What is needed is a comprehensive approach by religion, civil society and the government to educate and equip society to root out all prevailing pockets of racist ideas and behaviour. This can be done by furthering the concept of the common good that holds the principle of human dignity and human rights in high esteem. South Africans must be guided to embrace the common good in order to integrate into a reconciled community. Xenophobic attacks have plagued the South African society since Foreigners who entered South Africa, legally and illegally, are blamed by South Africans of 'stealing' the locals' jobs by working for less than the minimum wages in corporations, industries, mines and on farms.
They are also accused of manipulating small businesses in townships by benefitting other foreigners to the detriment of local business people.
A wave of anti-foreigner sentiment amongst local South Africans in townships resulted in two waves of serious violent attacks in and on foreign businesses when many businesses were looted and burned down. As early as , the South African Human Rights Commission took a strong position against any form of xenophobia.
The Commission has stated, inter alia, that xenophobia is a deep dislike of non-nationals by nationals of a recipient state and its manifestation is a violation of human rights. Furthermore, the Commission urged South Africa to send out a strong message that an irrational prejudice and hostility towards non-nationals is not acceptable under any circumstances. Criminal behaviour towards foreigners cannot be tolerated in a democratic society. The Commission also stated that South Africans should seek to construct a society where human dignity, the achievement of equality and the advancement of human rights and freedoms are abiding values.
The Bill of Rights confers certain rights to 'everyone'. These are rights to equality, human dignity, the right to life, freedom and security of person, and the right not to be subjected to slavery, servitude and forced labour South African Human Rights Commission The struggle against xenophobia and the nurturing of an ethos of respect and fundamental human rights is an area where churches can mobilise civil society on the basis of a mutual consensus on the common good to become active.
The Christian message about the treatment of foreigners is clear not only based on the New Testament commandment of love for the neighbour, but also on the Old Testament ethics of good relationships, especially the relationship with alien people in a good neighbourhood. Miller has indicated how the construction of the Decalogue, which begins with the phrase: 'I am the Lord your God', and ends with 'neighbour', forms a community. The Decalogue proclaims a community, which does not constitute itself or evolve, but becomes defined due to a relationship between God and people.
This community is a morally constituted community consisting of all neighbours including foreigners and immigrants, that is people who move into the neighbourhood, but do not belong to the family, the clan or the ethnic community see Ex , 49; ; Dt ; Lv ; ; Nm ; ; The moral character of God's people is, inter alia, determined by their moral treatment of the others. Love of 'the other', even 'the enemy', is deeply entrenched in Christian morality and Christians have to testify to this code in social life.
Therefore, Christians should be the voice of ill-treated foreigners and the church and civil society can mobilise in a joint venture to raise awareness of the emigrants' plight in South Africa and to promote peaceful neighbourhoods. In addition, the South African society is still plagued by violations of the fundamental rights of women and young girls.
In many respects in cultural, family and social life they are treated as inferior. Although this inferiority is no longer entrenched in social institutions, it is still very much alive in patriarchal families and in churches. Furthermore, women are the victims of poverty more often than men due to migrant labour and joblessness of their male companions.
What is even more disturbing is the negative role of religion in the prevailing inferior position of women. This point of view has been reaffirmed by Gudorf Their observations are still true of society in Africa and South Africa today. Banda has explained that there has been an explosion of newer Christian churches in Africa whose members comprise mainly women.
He laments the fact that in these movements the translation and interpretation of religious texts have often resulted in women being told that it is their duty to submit themselves to their husbands or partners. South Africa has made great strides in the recognition of the role of women in government and business, and the present administration can be commended for their advancement of women's fundamental rights in the social sphere. However, religions and religious institutions fall short in this regard.
If religion teaches society that women are inferior the advancement of women's rights in all spheres of life will be in vain. To pursue the common good in cooperation with civil society Classic Reformed moral teaching have to promote the fundamental rights of women by initiating and promoting a thorough and far-reaching discourse on gender and gender relations. This tradition should specifically address the tenability of patriarchal family relations and the androcentric definitions of the role of women in family-life and in ecclesiastical institutions, because partriarchalism was part and parcel of reformed moral teachings over the centuries, and churches in this tradition are still plagued by the remnants of those teachings.
