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Last Saturday, I joined other Christians in a march from Constitution Hill to the offices of Home Affairs. This was a rare occasion as Christians of different hues set aside their differences and held hands in a march in defence of our heritage.
I joined the march out of a conviction to take a stand against what I strongly feel and believe is fundamentally wrong and potentially constitutes a gross violation of our rights as Christians. What irritated Christians so much that they decided to sacrifice a good part of their Saturday to go and serve notice on the government not to even think of taking away a significant part of the Christian faith?
Let us backtrack to last June. The Commission for the Promotion and Protection of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL) announced that it had received complaints from some quarters concerning what they perceive as preferential treatment of Christians due to “Christian holidays being the only religious holidays recognised in our country”.
The said complainants even went as far as to allege discrimination against them, the basis of which has never been substantiated. The absurdity of the complaint was underscored by the assertion that there were too many Christian holidays on our calendar.
The CRL continued to indicate that it was embarking on a public participation process to review the Public Holidays Act (PHA). The initiative to review the PHA would have been noble if it was not driven by malice on the part of the yet-to-be identified complainants. Legislative review is a good thing as it keeps our laws up to date with developments and needs to not only be encouraged but also supported. However, what are the facts as opposed to fiction regarding the review of the Public Holidays Act? Is there discrimination (fair or unfair) against religions other than Christianity and preferential treatment of Christians? What of Christian holidays being too many?
Without doubt, it is a fallacy to assert that some religions are being discriminated against while Christians receive preferential treatment. What hogwash to also allege that there are too many Christian holidays since a cursory glance at our calendar will reveal that there are only two Christian holidays – Christmas and Good Friday.
Simple arithmetic tells one that two cannot denote “too many” given the number of our public holidays.
The fact is: South Africans are overwhelmingly of the Christian faith (results of Census 2001 demonstrate that about 80 percent of South Africans are Christians). It should, therefore, follow that our calendar has to reflect this reality. Hence, characterisation of a reflection of this reality as representing discrimination and preferential treatment is a monumental absurdity. It is mind-boggling that the CRL is entertaining the “complaint” as it is baseless, illogical and an abuse of our democratic space. The planned scrapping of Christian holidays will also constitute a gross violation of our religious rights (a matter the Constitutional Court would have to look at should this uninformed move be carried through).
The Christian march was an unequivocal statement in rejection of what constitutes a seed of polarisation by some elements bent on plunging us into a conflict situation (religious) like the ones in Nigeria and Kenya. I, like other Christians, feel affronted by this clandestine push to steal our heritage as Christmas and the crucifixion represent the basis of our faith.
There are three moments that are at the core of the Christian faith: the birth, the crucifixion and the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Hence, the great symbolism of Christmas, Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday cannot be left to be defaced.
Prayers were discontinued during morning assembly at public schools with hardly a murmur emerging from Christian ranks. That was dereliction of duty as the Bible commands good men (and women) to stand up to stop evil prevailing.
Because as Christians we “turned another cheek”, the evil forces are coming for more.
l Mogomotsi Mogodiri is a political and media commentator and an elder of the Unique Philadelphia Bible Church