This week the President announced a R500 billion support package to address the myriad of socio-economic ills that are likely to arise from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The faith community should applaud and support the initiative of the government and recognize the timely announcement of the support package. However, we must look beyond the solutions that the government has tabled and recognise the dire needs in our society. We must respond to these needs.
When lockdown ends
When the government announces the end of the lockdown, we will be confronted with a range of socio-economic issues in our country. Many businesses would not have survived the lockdown, and many families would have lost their livelihoods. Furthermore, the most vulnerable communities in our society, such as undocumented migrants, would have fallen further through the cracks of our social support net.
While we applaud the government’s efforts to support small businesses, and to secure the jobs of workers, we also recognize that our moral duties go beyond these measures.
When the lockdown ends, we will be at the start of a long journey of recovery and rebuilding. This will be a journey of first providing immediate relief to those who are destitute and next, building sustainable solutions to support those who are vulnerable.
Churches must mobilize
In moments such as these, it is not enough for the church to come together in worship, rather we must be the hands and feet of our Lord and Savior.
This means being moved with compassion, as He was. It means turning our pockets inside out to see what we can give. It means choosing to be a blessing to those in need.
In moments such as these, the church must change its posture from that of a flock who follow the Shepherd, into an army of caregivers who serve their community.
What we need now is practical solutions to real-world problems. We need every local community to form a network for collaboration, to work together to put food on people’s tables, to put some money in their pockets, and to meet their spiritual, emotional, and physical needs.
We need to demonstrate our faith by our good works.
Beyond the day-to-day
Importantly, as people of faith our job goes beyond meeting needs today, we must provide hope for the future. That means, those among us who are leaders in business, education, politics, or communities, must develop plans to build a more inclusive South Africa.
Productive, not indebted
Much of what government plans to do in the short-term, amounts to using credit to fund our crisis response. We know that the borrower is servant to the lender. Credit is not a long-term solution, it can be a trap.
So, while we understand the difficult position in which the country finds itself, with sovereign debt at a historic high and economic growth stagnant, we must look to the future to create a more productive economy.
This new economy must leverage the resources and energies of our nation, to produce value and distribute wealth equitably and fairly.
We must root out the rot of corruption and reduce the burden of mismanagement to ensure that these resources are used efficiently and effectively where they are needed most.
Let this moment of hunger and desperation in the midst of this pandemic, be the catalyst that causes South Africa to turn towards a better path. Let it be the call to action for people of all faiths, and people of a good conscience, to do their part to create solutions that have a lasting impact. Do not ask “who will go?”. You must be the one to take up the mantle of responsibility.
This is our time, to demonstrate as citizens that we are committed to the values of our constitution. Let us now heal the divisions of the past and unlock the full potential of every South African. Let us do so as a testimony, that from the ruins of disease and division, can come solidarity and peace – a peace that is only possible when there is justice in the land.
Our strength lies in unity in the midst of our diversity. We agree with our President in his closing address when he said “We shall conquer, we shall prosper and we shall overcome. God bless South Africa and protect her people”. We are stronger together.
Comment by Ray McCauley, 26 April 2020
PASTOR RAY McCAULEY IS THE PRESIDENT OF RHEMA FAMILY CHURCHES AND THE CO-CHAIRPERSON OF THE NATIONAL RELIGIOUS LEADERS COUNCIL§