Joburg religious leaders meet to oppose police killings

Standing together against police today's meeting at the Standard Bank Arena

Representatives of Christian and Muslim communities attended a meeting at the Standard Bank Arena in Johannesburg today to take a stand against the killing of police members.

At the gathering, which was called by Major General JT Pharasi, Commander of the Hillbrow Cluster of the South African Police Service (SAPS), representatives of various constituencies signed a pledge to support the SAPS.

Following an escalation in police killings in Gauteng and other parts of South Africa, Gauteng Provincial Commissioner, Lieutenant General Mzwandile Petros met with various religious leaders earlier the year, requesting help in bringing people of faith together to praying for the SAPS and its members. On October 27 the Provincial “Stop killing our Police” campaign was rolled out at Regina Mundi Church in Soweto, and the Hillbrow Cluster responded by arranging today’s meeting.

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After Dr Christo Naudé of the Dutch Reformed Church (Linden Park Congregation) opened today’s meeting wit a prayer, Professor Faried Esack, head of the Department of Religion Studies at the University of Johannesburg delivered a strong call for support of the Police Service. He warned ministers and other clergy that someone is prejudiced if he or she says that the “Police” are corrupt, when that is only true of a specific member.

Addressing prejudices
He said “blanket rubbishing” of the Police Service was a way in which the protectors were made vulnerable. “Stopping the killing of our Police members starts with addressing our prejudices,” he said.

During the meeting Lieutenant Colonel Thandi Mkhize, who was supported by  colleagues WO Marx Krause and Constable Eddie Maluleke, spoke from a perspective that the three of them shared: they have all survived an assault on their lives. Mkhize made it clear that she and all other police members were just as much part of the community as everybody else.

Delegates at the meeting included respresentatives of the Linden Mosque, the Methodist Church of Southern Africa, the Dutch Reformed Church and various African Independant Churches. The various community policing forums of the eight police stations in the Hillbrow cluster, as well as Gen Pharasi and his management team, and the labour unions Popcru and Sapu were also present.

Commenting on future plans, police chaplain and DRC dominee Jacobus van Straaten, who was the MC at today’s meeting, said the SAPS  would like to be part of establishing religious forums in support of the police and to help in fighting crime.

“Even Prof Esack mentioned that not even Julius Malema could mobilise so many people in a week as were mobilised by the different faiths,” he said.

Challenge for Christians
He added: “For Christians one of the challenges might be in working together with people of other religious groups. Yet if the Police Service can be supported and spiritual warfare is declared on the bad influences in society, not only will crime be reduced, but members of the Police Service might just cope better.”

In a recent letter calling on Christians to pray for those involved in today’s meeting, Shirley Lacy, parish secretary of St Luke’s Church (in Orchards)  said that a few years ago, St Luke’s, together with a number of other churches, was actively involved in praying for and supporting local police members. They met on a monthly basis at a police station or at one of the participating churches.

“I believe that this is something we need to start praying into again.  Praying for the police services, praying against crime and corruption, praying and supporting the Christian police men and women, and this meeting (i.e. today’s meeting at Standard Bank Arena) is perhaps a starting step,” she said.

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