maximum and sustainable change at the local level.

South Africa, with over 60 million people, is a country facing a dire socio-economic crisis with widespread poverty, growing hunger, and persistent and high unemployment.

According to the latest Quarterly Labour Force Survey, South Africa’s narrow and expanded unemployment rate was 31,9% and 41,2%, respectively, in the third quarter of 2023.

Although there was a slight decrease in the unemployment rate compared to the previous quarter and year, hunger and joblessness continue to be major challenges for millions of South Africans.

Almost 30 years into our democracy, inequality remains one of South Africa’s most pressing socio-economic challenges, with race and spatial segregation playing a determining factor as South Africa remains one of the most unequal societies in the world.

What is then the role of the church in today’s South Africa?

The pursuit of economic and social justice is a faith-based commitment to serve those living in poverty and address the conditions leading to poverty and inequality.

It is central to the teachings of Jesus and at the heart of biblical faith. Mother Teresa once said: “Poverty doesn't only consist of being hungry for bread, but rather it is a tremendous hunger for human dignity”.

Social and economic justice is, hence, not only about the satisfaction of basic needs, but also about the restoration of human dignity and equal inclusion in the affairs of society.

The pursuit of justice is the manifestation of faith in action as it works to affect substantial and tangible social change in the real world.

Without the pursuit of justice within society, faith becomes a private matter.

When the church is called to preach this good news to the poor and be an advocate of those who are otherwise not heard and seen, who are excluded, it means for the church to be prophetic in word and consequently in actions.

In doing so, the church cannot be the servants of the state. It needs to be the conscience of the state.

What does this mean concretely in our situation today?

In the face of continuous government commitments to tackle economic disparities, create jobs, and eradicate poverty, the harsh reality of persisting poverty, inequality, and climate breakdown leaves ever-growing numbers of people in precarious and desperate situations.

It is imperative to recognise that the issue is more intricate than individual explanations and requires bold, new and unconventional solutions.

Unjust structures perpetuate poverty, necessitating comprehensive structural interventions for the majority to break free from this vicious cycle.

Drawing inspiration from theology, particularly the story of manna from heaven in Exodus 16, provides a profound understanding of breaking the cycle of starvation and moving out of slavery into liberation.

The daily provision of manna accompanied God's people on their arduous journey through the desert.

The manna not only fed them, but freed people from the daily struggle for survival, thereby enabling them to move forward through the desert.

The unconditional and universal provision of manna highlights the importance of empowerment of the individual and, at the same time, the importance of an undivided and equal community.

This parallels the concept of a Universal Basic Income Grant (UBIG), which empowers individuals universally, allowing them to walk on the path of liberation without exclusion, freeing them from the daily struggle for survival to take charge of their economic affairs and, at the same time, creates a more equal society.

Contrary to targeted approaches, a UBIG is akin to a God-given right, providing everyone with the means to sustain themselves.

This approach ensures daily bread security without administrative exclusions, especially benefiting larger households where people pool and share their resources. The UBIG supports diverse living arrangements and fosters social cohesion.

While it may initially seem counterintuitive to provide income to everybody, the analogy of the journey out of slavery demonstrates that it fosters community and solidarity.

Pilots in Namibia and India have shown that by establishing a secure basic economic floor through a UBIG, individuals gain the freedom to take economic risks, start businesses, and confront exploitative practices with the reassurance that there will be no hunger at home.

In economic terms, a UBIG enables families and people to pool resources, plan for the future, and fundamentally change their ability to take part in economic activities.

UBIG serves as a catalyst for collective action, allowing individuals to challenge exploitative practices, take ownership, and build a more just and sustainable economic framework.

As we confront the complex issues of poverty and inequality, the transformative power of UBIG, grounded in theological insights and inspirations, offers a pathway to liberation and empowerment.

The churches, with their intimate connection to communities and their local, national, regional and global networks, have a pivotal role to play in leading the pursuit of social and economic justice by advocating for this structural intervention to create a more equitable and sustainable future for all.

Lobbying for UBIG is a practical expression of this pursuit for social and economic justice!
Rev Dr Bukelwa Hans
Uniting Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa
Source: TCN / Bukelwa Hans
Date Added: 2024-02-26

Category: General NewsTCN NewsIssues - GeneralIssues - PoliticsIssues - Social upliftment
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