Tuesday 17 May 2011

Election Message from the Western Cape Religious Leaders’ Forum

This statement was issued on 12 May 2011 by the Western Cape Religious Leaders' Forum, which Archbishop Thabo Makgoba chairs.

The local elections which will take place next Wednesday, 18th May, will determine the leadership of our cities, towns and districts for the next five years. Those elected will have enormous power – and responsibility – to ensure our nation moves forward and does so in a way that is fair to everyone.

As faith communities we remember that all human beings, including members and supporters of all parties, are children of the divine. We therefore have a duty to treat one another with respect, tolerance and fairness. It is important that every South African can take part in political activities freely, and support the party they choose, without fear of violence, poor treatment, ostracism or abuse.

While we support no one party, we do believe that every citizen has a responsibility to cast their vote. All of our faith traditions demand that we take responsibility not only for ourselves, but for our neighbours, for our communities and for our environment. Failing to vote is failing to live up that responsibility.

As people of faith, we have a responsibility to speak truth to power, and to ask difficult questions of politicians in all parties. In particular, all of our traditions demand that we pay particular heed to the needs of the poor, vulnerable and defenceless, and to be the voice of those who are unable to speak for themselves. We therefore call on all people of faith to ask those difficult questions of politicians before casting their vote, and to remember the impact of political decisions on the whole of our society rather than just on themselves.

We also remind all people of faith that democracy does not come to an end once the election results are out, and neither does our responsibility to be active citizens. It is important that people of faith continue to engage politicians once the elections are over, and hold them to their campaign promises in the years to come.

Power exercised without underlying values is a very dangerous thing. We call on our politicians who are people of faith to always have in mind the values of their faith tradition, both when they are campaigning and once in office. To our politicians who hold no faith, we ask them to remember the humanist and humane principles enshrined in our Constitution, principles which resonate with all of our faith traditions.

We also call on all political leaders to remember that true leadership is expressed in the service of others. We ask them not to use public office to amass power and wealth, or to dominate others, but to serve the whole nation.

Finally, we ask all people of faith to pray for a peaceful election, and to pray for those who disagree with them as well as those with whom they agree.

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