President commends Societal Renewal Initiative

President Cyril Ramaphosa has welcomed the establishment by interfaith religious leaders of a values-based initiative to engender social cohesion, nation-building and societal renewal.

Approximately 400 interfaith religious leaders participated in the Presidential Interfaith Societal Renewal Colloquim in Lynnwood, Pretoria, today, Wednesday 10 April 2019.

The colloquim centred on a proposal by faith communities for societal renewal in South Africa. The proposal has been conceptualised as a response to the President's Thuma Mina call for all sectors of society and individuals to contribute to improving social and economic conditions in the country.

The proposal envisages a range of programmes and activities within communities of faith and broader society that will be positioned as the Presidential Societal Renewal.

Interfaith leaders believe social renewal and the positive repositioning of South Africa's national character is at the heart of South Africa's growth and renewal.

This initiative will focus on addressing disturbing social phenomena such as unemployment, inequality, gender-based violence, crime and lawlessness and violence against foreign nationals.

The societal renewal programme will motivate South Africans to coalesce around the values of tolerance and ubuntu, which are shared across the entire spectrum of South Africa's diverse society.

The engagement between the President and religious leaders from a broad range of denominations and African traditional religion enabled leaders of different faith groups to demonstrate leadership in renewing South African society and in developing positive values that advance our country to the South Africa we want.

On behalf of government, President signed a statement of intent developed by the colloquium that sets out the principles underpinning the proposed initiative as well as focus areas for programmes.

The statement of intent also outlines possible institutional arrangements between government and the religious sector that will facilitate the functioning of the societal renewal initiative.

The statement of intent forms the basis of a declaration that will be signed by stakeholders awill be converted into a declaration at a future stage, based on proposals made by delegates at today's engagement.

The religious sector foresees itself playing a critical role within communities and in assisting government in restoring the moral fibre of society, in the restoration of common values and in advancing social cohesion.

Most South Africans identify as belonging to a faith group. Approximately 43 million South Africans identify themselves as Christian, whilst over 2 million identify as African traditional belief, followed by approximately 892 000 who identify as Muslim, approximately 561 000 as Hindu, approximately 49 000 as Jewish and the rest as other religions, agnosticism or no religious affiliation.

Interfaith religious leaders believe this sector should replicate the role the faith community played during the anti-apartheid struggle in mobilising communities, in building resilience through the provision of community-based and other services, and in giving a voice to citizens.

Religious leaders are concerned, in terms of their own assessment, that the 25 years of democracy has seen a 'retreat' of faith-based organisations from the socio-political sphere, and their confinement to their traditional ecumenical and pastoral roles.

The leaders believe that President Ramaphosa's vision of a New Dawn for South Africa, and of an active and energized citizenry that embodies the Thuma Mina spirit, complements calls by the religious and faith-based community for a reformation of a South Africa riven by social ills.

Closing the engagement, President Ramaphosa welcomed the initiative as part of the social compact required among social partners to address the challenges facing the country. Through this initiative, citizens strengthened the capacity of the state.

The President said the dialogue had touched on the wounds of our nation and had affirmed that religious leadership were ideally placed to help the wounds of the nation through prayer and social initiatives.

Delegates agreed on future engagement on the statement of intent and on the potential synergy between this initiative and the work done by the Moral Regeneration Movement which is coordinated by Deputy President David Mabuza.

Source: The Presidency Republic of South Africa