Catholic Bishops in Southern Africa Urge Youth to Shun Hatred, Embrace Love

A poster of the National Youth Day in South Africa/ Credit: Courtesy Photo

The leadership of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) has, on the occasion of the National Youth Day, invited young people across South Africa to practice love and cohesion in place of hatred and racial discrimination.

In a Tuesday, June 15 letter to the country’s youth shared with ACI Africa, the Bishops note that economic challenges experienced by young people in South Africa are caused by perceived racial differences and vagaries of COVID-19. 

Every June 16, South Africans commemorate young people who lost their lives in the 1976 Soweto Uprising, which saw 176 protestors, most of them students, lose their lives in the hands of colonial administration.  

“Our message of hope is also an invitation to imitate the class of 1976 and confront the challenges that we face as a society, including racism, corruption and violence. Why are we sending you a message of hope today, when we commemorate 16 June 1976?” Catholic Bishops in South Africa pose.

In their message put together by SACBC Liaison Bishop for Justice and Peace, Bishop Victor Phalana, the Catholic Church leaders quote Vaclav Havel, “I am not an optimist because I am not sure that everything ends well, nor am I a pessimist because I am not sure that everything ends badly. I just carry hope in my heart.”


They continue, quoting Vaclav Havel, “Hope is not a feeling of certainty that everything ends well. Hope is just a feeling that life and work has meaning. Hope is not an estimate of the state of the world. Either it is something you have or you don’t. Regardless of the state of the world that surrounds you, hope is a dimension of human existence.”

SACBC members further outline the contrast between the alluded class of 1976 with what the youth are facing today and what they are supposed to do in order to go beyond their economic and political challenges.  

“While the class of 1976 fought racism in their own way, the radicalism of the Gospel today challenges you to fight structural racism and economic apartheid with the radical instrument of hope and solidarity,” they say.

“We now live in a society where building bridges is more radical and gives a more expression of the Christian faith than building walls and fomenting hatred,” explain the Bishops, appealing to youth in the Southern African Africa country to be God’s instruments of hope in all aspects of their lives. 

Using an illustration from the anti-apartheid icon, Nelson Mandela, the Bishop Advice youth in the country not to pick up skin color-oriented hatred, which might be harbored by their parents. 

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“No one is born hating another because of the color or their skin or their backgrounds, or religions. People must learn to hate - and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human hearts than it’s opposite,” the Catholic Church leaders say.

The hatred that exists in societies today is as a result of people not recognizing that everyone, despite their color, came from one common origin, God, SACBC members underscore in their statement signed by the Bishop of Klerksdorp and shared with ACI Africa.

“The ignorance of the truth leads to prejudice and fear of the other, including hatred. How can we profess to be God’s children by only loving those who share our racial and ethnic backgrounds or place of origin?” the Bishops pose, calling for a change in race perceptions in the country.

They note that some economic factors and resources are the main causes of hatred in South Africa saying, “Our society is deeply divided on issues of land, affirmative action, and capital ownership. There are also inequalities in access to quality education and quality health services.”

They recommend that everyone becomes “part of the ongoing conversion and dialogue, to root out the sin of racism. We should address the causes and the injustices racism produces in order for healing to happen.”


The Bishops further condemn the racial hatred witnessed in the country’s institutions saying people should “use education to eradicate it.”

Constantly working towards a non-racist South Africa, say the Bishops, should be everybody’s mandate for according to them, it will rid the nation off the skin color discrimination at all levels. 

The Bishops bemoan the fact the nation’s parents have refused to let go of the spirit of hatred that was “sold to them by the colonial regime.”

“The parents who used to benefit from the oppressive apartheid regime are afraid and they feel insecure. These parents did not get a chance to confess, to repent for the sins of apartheid and to receive forgiveness. This was the whole purpose of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission which many of them ignored and ridiculed,” they explain. 

The Bishops go on to call upon young people throughout the country to reverse the situation, which has been cultivated by their parents saying it is the surest way South Africans can move forward as one. 

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“We ask you to commit yourself to Christ, by frequently reciting the prayer of peace given to us by Saint Francis of Assisi,” the Catholic Bishops in South Africa say, ending their letter with the prayer, “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace: where there is hatred, let me sow love…”