On the second day of the SACBC Plenary being held at Mariannhill, South Africa’s Bishop João Rodrigues of the Diocese of Tzaneen has said that racism is not only a problem but a sin. He stated that failure to address this issue now would lead South Africa to a worse-off situation in the future.
Bishop Rodrigues said that those who are racists are sick and are injured people who need healing, as much as those who were affected by racism. He added that South Africa should be healed from memories of the past, and this does not mean forgetting past events. Instead, past events should be approached with a new spirit.
The Bishop of Tzaneen says that tackling the problem of racism requires fraternal sharing and confrontation of past experiences. He said that the Church should be the first agent to address this issue because she understands better the dignity of the human person made in the image of God. She also knows what the Kingdom of God is all about.
Explaining the Kingdom of God in relation to the problem of racism in South Africa, Bishop Rodrigues used the analogy of the parable of the net found in the Bible. He said that the Kingdom of God is something dynamic other than static. It requires all to take part in it and experience it. The Kingdom of God is inclusive and knows no race. Before God everybody is equal, and all have the same dignity.
Bishop Rodrigues said that there is a possibility that some people in South Africa were not racists before but may now be racists because they are not able to embrace change. He gave an example of the late 1970s when he was in the seminary. At the time, white people were dominant even in the whole administration, but the reality now is different. The seminary is black with a white minority. This kind of change should be embraced, he said. It reflects the dynamism of the Kingdom of God; It has to be always discovered.
According to Bishop Rodrigues, life should not be seen in terms of race distinctions. All persons are equal in dignity before God. The Bishop also referred to the Genocide in Rwanda where people of the same race killed each other. Another group undermined the dignity of the other. It was not about colour; it was the sickness of perceiving another person as not being equal in dignity.
“In South Africa, we are a rainbow nation, as Archbishop Desmond Tutu declared and this should be treasured. We are making one beautiful nation,” the Bishop said. He urged South Africans not be afraid of fraternal confrontation where racism is concerned.
“Fraternal confrontation is very important in addressing the problem of racism in South Africa. We need to sit around and tell each other fraternally about what they did to us so that healing and reconciliation can be achieved. The wounds of the past should be touched as to bring healing to them,” Bishop Rodrigues said
The Bishop of Tzaneen also underscored the importance of the Eucharist as a place where all should come for healing. He invited fellow Bishops to be the first agents of this healing. Bringing healing to matters of race, in South Africa, should be part of the mission of Bishops. Bishops should work together to bring about healing and reconciliation within the Church and in society. He concluded by urging Southern Africa’s Bishops to do all they can to bring healing and reconciliation to South Africa.
For more information about the Southern Africa Bishops’ discussion on racism kindly contact Archbishop William Slattery and arrange time for an interview. Contact: +27-834685473