Faith com­mu­ni­ties and our moral cri­sis

CityPress - - Voices - MARTIN PROZESKY voices@city­press.co.za

Who can doubt that South Africa is in the midst of a wors­en­ing moral cri­sis through the abuse of power, greed and the spread­ing of lies at se­nior lev­els of author­ity and else­where in our so­ci­ety. Who can doubt that peo­ple of con­science in ev­ery sec­tor of our so­ci­ety need to de­feat this creep­ing cancer once and for all and do it now.

We all want well­be­ing and we cer­tainly want it for our chil­dren and grand­chil­dren. What must be em­pha­sised is that this nat­u­ral de­sire for happy, healthy, safe and ful­filled lives cannot long be had with­out strong eth­i­cal val­ues such as in­tegrity, kind­ness, jus­tice and hon­esty. These are not merely “nice to have” – they are ab­so­lutely fun­da­men­tal.

Here are a few ex­am­ples. A cul­ture of lies and mis­in­for­ma­tion de­stroys trust and robs us of the truth we need in or­der to act wisely and well. That is why we con­sult our doc­tors when we suf­fer from a wor­ri­some med­i­cal com­plaint. We need the di­ag­no­sis to give us the truth about what is wrong, so that heal­ing ac­tion can fol­low and re­store our well­be­ing.

A cul­ture of greed breeds re­sent­ment and the anger and op­po­si­tion of de­cent peo­ple, open­ing the door to dis­rup­tive ac­tion and un­rest, when we want peace and sta­bil­ity. A cul­ture of in­jus­tice where the cor­rupt go un­pun­ished be­cause nec­es­sary prose­cu­tions aren’t done or done prop­erly breeds so­cial dis­con­tent which eas­ily turns into un­rest, as we al­ready see in the vi­o­lence against poor ser­vice de­liv­ery.

Make no mis­take, dam­age to the moral fi­bre of the na­tion harms us all, even if in the short term the cul­prits get away with their wrong­do­ing.

To de­fend and strengthen our moral fi­bre, we need the com­mit­ment and ac­tive sup­port of our faith com­mu­ni­ties, even though moral strength and depth are not the ex­clu­sive do­main of re­li­gion. Here is why our re­li­gions can be a mas­sive force for good at this time of moral cri­sis, pro­vided they act and act now.

To­gether, our Chris­tians, Hin­dus, Mus­lims, mem­bers of the tra­di­tional African re­li­gions and all our other faith com­mu­ni­ties make up the great ma­jor­ity of our pop­u­la­tion. That means that their votes can be a mas­sive force for good. All of them teach the im­por­tance of eth­i­cal be­hav­iour in­volv­ing ac­tive con­cern for oth­ers, truth­ful­ness, respect, jus­tice and re­spon­si­bil­ity, along with the core busi­ness of spir­i­tual for­ma­tion, sup­port and wor­ship.

They have or­gan­i­sa­tional re­sources, some of them na­tional in scope. They have lead­ers and ways of com­mu­ni­cat­ing with their mem­bers. Mostly they share a faith in a God of per­fect good­ness. Many also have a brave prophetic tradition of speak­ing truth to power and both de­mand­ing and prac­tis­ing high eth­i­cal stan­dards them­selves, as we saw in peo­ple like the in­cred­i­bly brave women of faith who were and are part of the Black Sash, as well as Al­bert Luthuli, Ma­hatma Gandhi, Des­mond Tutu, Bey­ers Naudé, heroic Jewish mem­bers of the strug­gle to de­feat apartheid and Is­lam’s Im­tiaz Suleiman of Gift of the Givers.

These im­por­tant eth­i­cal re­sources must be ac­ti­vated if they are to help us de­feat the cul­ture of lies, cor­rup­tion and abuse of power we see around us. Here is what could be done by peo­ple of faith right now. They can de­mand vis­i­ble, ef­fec­tive moral lead­er­ship against the evils men­tioned above of those in author­ity in their or­gan­i­sa­tions. They can form dis­cus­sion groups to plan ac­tions of their own with fel­low be­liev­ers. They can cre­ate net­works of op­po­si­tion to po­lit­i­cal evil us­ing their ex­ist­ing mem­ber­ship chan­nels and meth­ods of com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

Maybe they can even cre­ate a United Faith Move­ment for eth­i­cal change, re­mem­ber­ing that spir­i­tual lead­ers were prom­i­nent in launch­ing the United Demo­cratic Front against apartheid some 30 years ago, but such a step will call for much greater prophetic lead­er­ship by those at the heads of our most prom­i­nent re­li­gious com­mu­ni­ties than we are see­ing at present. Above all, it must surely be un­der­stood that a God of per­fect good­ness is ill-served by a spir­i­tual ethic that stays in­doors when out­side the need is crit­i­cal and wors­en­ing.

Pro­fes­sor Prozesky is an ethics writer and trainer based in KwaZulu-Na­tal, work­ing un­der the ban­ner of Com­pass Ethics, and is a for­mer

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IN FAITH Faith-based lead­ers at the funeral of strug­gle icon Ahmed Kathrada

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