This Violence is Not Who We Are!
While I was reading an article by Ricardo da Silva SJ on Jesuit Institute Connect, titled “A Pain That We Must Hold”, my mind took me to the recent survey concerning the escalating level of violence in our country.
Paraphrasing Fr Da Silva, I could not but ask: “How can we live serenely and productively if 57 people are killed daily? How do we continue as a nation? Where is the hope for our country? I wonder why I remain a South African.”
Violence in Everyday Life
The phenomenal level of violence that we witness daily cannot be wished away or explained simply: xenophobic attacks, bullying in schools, stabbing of teachers, domestic violence, violent demonstrations, burning of public facilities, mob violence, rape, burglary, robbery with violence, and so on.
In the same way that Pope Francis is taking bold steps and paying a heavy price to tackle the issue of clerical sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, we as a nation must also be ready to take this long, arduous walk to address the root causes of violence in our society.
It is easy to immediately point out the old wounds of apartheid and racism, unemployment, immigrants, and drug abuse as the main causes of this violence.
Yet a closer look at the whole social fabric, starting from the way we bring up our children, may reveal to us some pertinent contributing factors to this escalating violence.
I believe that as a nation, we were not created for violence. This is not who we are! It is a path that we chose and elected to foment and the fruits are now evident all over.
If we chose to follow this path of violence and bequeathed it to our children, we can still choose to follow another path insofar as our freedom and will is not stymied.
This path will of necessity involve redefining ourselves as a nation before this scourge annihilates us.
This alternative choice requires bold steps at sanitising the whole social fabric, beginning with the family, which, according to the teachings of the Church, is the first domestic Church that inculcates human values in our children in their malleable years.
As Nelson Mandela used to say, “No child is born racist”; it is taught by elders, and it grows in this way. In the same vein, no one is born violent; we learn from the environment since we are products of nature and nurture.
We can unlearn violence we are associated with and show the world that we are different. We may need to be motivated by Martin Luther King, who rightly declared: “I believe that what self-centred men have torn down, other-centred can build up. I still believe that one day [South Africans] will bow before the altars of God and be crowned triumphant over war and bloodshed, and nonviolent redemptive good will proclaim the rule of the land.”
This is because God did not create us for violence. This is not who we are!
By Fr Robert Kinena Ndungu MCCJ, Pietermaritzburg