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WATCH — Archbishop Tlhagale pleads with young people: ‘Please, rise, vote.’

Speaking to spotlight.africa, the archbishop of Johannesburg, Buti Tlhagale OMI, has made a special appeal to young people, begging them to “exercise their right to vote.” He has also appealed to South Africa’s young people to act decisively against xenophobic violence, as Ricardo da Silva SJ reports.

The archbishop of Johannesburg has told spotlight.africa that “more than 50% of the citizens of this country are young people”. He called on them to “rise to the occasion”, reminding them that “young people are likely to shape the future of this country.”

In a pithy, strongly worded video appeal made from his Johannesburg office, Tlhagale directed himself to young people saying: “Don’t sit back — that will not help — your vote will shape the future of this country. Please, rise, vote.”

The archbishop of Johannesburg seems set on heeding Pope Francis’ calls, following last year’s Synod of Bishop’s on Young People, to invoke the participation of young people as changemakers in societies.  

In the Synod’s final document, issued last month, Francis reminds us of the role of young people in societies today.  “The Synod recognised that ‘albeit in a different way from earlier generations, social commitment is a specific feature of today’s young people.’” The Pope added that “[s]ocial engagement and direct contact with the poor remain fundamental ways of finding or deepening one’s faith and the discernment of one’s vocation. (Christus Vivit, 170)

Similarly, in a statement at the end of April, condemning South Africans for their mistreatment of foreign citizens living in South Africa, the archbishop, again, pleaded specifically with young people to recognise their role in the fight against xenophobic attacks. 

Tlhagale reminded that “young people have been always in the forefront of the struggle for justice”, invoking the memory of the 1976 student uprisings. “The youth of 1976 hastened the advent of democracy in South Africa”, he said. 

He added, “unplanned intermittent attacks on migrants and refugees are reprehensible acts of injustice.” His final words to today’s youth are particularly haunting and beg our collective reflection.

“Where then are the charismatic young people who would take the side of the oppressed migrants.  Their silence is deafening.  Their prophetic voices appear to have been muted at a time when their support and solidarity would have made a significant difference.  

“The virtue of hospitality amongst South Africans is at present a scarce resource.  They do not take kindly to Africans who share their skin colour. The ruling party has a maxim: Bathʹo pele (people first).  Migrants are also human beings (bathʹo).”

WATCH — Archbishop Tlhagale’s appeal to young people ahead of voting day

* 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.