Stop the abuse of re­li­gion

CityPress - - Voices -

The Easter week­end is a sig­nif­i­cant one for var­i­ous re­li­gious de­nom­i­na­tions in the coun­try. A Passover for Jews and an Ij­tima (Is­lamic gath­er­ing) for Mus­lims, these are of­ten over­shad­owed by var­i­ous Chris­tian ac­tiv­i­ties. From Mo­ria and Shembe gath­er­ings to those in soc­cer sta­di­ums, Chris­tians come to re­mem­ber Je­sus Christ’s last sup­per, and his death and res­ur­rec­tion af­ter three days.

At City Press, we feel it is time for those who prac­tise any form of re­li­gion to re­flect on how re­li­gion has been used and mis­used over the past year. Way too many des­per­ate con­gre­gants have been taken ad­van­tage of by un­scrupu­lous crim­i­nals dis­guised as men and women of God.

Many of these con­gre­gants are poor and be­lieve that the church is the last sal­va­tion. They would do any­thing their pas­tors and bish­ops or spir­i­tual heal­ers tell them to do.

Many have been made to drink petrol or eat snakes, have been sprayed with in­sect killer such as Doom, and have al­lowed cars to be driven over their bod­ies, all in the name of the Lord.

As if the ma­nip­u­la­tion is not enough, many more dig deeper in their al­ready empty pock­ets to con­trib­ute to the church’s cof­fers – of­ten to en­sure that who­ever started the church lives a com­fort­able and ex­pen­sive life­style. All this while the mem­bers live in ab­ject poverty, with no idea of where their next meal will come from.

The Com­mis­sion for the Pro­mo­tion and Pro­tec­tion of the Rights of Cultural, Re­li­gious and Lin­guis­tic Com­mu­ni­ties con­ducted in­ves­ti­ga­tions into the abuse of poor con­gre­gants and the com­mer­cial­i­sa­tion of places of wor­ship. We await its fi­nal re­port and rec­om­men­da­tions. What is clear, though, is that com­mu­ni­ties must stand up against such prac­tices.

Churches should stand up and col­lec­tively say: “Not in our name.” But over the past few years, we have seen church lead­ers re­main silent while fraud and theft are com­mit­ted in their name.

Gov­ern­ment, too, cannot fold its arms. Au­thor­i­ties must walk into any place of wor­ship and de­mand to see com­pli­ance with reg­u­la­tions and the bona fides of these pas­tors.

With so much go­ing wrong else­where in the coun­try, churches should be places of refuge where the com­mu­nity can find emo­tional sup­port and coun­selling.

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