Religion and COVID19: Faith leaders unite against acts of persecution

In the spirit of Madiba and his vision to spread social justice and freedom for all, religious leaders from Southern Africa came together to engage in an ‘Interfaith Webinar against Religious Oppression’ on Mandela Day. Panellists from South Africa, Lesotho, and Zimbabwe condemned acts of persecution and discrimination against minority religious groups such as South Korea’s Shincheonji Church of Jesus, which has been accused of intentionally spreading the COVID 19 in February 2020 in South Korea.

Chairperson of Council for African Traditional Religion, Dr Nokuzola Mndende shared that, “As all the constitutions from our respective countries speak of the right to life, which is a right for everybody, our governments would put all political class and religious boundaries aside. We are all facing one enemy, which is Covid-19. Freedom of religion and freedom of belief should not be on paper only; it should be implemented if we are talking about democracy”.  She also brought up the interesting fact that although we celebrate the late Tata Mandela, he brought together different religions, yet the African Traditional Religion still stands marginalized and oppressed in South Africa to date.

With Yashika Singh, the SABC’s Head of Religion sharing the synopsis of the current state of religion in the continent, the panellist’s spotlighted the ongoing persecution of the fellow religious leader, and founder of South Korean church, Shincheonji, Man Hee Lee. The leaders shed light on the importance of protecting universal rights and freedoms and jointly spoke against the unlawful and dehumanizing actions of the religious community and the Government of Korea.

Recent developments in an ongoing court case against the religious group have led to an $82 million lawsuit, arrests of five church officials, and an impending probe from the State prosecutor.

 “Chairman Lee has worked so hard against coercive conversion, preventing people from freely participating their religion of choice as mentioned in the UN Charter Article 18, Freedom of Religion. We cannot close HWPL or Shincheonji. This Mandela Day, I say ‘we are one”’, Reverend Tsine from the Indigenous Christian Churches in Zimbabwe.

Imam Salieg Isaacs added, “Nelson Mandela taught us to take care of each other regardless of whether they were a Jew or a Muslim or a Christian. We want to condemn any kind of persecution because of religion from all around the world.”

The event concluded with a joint statement from the religious leaders. In the statement, they committed to support Chairman Lee’s noble peace work, to stand in solidarity against the oppression of minority religious groups, and to condemn all acts of human rights violations, persecution, and discrimination against Chairman Lee’s church, Shincheonji and other minority groups worldwide. The joint statement was addressed to their respective governments and the government of South Korea, other religious leaders, and the global community.

The event drew over 600 online viewers and, was hosted by the Heavenly Culture World Peace, Restoration of Light (HWPL) an international peace organization that has actively worked to promote inter-religious harmony through hosting monthly dialogue of scriptures. One of Africa Unite’s members, Brilliant Nyambi, had the privilege of going to South Korea to attend the 2018 World Peace Summit hosted by HWPL. It is there were Africa Unite learnt more information about the amazing peace work done by HWPL. Through the leadership of the chairman, HWPL drafted the Declaration of Peace and Cessation of War (DPCW) and as engaged in many projects worldwide for the purpose of achieving world peace. In the African continental level, HWPL and IPYG are engaging with the African Union’s flagship project of Silencing the Guns to promote peace and they continue to work in the African Union Youth 4 Peace Programme to promote the role of youth in Africa’s peace processes. Africa Unite has collaborated in various occasions with IPYG and has produced many meaningful and impactful collaborative dialogues, community engagements and workshops which have allowed for many young people to critically think of the role in promoting peace in their various communities.

Panelists:

  1. Hajj Abdulmalik Sekhonyana Molapo, President of Supreme Council Islamic Affairs in Lesotho
  2. Dr Nokuzola Mndende, President and founder of Icamagu Spirituality; Chairperson of Council for African Traditional Religion.
  3. Mr Pravesh Gangaram Hurdeen Singh, President of the World Hindu Foundation South Africa
  4. Reverend Mathias Tsine, Secretary General of the Indigenous Christian Churches in Zimbabwe
  5. Imam Salieg Isaacs, Coordinator at the Cape Town Interfaith Initiative also representative on behalf of the Muslim Judicial Council
  6. Rabbi Moshe Silberhaft, known as the travelling Rabbi, Spiritual Leader and CEO of the African Jewish Congress, and African Regional Director of the Commonwealth Jewish Council
Interfaith Speakers list

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