Uniting Reformed Church urges members to participate in elections

Members of the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa (URCSA) have been urged to vote in the local Government elections next week despite any temptation to ignore the elections as a result of poor service delivery by political leaders.

The call is made in a pastoral letter published yesterday by the URCSA,  which was formed in 1994 by the union of the black and coloured Dutch Reformed mission churches.

“We are aware of the disappointment and despair in our political leaders throughout our country, because on local and national government level delivery of services to you are in a shameful condition.  It is a condition which amounts to a criminal neglect of our democratic constitution and ideal. Because of that, you might feel the temptation not to take part in the democratic process for Local government elections,” says the church to its 500 000 members.

“It is because of these emotions and because taking part in the different levels of the democratic process, is such an important duty and a duty that we as citizens of South Africa and specifically as Christians must perform, that the Executive of the Uniting Reformed Church regard it as our duty to write this Pastoral Letter to you as members.”

Issue of faith

Citing Genesis 1:26-29 which talks of man’s responsibility to govern God’s earth, the letter says that voting is not only a political act but also an issue of religion and faith.

Because God requires rulers to exercise justice (Amos 5:24), voters should ask:”Has justice been done to the people by our elected leaders?”

The letter also discusses Jeremiah 29:7 which makes the point that citizens have a responsibility to seek the peace and prosperity of their towns and cities.

” We know from our reality in our towns and cities, as the delivery protests highlight it for us so clearly, that justice and peace lie wounded on the streets of some of our cities and towns. In many of our cities and towns circumstances are deteriorating on different levels. Many a time development takes place in the wrong directions, on the wrong issues, and we as citizens in most cases do not benefit from it,” says the letter.

“Shall we despair in a situation like this? Absolutely not! We have a responsibility and a new chance to effect the change we want in our towns and cities. Come Wednesday 18 May 2011, when you have the opportunity to vote, you have also an opportunity to advance the interest of your city and your town. ”

Discerning questions

The letter advises church members to ask the following questions in order to discern how to vote:

1. “Are you satisfied with the service delivery in your city or town? If not, will you return the current rulers of your city or town to continue with bad service delivery?
2. “Were the promises made during the previous Local Government elections met? If not, are you prepared to let them make empty promises to you again?
3. “Are you satisfied with the way your tax money is spent in your city or town? Do you, city /town benefit from it?
4. “Look around in the streets of your city or town, is that the state of affairs you want? If not, will you vote again for the current rulers of your town or city?

The letter also reminds church members of a statement the URCSA made in February denouncing President Jacob Zuma’s suggesting an ANC membership card was a ticket to heaven. Members should ask themselves  if they can vote for any party who has no respect for their faith, says the letter.

“Vote on your needs and the needs of your cities and towns. Vote on the issues that count for you, the citizen,” says the letter. It concludes by urging members to pray for a peaceful election on Wednesday (May 18) and to keep town and city governments accountable after the elections.

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