The Wisdom of South Africans Catholics
The wisdom of South Africans Catholics inspires people all over the world, including members of Pax Christi in Scotland, as Ross Ahlfeld reflects
The French philosopher Voltaire once famously said: We look to Scotland for all our ideas of civilisation.” Whenever I read this quote about my homeland, I often think it could be updated and paraphrased by the global Catholic commuity to read: “We look to the South African Church for all our ideas on reconciliation.”
Indeed, any country or faith community which has been forced to contend with so much division, hardship and injustice over the past 50 years eventually develops a special set of skills required to pursue justice, healing and reconciliation.
For example, Fr Albert Nolan OP’s seminal “Taking Sides” essay from 1990 is still highly relevant today, and many nations and Churches and communities around the world continue to acknowledge this document’s call to carry out reconciliation alongside justice, not dethatched from it.
In the essay, the South African Dominican states: “The peace that God wants is a peace that is based on truth, justice and love. The peace that the world offers us is a superficial peace and unity that compromises the truth, that covers over the injustices and that is usually settled on for thoroughly selfish purposes.”
As such, with solidarity, healing and social justice in mind, it was our great privilege to be joined by Bishop Victor Phalana of Klerksdorp for our virtual Pax Christi Scotland Zoom conference, on the theme of Gender-Based Violence.
Bishop Phalana spoke powerfully about the culture of misogyny which too often breeds violence against women. He also provided us with numerous examples and practical ways to support women, and called us to justice and solidarity with women who are the victims of male violence.
He asked that we provide care and become educated about this issue and preach a clear message that says: “God says no to the violence inflicted by men on women and children. God created our whole being: heart, mind and body.”
Most of all Bishop Phalana reminded us that “those bodies that are being assaulted are loved by Christ. These bodies remain precious to God.”
Similarly, Bishop Emeritus Kevin Dowling of Rustenburg, the former president of Pax Christi International, also continues to teach and inspire us at Pax Christi Scotland, especially with his own long-standing solidarity and hospitality towards exploited sex workers in South Africa.
The Church and Catholic Community in South Africa is not perfect and has its problems just like every other Church around the world. But sometimes it’s important to listen to an outsider’s perspective as hear about all the things you are doing well under very difficult circumstances. To quote the great Scottish poet Robert Burns: “To see ourselves as others see us! It would from many a blunder free us”.
Thank you South Africa, where you lead we follow!
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