SOUTH AFRICA: Bishops Preach Against Racial Discrimination as Country Marks Youth Day

By Arnold Neliba

KLERKSDORP, JUNE 18, 2021 (CISA)-The Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) has called on young people in South Africa to become God’s instruments of hope and racial harmony in addressing the causes, and the racial injustices.

In a statement released on June 16 as the country marked National Youth Day, Bishop Victor Phalana of the Catholic Diocese of Klerksdorp and SACBC’s Liaison Bishop for Justice and Peace said building bridges is now a more radical option is the war against racism.

“We invite you as young people, black and white, to work towards reversing the realities of the past so that we can move forward. We need structural transformation in South Africa. We need true equality. We need economic opportunities for young people and racial harmony,” Bishop Phalana said.

According to the bishop, the South African society is deeply divided on issues of land, affirmative action and capital ownership with inequalities in access to quality education and quality health services.

Everyone within society should be part of the ongoing conversion and dialogue to root out the sin of racism. We should address the causes, and the injustices racism produces in order for healing to happen. The healing process will contribute towards ‘building and developing relationships of equality, dignity and mutual respect’ where “there is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female,” said bishop Phalana.

While acknowledging the many challenges facing youths in the country, the bishop invited them to imitate the Soweto class of 1976 by facing the challenges in the society.

“While the class of 1976 fought racism in their own way, the radicalism of the Gospel today challenges you to fight structural racism and economic apartheid with the radical instrument of hope and solidarity.  We now live in a society where building bridges is more radical and gives a more expression of the Christian faith than building walls and fomenting hatred,” he said.

“We need a genuine conversion of heart, a dialogue that will compel change, and the reform of our institutions, schools, universities, and society,” Bishop Phalana added.

The National Youth Day in South Africa is a public holiday celebrated in remembrance of the events in 1976 when students from schools in Soweto began to protest in the streets in response to the introduction of Afrikaans as the medium of instruction in local schools.

They were met with fierce police brutality, and many were shot and killed. The shootings provoked extensive unrest and protests throughout Soweto, spreading over the following months to several other regions in South Africa, particularly Cape Town. Arrests, deaths in detention and trials followed the revolt.