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SA Bishops beg for environment of tolerance and acceptance without fear of violence ahead of general election

Ahead of South Africa’s general election, the Catholic bishops of Southern Africa have written a pastoral letter “to the Catholic community and all people of goodwill.”

At the end of their first plenary session of 2019, the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference has issued a pastoral letter. The letter comes ahead of South Africa’s 2019 general election, expected to be on 8 May 2019, and makes an appeal to three groups of South Africans: the voters, political parties and the media.

In respect of voters, they echo the words of Pope Francis in his 2013 apostolic exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel. “Pope Francis urges us to look for “politicians who are genuinely disturbed by the state of society, the people, the lives of the poor!” (Evangelii Gaudium, 205).”

The bishops urge South Africans “to vote in a way that will promote the common good” using the Pope’s message as their criteria when casting their ballots. They go on to invoke the “grave responsibility to create the environment of tolerance and acceptance which enables every South African to support and vote for the party that they choose, without fear of violence and intimidation.”

Referring to politicians, the bishops call on those running in the upcoming elections. They call political leaders “to refrain from inflammatory, intimidating and inappropriate statements”, “to take visible, decisive action when candidates and their supporters are involved in acts of intolerance, intimidation, harassment and disturbance”, and to ensure that they respect the electoral process and subsequent results.

Finally, the media is called “to refrain from sensationalism” and “to report appropriately and responsibly for the benefit of the common good.”

The letter ends calling on all to pray throughout the elections. The bishops ask the faithful to pray that God “grant us the wisdom and courage we need in order to make the right choices” and to “[i]nspire us to contribute to the rebuilding of our country with vigour and generosity”.

SACBC Pastoral Letter on the 2019 general election

This story has been updated.

* The opinions expressed here by Spotlight.Africa contributors and editors are their own and not official statements of the Society of Jesus in South Africa or of the Catholic Church unless explicitly stated.