As we come to the end of two weeks of political and civic unrest which has wrecked inordinate amounts of damage on our people, our economy, our livelihoods and our sense-of-self as a people where do we find ourselves. How do we make sense of the destruction we see around us?
Where do we locate ourselves and where do we locate blame? In this moment it is so easy to point figures – and it is true, our government and particularly the ruling party does have a lot to answer for in this moment. Letting in-party factionalism play out in the streets of KZN is unacceptable.
Mr President, Minister of police and Mr Zuma, you have a lot to answer for and we’re looking to you for accountability. What you allowed to happen in our streets has cost us all dearly. None if us in the province has got through the last two weeks unscathed. All of us are sitting with and still trying to work through the pain that you and your party allowed to happen.
However, none of that withstanding, what is our role moving forward – as ordinary people in the province?
On all sides we’re seeing people moving into their ‘camps’. Race, ethnic, class and political lines that were hidden bellow the surface of our every day life are now laid bare, with the cracks threatening to deepen into unbreachable caverns. In this moment the pull towards violence is great – be this the violence of our actions or the violence of our words. Especially when we are still all dealing with fear, frustration, anger, betrayal and so on.
Are we able to instead choose a different path? To choose a path of peace and a path of collective ownership for where we find ourselves today?
We are reminded of Matthew 7:5 where Jesus, in one of his most profound teachings on Christian morality tells us “First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.”
And so we are reminded that in this moment, while we have a call to hold people accountable, we also have a call to own what has happened. To not say this was “them” and “their” story but to really own it – this is our story… my story. And as we pause to look inwards we need to ask ourselves what role have I… we… “my people” played in allowing this to happen on our watch
In many of our Church liturgies we pray a version of this prayer: “Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.”
In our personal and collective lives let us create space for this spirit of reflection, ownership and repentance. For what we have done, and importantly for what we have left undone.
Moving towards justice and reconciliation from this place allows us to enter the conversation with arms down and a common commitment to rebuilding.
To be clear, we are not calling for a rebuilding or a unity which sweeps things under the carpet. That kind of unity is built on a commitment to not see and address injustice and it is what we have all been guilty of for too many years. Instead we are calling for a common commitment to building something new. Something where we can see, name, and address the cracks and divisions in our society and the injustices which flow along those cracks.
To the Clergy and other community leaders, all of us are people with individual identities, opinions, politics and theologies. In this moment where the cracks and divisions threaten to break us, we urge you to be promoters of peace and to create spaces where different people can come together to listen and talk. Spaces where the hard conversations can be had.
Let us own what has happened in our province these last two weeks, and steadfastly commit to building a new way of being a people together.