The promotion of family life. The last four decades witnessed tremendous and wide-ranging changes in family patterns in Western societies. Amongst these changes are phenomena such as growing divorce rates, out-of-wedlock births and father absence due to globalisation as well as same-sex marriages and cohabitation without a marriage contract Browning a Western societies are typified as 'high-divorce societies'. Furthermore, the number of couples cohabiting in the US has increased eightfold since and it is fair to conclude that the situation is similar in other Western societies.
Gill has expressed the concern of many Christians with his observation that we are faced with a rapid decline in two-parent families, a rise in both teenage pregnancies and abortions, the spread of the HIV epidemic, vociferous gay activism and widespread confusion about the legal and social limits of pornography and obscenity.
These tendencies are also noticeable in the South African society. In a well-documented article, Browning b:4 has found that the phenomena of modernisation and globalisation are at the root of these disrupting forces in patterns of family life. In the ethical discourse about these developments, the question is raised by many scholars whether these developments should be regarded as immoral or as normal cultural patterns in a changing society?
Are they merely an indication of changes in family life determined by new social conditions, or can they be regarded as part of an emerging moral crisis? Hauerwas asked this question already in Browning a has identified three kinds of responses to this question in Christian ethical circles.
These are liberal theological views that perceive these patterns as normal and in line with modern human rights sensitivities, the conservative theological view, which regards them as immoral and contrary to biblical commandments, and the Catholic view, which is also conservative for an explanation of the Catholic view see Keane ; PCJP However, in another equally well-researched publication, Browning b:4 has ventured to answer this question and refers in this regard to recent publications dealing with these changing patterns in family life and concludes that there has been a worldwide transformation in the attitudes within the social sciences towards these changes since the late s.
He says that sociologists, psychologists and economists are nowadays much more willing to acknowledge that these developments have been damaging to large numbers of people. Changes in family patterns have contributed to the declining well-being of children and they have been concomitant with the 'feminisation of poverty' the shift of poverty from the elderly to single mothers and their children as well as the 'feminisation of kinship' the trend towards women sustaining families alone, without the help of fathers and husbands.
In other words, although most social scientists now concur that these changes have been costly to individuals and society, they disagree about whether they can be reversed or whether they must simply be accepted in the hope of mitigating their negative consequences. Closer to home, a recent study of Denis in this regard has revealed shocking and distressing realities in the decline of family life in a large sector of the South African society.
Denis has revealed that in the rural parts of South Africa families have virtually disappeared and the concept of a monogamous family has largely become obsolete. In his view young people do not know this concept anymore. This situation is the result of the century-old pattern of migrant labour in South Africa where the fathers moved to the industrial parts of the country to work away from home and their families to support the mining industry and to escape their poverty at home.
Due to the Native Labour Regulation Act Union of South Africa and the well-known Land Act Union of South Africa black families were not permitted to move with the fathers to the cities that were designated white areas. Other ill effects of these two bills are adequately described by Terreblanche The black mineworkers resided in all-male compounds where many died of illnesses from nutritionally poor diets, inadequate sanitation and rampant respiratory diseases Maloka They were away from their families for long periods and as a result the families became impoverished.
Denis has pointed out other negative effects, such as:. Denis has investigated the hearings of the South African Native Affairs Commission in and indicated how churches supported the migrant labour system and that they were more concerned about the lack of morality in the compounds than the immoral set-up of the whole system of racial segregation and the migrant labour system.
Today the South African society is reaping the fruits of this system and the effects are still felt in townships' churces and the rural areas in spite of the fact that families can move freely to the cities where labour is more available. The ill effects of the migrant labour's system were vividly displayed in the Marikana tragedy when police shot 34 protesting miners who still suffered from the negative effects of the migrant labour system.
