South African Nobel Peace Laureate Desmond Tutu says the church in his country finds it difficult to speak out about the suffering of underprivileged people for fear of being accused of not helping the government in its nation-building process.
"It’s not easy when you want to speak out against people who are really on your side and you are wondering whether it will upset the process of nation-building," South African media quoted Tutu saying at an Easter service near Cape Town, on 16 April.
Tutu, the former Anglican archbishop of Cape Town, highlighted issues such as unemployment, poverty and the lack of housing as ones on which churches were afraid of challenging the government.
He said it had been easier for churches to speak out during the apartheid era when South Africa was ruled by a white-minority government.
A 2004 survey found that South Africans ranked unemployment – estimated at 27.8 per cent – as the country’s most serious problem.
Lutheran Bishop Nganga Phaswana was quoted by The Citizen newspaper as saying that the process of nation-building in South Africa needed the voices of people such as Tutu.
"True prophets like Archbishop Tutu should not be muffled because their God-inspired prophecy is essentially part of nation-building," said Phaswana.
In 2004, Archbishop Tutu criticised South Africa’s Black Empowerment programme, saying it enriched only a small elite and not the vast majority of people, and he has stated there is a lack of internal democracy within the ruling African National Congress (ANC). He was subsequently criticised by South African President Thabo Mbeki.
(c) Ecumenical News International
Photo : South African Nobel Peace Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu