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South Africa’s Challenges Can Be Solved by “right economy”, Catholic Archbishop Says

Archbishop Stephen Brislin of South Africa's Cape Town Archdiocese. Credit: Cape Town Archdiocese/Facebook

The issues that South Africa is facing, including violence and looting, can be addressed by establishing an economy that will be friendly to the people, the Catholic Archbishop of South Africa’s Cape Town Archdiocese has said. 

Archbishop Stephen Brislin said that unemployment among the youth is pushing them to express their frustration through violence, which he says is as a result of the poor economy in the Southern African nation. 

“I think there is a great danger of violence, protest and war because people express their frustration; it is directly linked to the economy. The economy is at the bottom of this situation,” Archbishop Brislin said in a Wednesday, January 26 interview with the ACI Africa Correspondent in South Africa.

The South African Archbishop added, “If we don’t get the economy right, we are not going to give people employment, and we are not going to address the inequality issue.”

He further said that there is a need to rethink the country’s economy in a general sense adding that the economy is supposed to serve people and not the people serving the economy “as it is in the country”.

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The South African Archbishop said that addressing the issue of economy in the country is not only meant for the Catholic Bishops but that it is a matter of collective responsibility.

“We can address this in different ways as Catholic Bishops. I think we have a particular role in doing that; it is also important not to do it alone and we will try by all means to do it with other Christian churches, because this is something that concerns everyone and everybody must be involved,” Archbishop Brislin said.

He said that the current state of inequality in the country is a threat to peace and that everybody irrespective of their financial status is affected by the situation.

The South African Archbishop who was giving highlights following the just concluded Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) Plenary meeting underscored the need for reconciliation for peace to exist in the country.

“Peace can only be found through reconciliation. Reconciliation depends on addressing the injustices of the past and the present,” he said in the January 26 interview.

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Making reference to the address of the SACBC President, Bishop Sithembele Sipuka during the first annual SACBC Plenary Assembly on corruption, Archbishop Brislin said that the vice is contributing to the challenging situation that the country has plunged in.

Corruption has made it difficult for the country to address other issues it is facing, he said, and added, “This is a serious thing because as people lose trust in the leadership, they lose the ability to believe what the government has to say.”

The South African Archbishop further made reference to the incident of fire in the country’s parliament and expressed hope that the security agencies in the country will get to the bottom of the matter and bring those involved to book.

The Catholic Archbishop further echoed Bishop Sipuka’s sentiments that the Church in Africa feels left out in the Synodal process, adding that the appointment of African Religious such as Sr. Dominica Dipio to committees at the Holy See will ensure that the Church in Africa is represented in the process.

He stressed that the process of Synodality should not be looked at as the parliament of Christians or where people are trying to push their own agenda.

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Calling on people to participate in the Synod on Synodality process, Archbishop Brislin said, “The Synod process is about prayer, it is about being in contact with the Holy Spirit, it is allowing the Holy Spirit to lead us.”

He further said that the Synod involves people putting aside their multiple differences and uniting towards one faith by the power of the Holy Spirit.

“While we might have our differences… we cannot let those differences divide us into different groups; liberal, progressive, conservative or whatever,” the Archbishop who started his Episcopal ministry in South Africa’s Kroonstad Diocese in January 2007 before he was transferred to Cape Town Archdiocese in December 2009 said.

He added, “We are one faith and we see things differently, but through those differences, the Holy Spirit can lead us into something new.”

Addressing widely reported unrest in some Southern African countries such as Eswatini and Mozambique, Archbishop Brislin said that SACBC’s Dennis Hurley Peace Institute (DHPI), which monitors the evolution of conflicts in a number of African countries and  the Social Action department of the Bishop’s Conference in Southern Africa, was already working towards peace realization and that what is needed in the affected countries is solidarity with the people.

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“The Dennis Hurley Peace Institute has been involved particularly in Mozambique and also in Eswatini and I think the most important thing we have to offer rather than financial aid is solidarity of being with the people, of knowing the situation in order to disseminate the information as much as possible so that people are aware of exactly what is happening,” Archbishop Brislin told ACI Africa correspondent in South Africa January 26.