This incident illustrated the huge challenge facing the churches and civil society in South Africa today to improve family life and to deal with the negative effects of the policies of the past. The author discussed a Christian view of marriage and family and what it entails for family life today in another publication see Vorster Most of the values expressed in the publication are shared in the common good that religion and civil society strive after.
These are a good and loving marital relationship of equal partners characterised by mutual trust, faithfulness, compassion, servanthood and love; family life where children are secure and educational opportunities are accessible and a safe and secure environment favourable for decent living conditions. To pursue the common good in this regard amidst the crisis in family life in South Africa today will entail the following:. This aspect is an area where religion and civil society can become deeply involved to assist government and business to find solutions for the inhumane nature of this practice and its dehumanising social effects such as the feminisation of poverty, destruction of family systems and unhealthy living conditions.
Trade unions are playing a positive role in the improvement of the living conditions of migrant workers and should, in this respect, be morally supported by Christian churches and other religious institutions on the basis of the principle of the common good;. However, many informal townships still exist and homelessness is a huge problem. This situation can also be related to the growing phenomenon of urbanisation.
In this area civil society can be involved in a positive way by assisting government in the development of sustainable housing policies. The expertise available in civil institutions can add value to the formulation and implementation of government policies. Churches are very influential in local communities, especially in poverty stricken-rural areas.
As part of civil society they are in an excellent position to raise awareness of the need for rural development and to motivate civil society to become active in seeing to the needs of rural communities. Although South Africa embarked on the road of neo-liberal economic policies, the government is also actively and directly involved in the alleviation of poverty by way of social grants to17 million citizens.
This endeavour should be lauded. However, in the end poverty can only be alleviated by sound and effective economic policies. In this respect also the Classic Reformed moral teaching on stewardship and on the role of the state as a moral agent in the alleviation of poverty by the execution of responsible economic policies, can contribute to a better society for all. Furthermore civil society should be encouraged to mobilise its own expertise to assist the government and government officials should be open and accommodating regarding the inputs of civil society.
These are a few proposals offered to illustrate the important role churches and civil society can play in developing family life in South Africa and to curb the negative influences of social patters that destroys family life. A positive appraisal of the concept of the common good and the resulting broad scope it brings to the fore for civil society and civil action raises the possibility of vigorous involvement of civil societies in social development. The third component of the common good that should receive special attention from churches and civil society in a joint effort to serve community development in South Africa today is the advancement of the idea of neighbourliness.
The advancement of the idea of neighbourliness. The Roman Catholic Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church states that the common good involves all members of society and no one is exempt from cooperating according to their possibilities in attaining and developing it PCJP Due to this emphasis and calls within the contemporary ethical discourse in various traditions, the concept 'neighbourliness' has made inroads into the contemporary social ethical discourse.
This new development is a result of the world-wide concern about divisions between people based on religion, ethnicity, race, culture, et cetera, and results in acts of violence and even war. The violence resulting from religious extremism is the most devastating form of division that threats societies today.
Due to these actions, new forms of divisions have arisen with the capacity to cause new wars and conflicts between nations. Ateek has asserted that, as long as we divide the world and our own communities into friends and enemies, neighbours and strangers, we feel no moral obligation towards those whom we have already designated as outsiders. The distinction between 'us' and 'them' create binary societies.
Ateek's observation is exactly what is happening in many communities today due to the newfound religious extremism. In this context the concept neighbourliness comes to mind and it is essential that this concept should be developed on the basis of natural law and applied in religiously divided communities. Christian theologians have since explored this idea further and developed the concept in view of biblical theology see e. Everist Miller has explained how the orientation of the Decalogue in the Old Testament is always towards the other, whether the other is the God whose proper worship is the ground of all other acts, or the neighbour, brother or sister.
Miller commented as follows:. The rights of the individual are presumed, but the way into those rights is always by way of responsibility for the neighbour. A seminal study on the concept and meaning of neighbourliness in the Christian tradition was done by Brueggemann This study was done in the midst of the economic collapse of the post period and the antiterrorist wars since He applied various Old Testament texts to a reconstruction of society and to building bridges between divided communities and nations.
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