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A New Year Message from Archbishop of Cape Town, the Most Revd Njongonkulu Ndungane

Posted on: January 3, 2004 1:02 PM
Related Categories: Southern Africa

As we begin our 10th year of democracy, there is much for our transforming nation to be proud of and a solid platform of achievement from which to set new standards and objectives.

We dare not be complacent about issues, such as HIV/AIDS, women and child abuse and moral bankruptcy. However, to operate without hope is to court failure.

The breakdown of the moral fabric of our society is one of the grimmest legacies of apartheid and in this international Year of the Family I believe it is possible to rebuild traditional moral values.

I agree with Martin Prozesky, author of Frontiers of Conscience, that South Africa is the only country that could have produced a Mahatma Ghandi. That we are well placed to draw on established moral wisdoms: African, Hindu, Islamic, Jewish, Christian, other faiths and secularist views. He says we need to draw on these ancient wisdoms to produce a national ethic. And suggests that the first step is a national ethics consultation that aims to overcome our moral crisis in the interest of the common good.

I agree: South Africa, as a microcosm of the international macrocosm, can and should achieve this important objective and, in the interests of moral regeneration, faith based communities should take the initiative regarding a national ethics consultation.

It is also with a new sense of hope that I anticipate the roll out of the Government's anti-retroviral programme. I pray that it will soon reduce the endless number of needless deaths that have left such a trail of devastation. This medication, which we have campaigned so hard to bring within reach of all who need it, should be key to containing the heartbreaking number of our children prematurely orphaned by AIDS and the unaffordable erosion of skills in the workplace.

These anti-retrovirals, albeit imperfect, are one of our best defences against a disease that permeates every aspect of our national life.

Our nation dares not fail in this regard and, once again, I offer the services of the Anglican Church which reaches deep into communities and is well placed to establish centres where people living with HIV or AIDS can be counselled and encouraged to adhere to prescribed medication. I know that other faith-based communities are as ready to do this.

We remain committed to the concept of strategic partnerships with government, business and the private sector and acknowledge that the church has special responsibilities; particularly regarding the cruel stigma it has allowed to develop around the disease.

It is stigma that prevents people from testing early enough to manage the disease and prevents others from seeking the practical, emotional and spiritual support they desperately need.

We still need to shout from the roof tops that AIDS is not God's punishment for the wicked. It is just a disease - testable, manageable and preventable.

It is against this hopeful backdrop that I wish you a Happy New Year.