Situation in South Africa Similar to “Israelite’s time in the desert”: Catholic Archbishop

Archbishop Stephen Brislin of South Africa’s Cape Town Archdiocese. Credit: Cape Town Archdiocese

A Catholic Archbishop in South Africa has favorably compared the situation in the country amid violent protests and COVID-19 pandemic with the experience of the people of Israel in the wilderness.

“Recalling the Israelite’s time in the desert is helpful in these days of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Archbishop Stephen Brislin says in his Wednesday, July 21 Prayer and Reflection, and explains, “Many of us feel that we are in a wilderness of confusion, frustration, loneliness, economic hardship and uncertainty.”

Archbishop Brislin adds, “The troubles we are going through in South Africa at this time have made things even worse. Like the Israelites, it is quite possible that we will go round in circles as we try to find the way.”

However, the Archbishop of South Africa’s Cape Town Archdiocese says, just as God walked with the Israelites through the wilderness, He will help His people in South Africa to overcome the challenges posed by COVID-19 and recent violent protests.

“Our time during our journey through the wilderness brought on by the pandemic should also help us to reflect deeply on God’s presence,” he further says, and explains in reference to God, “Just as He never deserted his people Israel and, in fact, was the one leading them to the Promised Land, so we are not deserted by God today.”


Archbishop Brislin further says even though South Africans might not go through their current challenges for four decades like the Israelites, the process of overcoming the challenges is expected to bring with it lessons about God’s providence.

“The 40 years of the Israelites in the desert were not wasted years,” he says, and explains, “It is in those years they learnt of God’s providence; He provided daily bread for them in the morning, and an evening meal of meat.”

“This is a time to reflect with gratitude on God’s providence for us – yes, we are enduring hardship and uncertainty, and yet we have so much to be grateful for,” the Archbishop says in his reflection.

The Catholic Church leader calls upon South Africans to repent for, according to him, Israelites learnt to repent after their “unfaithful” hearts had sought to worship false gods.

While in the wilderness, he sys, the Israelites “learnt repentance after their unfaithful hearts had sought a false god, and they experienced the forgiveness of the Lord.”

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“It is a time to reflect and accept the need to repent, just as the Israelites had to learn that hard lesson, for the times when we have gone after “false gods,” says the Archbishop.

He describes the “false gods as those times when the values we live by are distorted and disfigured from the will of God”.

The South African Archbishop further encourages the people of God in the country to feel the presence of God in their lives amid challenges.

“Although it is hard, it’s also understandable if you feel insecure, frustrated, anxious,” he said, and added, “You are not alone because we are all experiencing these negative consequences to some extent or another.”

Most importantly, he further told South Africans, “you are not alone because Christ, the rock that followed the Israelites and quenched their thirst in the desert, is still with us.”


South Africa has been reportedly grappling with a new Delta Variant of COVID-19 which has led to a nationwide lockdown in a bid to contain its spread.

On July 11, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced an additional 11 days of nationwide lockdown in the country due to a spike in COVID-19 reported cases.

The situation became more challenging when protests erupted in the country’s KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng provinces