Ashwin Trikamjee
Ashwin Trikamjee

KZN unrest: Faith-based leaders, organisations call for community dialogue as tensions flare

By Nadia Khan Time of article published Jul 15, 2021

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Durban: Faith-based leaders and organisations have called for communities to engage in a dialogue to better understand one another.

This comes following allegations of racial tension between Indians and Africans due to the on-going looting over the past few days in the province.

Ashwin Trikamjee, the president of South African Hindu Maha Sabha (Sahms), said faith and community leaders played a pivotal role during this time in finding a way forward.

“The starting point is our faith-leaders, who are able to talk to people with dignity and respect to interact with the communities. During a meeting with leaders from the different faith groups this week, we all agreed that prayer was needed.

“During this time, we all need to pray together, for our people and for the safety of our country. It is also important that community leaders get people together, from all race groups and have a discussion, a heart-to-heart. This will make aid to dispel any racial tensions,” said Trikamjee.

Cardinal Wilfred Napier, of the Catholic Church, the former archbishop of Durban and chairperson of the KwaZulu Natal Church Leaders Group (KZN-CLG), said: “In light of the looting, violence and destruction of property, it is no wonder that people are looking for answers, and these answers become even more urgent when conflict starts to develop between two different population groups, for instance, between the Africans and Indians.

“What can we do? Some use the word social cohesion, which I don’t think has much impact, so what about dialogue? Let's start by talking to each other. That will bring us closer together. If we let each other know our concerns and our proposals for a way out of the impasse in which South Africa finds itself at present.”

Bishop Nkosinathi Myaka, the chairperson of the KwaZulu-Natal Christian Council (KZNCC), in a statement, said together with KZN-CLG, condemned the attacks against any race and threats to launch inter-racial violence. “We call for stability, peace and unity in our province and nation at large,” they said. They also urged those calling for and resorting to violence to reconsider their strategy with their resolutions.

“Let us be clear; it is the poorest and most marginalised in our society – those who have already been hardest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic and its related lockdown restrictions – who will again bear the brunt and feel the real pain of this violent unrest.”

The KZNCC and KZN-CLG said the key role of the church was to offer pastoral care, peace monitoring and peace building at this time and urged faith leaders to be visible in offering support wherever it is needed.

Moulana Ebrahim Bham, the secretary-general of the Jamiatul Ulama South Africa, said: “It is extremely sad and tragic what has happened, and we hope it will never happen again. We have to take lessons from this. Despite emotions, it is absolutely essential that we not allow racial and ethnic tension to develop. One of the points we need to guard against is not to make the extreme voices the norm. We have to find the middle ground between all groups of people and work towards the betterment of relationships between people, and work for the betterment of the community and society.”

Mary Kluk, the president of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) and the director of the Durban Holocaust and Genocide Centre, said: “Any conflict between groups of people is so tragic and unnecessary. What we all need to do is to stop and think about our common humanity. We need to stop and think that each one of us is struggling at the moment as it is a terrible time of heartache and upset in our country, and in particular in the province of KZN.

“Each one of us is struggling to find groceries, medical attention and to think about how we will rebuild our lives. This is not the time and never the time to group, to group people together and pit groups of people against one another. We all know so well what can happen when groups of people are against one another. It can be destructive. In order for all of us to come together and build the South Africa we all dream of, we need to stop and think about what we have in common rather than what divides us.”

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