JOHANNESBURG: The South African Council of Churches (SACC) has emerged to tackle the challenges and imbalances in our country, through a campaign called ‘The South Africa We Pray For’. This prayer and action campaign, to be launched at a special Reconciliation Day service on 16 December 2015, will see the church taking an active role in addressing the societal imbalances currently experienced in a post-apartheid South Africa.

The General Secretary of the SACC, Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana says: The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) came and went, yet we remain a polarized nation – spatially, socially, economically, and politically.  South Africa still does not enjoy a fully reconciled existence, and our objective is to fiercely work through the barriers to this vision.” The South Africa We Pray For’ will tackle the issues of healing and reconciliation, poverty and inequality, economic transformation, family fabric, and anchoring democracy.

Each of the above-mentioned themes have been studied by research institutions  identified as having the reach and experience required to paint an accurate picture of a modern-day South Africa.  The institutions that assisted the SACC are the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR), and the Nelson Mandela Foundation. “The role of the SACC is not merely to lead the nation in prayer” said Bishop Mpumlwana.  “We inherited a legacy of action and tangible results, hence the need for commissioning experts to give us an accurate idea of what the challenges being faced by ordinary South Africans are,’ added the Bishop.  This research represents the burning concerns of communities around South Africa, set against a rigorous spiritual and theological background.

Key insights from the research point to the need for complete reconciliation.  The vast levels of inequality which stem from economic imbalances and the lack of sustainable economic transformation are where the most urgent work lies.  Statistics from the SACC-commissioned report state that of 40 countries on the costs of inequality, South Africa is rated as the worst.  The report goes on to say that inequality today is far greater than it was at the end of apartheid.  The issues of youth unemployment, pegged at nearly 70%, paint a bleak picture of a society with little to look forward to or hope for.  The SACC, therefore, recommends a strong education-driven intervention to tackle this.

One of the most dramatic interventions in tackling poverty inequality stems from the dire need for financial literacy for those communities riddled in debt, and who are preyed upon by unscrupulous financial services practitioners (both legal and illegal).  “We are aware that the bulk of the churches involvement in the economic sphere has been limited to charitable and welfare donations.  But the time has come to change this.  We have a task-team looking into a range of practical solutions that build on both the survival experience of poor South Africans, and what has worked through church interventions elsewhere in the world, which will contribute to economic transformation,” added the Bishop.

In addition, the remnants of a politically and socially challenged past have translated into the dramatic disintegration of the fabric of family.  The shocking revelation from the research conducted by Chimere-Dan 2015, is that by 2014, 62% of South African families were single-parent families, and only 38% were couple families.  “This speaks to the challenge of absent fathers, and the church has a role to play in digging deep and interrogating the patriarchal society we live in, that has resulted in male family abandonment,” said Mpumlwana.  Women are revealed as heading the bulk of the households categorized under the 62%.  7 out of 10 children born in South Africa in 2014 were born of women who have never been married, demonstrating the strength and resilience of women who serve as matriarchs in family structures.

“The church can no longer sit back in observation, trusting that someone else will fight this fight.  We have boldly made recommendations to addressing these challenges, in consultation with social and economic scientists and activists.  We may not live long enough to enjoy the shade of this tree we are planting; however, we are committed to ensuring that the seeds are sewn, and nurtured,” concluded Mpumlwana.