[notice]A speech by African Christian Democratic Party MP and Whip, Cheryllyn Dudley last week in a Joint Sitting in the National Assembly during a debate to mark Heritage Day and Month. [/notice]
“I will not have time today to talk to the story of our youth – I would however like to quote one young man in the North West Province Kagiso Monyadiwa who says ‘National Heritage Day is a day to celebrate the contribution of all South Africans to the building of this country. What we have done well, was to realise that we are all South African — the challenge now is the economic imbalance amongst us which still divides us and must be dealt with!’
“Instead I will speak to the story of faith-based South Africans and Christians in particular who would like us to re-look at government’s policy on Religion in Schools. They say this with the conviction that we are tearing at the fabric of our society when we impose unrealistic guidelines that prevent learners, parents and communities from influencing the religious ethos of their local schools. Freedom of religion is not about creating ‘one religion for all’ but allowing people the freedom to believe as they please and to share their belief respectfully and peacefully. Religion and culture are closely related and should not be stifled.
Freedom must not negatively impact on others
“Clearly this freedom like all others must not negatively impact on others but all learners and students should be able to proudly acknowledge their religious and cultural beliefs and express themselves in line with these in a manner that does not impose on others.
“Without outside interference, where the majority of learners at a school are of one faith — e.g. Christian, Muslim, Catholic etc., it follows that the ethos of that school will appear to be that of the religion of the majority and where the community is more evenly spread across religions the diversity will be more apparent in the ethos.
“There is general agreement that factual learning about all religions can be useful but many parents specifically want their children in a school that embraces and teaches their values and I know Christians feel very strongly about this. Madiba is reported to have said in 1999 that religion was one of the motivating factors in everything he did; ‘without the church,’ he said ‘without religious institutions, I would never have been here today’.
Platform for peace
“For a significant majority of people in South Africa who believe in Jesus and have chosen a Christian way of life it is important to obey Jesus’ command of ‘Let the children come to me’ and they passionately agree with the words of Eben Le Roux (‘A Silence that Kills) that, ‘as long as we deny the call of Jesus to bring the children to Him we will deny ourselves the most important platform for peace’.
“In essence he says: When our children grow up being taught they are their own god and are in need of no other help they suffer from arrogance – arrogant people are selfish, selfish people are disruptive and disruptive people behave like fools.
“Faith based parents instil their religious values in their children from the cradle. Christians, for example, teach their children to love God, love others, forgive and care for others and to follow the ‘Ten Commandments’, so that as they grow up these become firmly held moral standards.
“Most of all a relationship with Jesus, is something that does not get switched on and off and no matter how many guidelines there are that say otherwise, Christians will not be free to be themselves if they cannot acknowledge their creator and saviour whether at school, work or home. We know religious extremism leads to shutting down freedom of religion but we have come a long way and we should be able to explore ways of ensuring freedom of religion without denying our children the freedom to live theirs in their daily lives. This will move South Africa forward.
” ‘The rock on which our future will be built, our greatest asset as a nation, said Madiba, is our children. They will be the leaders of our country, the creators of our national wealth, those who care for and protect our people. Our children, he said, are our greatest treasure. They are our future. Those who abuse them tear at the fabric of our society and weaken our nation’.”