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Church Leaders in Eswatini Lament “culture of mistrust, intolerance” amid Challenges

Representatives of Christian leaders in Eswatini under the auspices of the Council of Swaziland Churches (CSC). Credit: Council of Swaziland Churches (CSC)

Representatives of Christian leaders in Eswatini under the auspices of the Council of Swaziland Churches (CSC) are concerned about “a new culture of mistrust and intolerance” that they say is emerging in the landlocked Southern African nation amid national challenges. 

In a statement circulated Tuesday, April 5, CSC members say they are “fully aware of the social, political and economic challenges that the country is currently going through” and urge stakeholders to engage in an “all-inclusive dialogue”.

“The lives of emaSwati are unfortunately negatively affected by all these challenges and we see different reactions from all sectors of society, including the violence that we see almost every day,” the representatives of church leaders in Eswatini say.

They add, “We are seeing a new culture of mistrust and intolerance emerging where the use of violence to resolve disputes has become the order of the day.”

Since June 2021, Eswatini has been the scene of violent protests with demonstrators clamoring for democracy in Africa’s only absolute monarchy. 

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The unrest was however triggered by the death of the university student, 25-year-old Thabani Nkomonye, allegedly at the hands of the police. His colleagues took to the streets, calling for accountability.

The initial university students’ protests grew into daily pro-democracy marches in June last year, with protesters voicing deep-seated political and economic grievances, including expressions of dissatisfaction with the leadership of King Mswati III, Africa’s only absolute monarch. At least 50 people were reported dead.

In their collective statement circulated April 5, CSC members say, “The much talked about national dialogue is taking much too long to happen, yet it is key in resolving the country's problems.”

“As the Council we have always been calling for an all-inclusive dialogue that can take the country out of the current social and political crisis,” the church leaders say.

They add, “The continuing violence will lead to more violence and this includes the many arson attacks on property, mob justice, the use of excessive force and extra judicial killings by state security, verbal abuse and intimidation.”

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“The Council condemns all acts of violence regardless of who is behind them as violence always begets violence,” members of the Council of churches in the Kingdom of Eswatini, previously known as Swaziland, say.

They regret the fact that Christians are “not promoting and protecting the lives of emaSwati. Instead, we use Christianity when it suits us and to further our own interests, much against God's commandment that we should not misuse the name of the Lord our God.”

As a way forward, the representatives of church leaders challenge Christians to “uphold biblical values and principles that will promote justice and peaceful resolutions of conflicts.”

“The CSC also encourages Christian to shun away from acts and statements that blaspheme against the Lord our God,” they add.

The religious leaders further call upon the government of eSwatini and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) “to be transparent with the preparations for the national dialogue so that all stakeholders are free to participate.”

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“Transparency will also promote trust amongst the different stakeholders,” CSC members say, and add, “The aggrieved emaSwati, in their different formations are also called upon to give dialogue a chance, with the hope that government will also find it prudent to meet with them.”

They also call for the cessation of “all hostilities by everyone - the pro-democracy movements and government agencies - to avoid further loss of lives and destruction to property.”

“The Council of Swaziland Churches is committed to work with all stakeholders in finding lasting solutions to our country's challenges,” the church leaders say, and add, “This we shall do in a non-partisan manner where we shall represent the will of God and engage all sectors of society without fear or favor.”

They implore, “May the suffering of Christ remind all emaSwati of the sacrifices we need to make for the sake of others and may the resurrection of our Lord give us hope that whatever challenges we face in life we can overcome them. A blessed Holy Week and Happy Easter.”