We are living in a time of great political turmoil in many parts of the world today, including our own beloved country of South Africa. Next month we will face elections which give us an opportunity to vote and to do so in a manner that best serves the needs of all the people of our country. It is a religious and moral obligation to reflect on the election and to pray that it will help us to move closer towards the vision of God for His people. The Catholic Bishops Conference have just published a pastoral letter to all Catholics in South Africa and have asked that it be made known to everyone. The pastoral letter follows below:
Fr Gerard, CSsR
A Pastoral Letter of the Catholic Bishops of Southern Africa to the Catholic Community and people of goodwill.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In August this year our country shall hold local government elections.
Elections are a time to think about the kind of society we would like to live in and the kind of leaders we need.
We pray that these elections may be a step in bringing about the kind of society God desires for us and in giving us the leaders who will contribute to building that society, “remembering the mercies of God … let the renewing of your minds transform you, so that you may discern for yourselves what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and mature.” (Romans 12:1-2)
Our country needs ethical leadership
These elections come at a time when many are struggling with unemployment, the rising cost of living, household debt, lack of basic resources, the slow pace of service delivery, and high levels of crime. We need mayors and councillors who have genuine concern for the economic and other hardships that our citizens are enduring. No one wants leaders who are intent on making money and are only interested in party politics. Being a politician can be a noble Christian vocation.
Pope Francis stresses that countries need, “more politicians who are genuinely disturbed by the state of society, the people, the lives of the poor!” (Evangelii Gaudium, no. 205)
People ought to seek public office in order to serve people and promote the common good.
Temptations to forsake these ideals and seek persona power, wealth and
status will always be there. Yielding to such temptation results in corruption, misuse of tax payers’ money, little or no service delivery, and serious neglect of the common good of our communities.
We call on those who aspire to leadership to ensure that our municipal districts are governed by principles of ethical leadership. We urge them to exercise power with honesty and accountability to the poor and the most vulnerable.
A call to use our vote for the sake of the common good
We urge everyone to use their vote. Let us not give way to apathy. Here are some questions related to the common good which could help in the critical examination of candidates:
1. To what extent are you satisfied with service delivery in your area?
2. To what extent were previous promises met?
3. To what extent are you satisfied with the way the current leaders are tackling corruption and misuse of tax money in your area?
4. Look around in your area. Is what you observe what you want for yourself and your children?
A call for peaceful, free and fair elections
We each have a grave responsibility to create the environment of tolerance and acceptance which enables every South African to support and vote for the party that they choose, without fear of violence and intimidation. While this responsibility falls heavily on the political parties and the media, it is also the responsibility of each one of us.
We therefore urge political parties:
- to refrain from inflammatory, intimidating and inappropriate statements;
- to take visible, decisive action when candidates and their supporters are involved in acts of intolerance, intimidation, harassment and disturbance;
- to respect the election results;
- to do everything to ensure that the rule of law is respected.
We call on the media:
- to refrain from sensationalism,
- to report appropriately and responsibly for the benefit of the common good.
A call to prayer
Let us pray for peaceful elections that produce leaders who act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with their God (Micah 6:8)