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Catholic Church in Eswatini Blames Failures of Country’s Elites for Growing Violence

Flag of Eswantini/Credit: Shutterstock

The Commission for Justice and Peace (CJPC) in Eswatini’s Catholic Diocese of Manzini has blamed the ongoing protests and violence in the Southern African nation on the failure of the country’s leadership to engage with the citizens on the issues that affect the people.

In a Saturday, July 3 statement, the leadership of CJPC Manzini said that for many years, the people in the country that is commonly referred to as Swaziland have felt marginalized by the nation’s top leadership.

“The Roman Catholic Church in Eswatini has been observing, for quite some time now, the unfolding political developments in the country in the last few months,” the CJPC officials say.

They add, “The Church is worried that the powers that be have increasingly marginalized the people and that the continued protests and the delivery of petitions across the country, are a manifestation of the failure by the ruling elite to engage in serious and honest dialogue with the citizenry.”

According to the Catholic Bishops’ Commission, too many communities around the country feel their voices are not being heard. Additionally, the people’s complaints about social, economic, and political injustices are unheeded, the leadership of the Commission says.

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In the statement, the officials of CJPC Manzini express their opposition to the turn of events in the country that is said to be sliding into an uncontrollable crisis, with a possibility of spill-over of violence into neighboring South Africa.

“We must mention that the Church condemns all forms of violence in the most absolute terms,” they say, and add, “Acts of violence strike at the heart of human dignity and are an offence against all humanity.”

The justice and peace officials have joined the call by Bishop José Luis Ponce de León of Manzini for an amicable solution to the current stalemate that was fueled by the alleged killing of a university student by police.

“The Church believes that all should work together to avoid these unfortunate acts. The task of the authorities is to seek for a solution that is not dedicated to narrow personal or group self-interests. Theirs is the task of seeking a solution that will be for the common good!” they say.

The CJPC officials affirm that excessive economic, social and cultural inequalities among people arouse tensions and conflicts and are a danger to peace.

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According to the officials of the country’s only Catholic Diocese, to wage war on misery and to struggle against injustice is to promote, along with improved conditions, human and spiritual progress.

To the CJPC officials, peaceful protests in the country are therefore “for the common good of all humanity.”

“Peace cannot be limited to a mere absence of war NO,” they assert, and add, in reference to the 1967 Encyclical Letter of Pope Paul VI on the development of peoples, Populorum Progressio, “Peace is something that is built up day after day, in the pursuit of an order intended by God, which implies a more perfect form of justice among people.”

The officials say that in the prevailing political and social climate, the Roman Catholic Church invites all concerned, especially on the side of the Government and the ruling elite, “to real and serious dialogue.”

“Dialogue, we believe, will bring to the centre all those who have for a long time felt that they were at the margins of the political and economic life of the country. We support and join with those who speak out against injustice and applaud efforts to peacefully protest,” they say.

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The Catholic Church leaders further implore those protesting in public to take appropriate measures to inhibit the spread of COVID-19.

They say, in their statement, that their message is intended for all, Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

“The command of Christ means that we have to reach out to all people. Church statements on Justice and Peace are not just directed to Catholics only, but to non-Catholics as well. Our mission is to be inclusive all the time,” the officials say.

They add, “In this we are encouraged by the great example of Jesus who never marginalized people, even those who were considered to be outlaws during his time. We continue to work for peace for all people.”

“The Roman Catholic Church's main duty is to preach the Gospel of Christ to all people as commanded by Christ himself,” the CJPC officials say, quoting the message in the Gospel of Matthew 28.

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The leaders appeal for the return of peace in the country that has been described as generally quiet, saying, “Indeed peace is the goal of life in society, as is made extraordinarily clear in the messianic vision of peace when all peoples will go up to the Lord's house, and he will teach them his ways and they will walk along the ways of peace.”

“We look forward to God’s peace,” they said, adding “When the king rules according to God’s justice, righteousness flourishes and peace abounds till the moon is no more.”

“May God change all our hearts and allow us to be vigilant in searching for His face in every encounter and interaction, defending the dignity of every human life, for we all deserve to live free from fear and harm. Let Justice and Peace prevail,” CJPC officials in Eswatini’s Catholic Diocese of Manzini say in their July 3 statement.

Meanwhile Pope Francis has appealed to those in authority in Eswatini “to work for the common good for dialogue, reconciliation and the creation of peace.”

“Dear brothers and sisters, from the beloved nation of Eswatini, in Southern Africa, the sad news of violence. I call upon all those who have responsibility and those who are expressing their aspirations for the future of the country to work for the common good for dialogue, reconciliation and the creation of peace from the different viewpoints” the Holy Father said in his July 4 address after the Angelus.