Racism, factions, rubbishing one another and fairy tales seemed to be the order of the day as our elected



representatives in Parliament got stuck into President Zuma and one another during a two day debate on SONA, President Zuma’s 2016 State of the Nation address. And then we waited for President Zuma himself to respond, which he did without incident in the absence of the disruptive EFF party. He spoke of the same issues as before, economics, the still lingering drought, and showed special concern for 3 trapped miners, although the death rate from the many other unnatural and often violent causes didn’t feature. Racism did and is to be addressed formally by anyone and everyone, a necessary response but will the focus be mainly on the evils of the past or also the inefficiencies and lawlessness of the present which play a role in fuelling negative attitudes? All in all three days were spent and how much was achieved? How many of our national crises and problems were even discussed in any depth?
An article in CERC (always a good read) headed, “Should Pope Francis defend the Reformation?” caught my attention. It has to be admitted that Martin Luther’s action nailing his 95 theses – a criticism of the Catholic Church – started the Reformation and the birth of Protestantism, a word that suggests protests, a common social activity today. It must also be admitted, as was concluded in the article, that much good also came about for the Church in the christian unity 2Counter-Reformation. These 500 years of reformation and counter-reformation caused major religious and social upheavals that eventually resulted in the society we have today. Freedom of religion is enshrined in the UN charter and most national constitutions but thousands of independent “Christian” churches exist with a vast range of beliefs. Can the spat between Pope Francis and Donald Trump about Christianity and a possible erection of a restrictive border wall between the US and Mexico illustrate this? In spite of the right to freedom of religion social progress has resulted in a largely secular and materialistic society, with good and evil, though considered by many as utterly depraved and devoid of morals.
Pope Francis in his travels during this Year of Mercy lambasts evil and in particular selfishness of the rich inside and outside the Church, who are indifferent to the needs of the poor and marginalised. He calls for a church of the poor, for the poor. Is that an idealistic worthwhile but unattainable stance in today’s consumer driven world? The CERC article by Rev Dwight Longenecker on the event in Norway later in the year commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation does sound a note of hope. Pope Francis has accepted an invitation and will participate. I quote,“The commemoration of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation is an opportunity to ponder how God works through our human failures, brokenness, and rebellion to bring about an even greater glory in his purpose. It is also a chance to take one step further in the long, hard road to unity in Christ’s body.”

It could be said that the circus that our parliament has sometimes become could similarly ponder too and particularly on the words of President Zuma, “We have to work together.” Do we genuinely have the will to do so with unity as our goal? Who knows if the politicians will lead the way or lead the rest of us astray! A touch of mercy could even help us along to pave the way. TR

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