Reflections on violence in South Africa

It seems to hit home more forcefully when one returns from being away overseas, away from the routine of newspapers and TV, just how much violence there is in South Africa.

Of course, there is violence in every human society, but somehow ours is in a different class. We don’t beat somebody up, we beat him to a pulp! We don’t kill someone, we do so in the most brutal way imaginable! Then for good measure we dismember the body and discard the remains like so much despicable garbage!

WHY? Why are we so violent? So brutal? So callous? What happened to the ubuntu which was our trade mark in 1994?

Trying to make sense of the senselessness of it all, raises further questions: Is it because we treat the weak, the defenceless, the most vulnerable so uncaringly? Or is it because we are so self-centred, self-engrossed, so much part of the self-serving culture around us and within us?

The answer that keeps surfacing runs like this:


An essential ingredient for a good life, in a good human society, is good people living in good families! What makes people good is the quality of their relationships; what makes relationships good is mutual respect, mutual acceptance and mutual appreciation culminating in mutual love. This is what is missing from society today.

If there is love in society it is a love that is divorced from its primary source and reason for being, namely God! As God is pushed from the centre of life, so does society become more loveless, and characterised by disrespect, contempt and disdain!

The first two areas of concern when we reflect on the genesis of conflict and violence in society, have to be marriage and family life, because they are meant to be the natural environment where mutual acceptance, respect and love are born, fostered, nurtured and brought to maturity.

We have to look at marriage and the family in their natural environment before we look at them in the Church. That is why I believe it is a big mistake to expect the Synod on Marriage and the Family to provide miraculous answers to all the problems besetting marriage and the family in society.

Having just returned from attending the Extraordinary Synod on Marriage and Family Life in Rome, what has become clearer to me is that the problem has been globalised. The global village is also the village of global problems.

As I listened to Synod members, observers and others speak in the general sessions in Paul VI Aula or Hall, or in the Group Discussions, or in private conversation, one thing kept coming up: we will not get anywhere until each one who believes in the God revealed most full in Jesus Christ, comes to know and experience Jesus in a personal way in the every day events of life, especially those that take place in Marriage and the Family.

God, in the person of Jesus, has to become the centre, the focus, the foundation, the source of good that makes the Family truly the Domestic Church, the place where God is at home, because that’s where his people make a holy place for Him.

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