The Importance of an interfaith approach to GBVF

Mrs Hailey Fudu 
MSc in Peacebuilding from the International Centre of Non-Violence
Secretary for Religions for Peace SA, KZN Inter Religious Council
Member of the Baha’i Local Spiritual Assembly of eThekwini

Transforming South Africa into a culture of peace is a cherished hope shared by people of faith and goodwill within our country and by well-wishers abroad standing with us in solidarity. We have a democratic Constitution and our young democracy was born from struggle forged by powerful women and men dedicated to justice for all. Against this hopeful backdrop, we are still a country at war with itself and amongst the various social ills plaguing South Africa is the high rate of violence against the vulnerable. Women and children are often the victims of violence born from frustration of aggressors as well as economic violence due to the structural inefficiencies of both government and the lack of will to both sacrifice and change each of our mindsets as citizens. Many people do not see their destiny tied together with those suffering around them, but this world is getting too small for that mindset and we must adjust to a new way of approaching life. A way that benefits the whole of society.

“Compare the nations of the world to the members of a family. A family is a nation in miniature. Simply enlarge the circle of the household and you have the nation. Enlarge the circle of nations and you have all humanity. The conditions surrounding the family surround the nation. The happenings in the family are the happenings in the life of the nation. Would it add to the progress and advancement of a family if dissensions should arise among its members, fighting, pillaging, jealous and revengeful of injury, seeking selfish advantage? Nay, this would be the cause of the effacement of progress and advancement. So, it is in the great family of nations, for nations are but an aggregate of families. Therefore, as strife and dissension destroy a family and prevent its progress, so nations are destroyed and advancement hindered.” (‘Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, Bahai Publishing Trust), Bahai Faith.

This quote helps us consider seeing our nation as our family. If we see a member of our family suffering, it is natural to do all we can to alleviate their pain. Can we not train ourselves to begin extending our hand a bit further to help those who are not from our economic, racial or religious community? It may be uncomfortable to expand our circle at first, but through practice and through spending time with diverse people, this becomes more natural. The Golden rule of Ubuntu is found in Bahai, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh scriptures (just to name a few).

“Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. This is the meaning of the Law of Moses and the teaching of the Prophets.” Matthew 7:12, Bible, Christian faith.

The question becomes, if we do not know one another and spend time with the diverse members of our South African family, how can we fulfil this spiritual guidance as people of faith?

Religions for Peace South Africa, the KZN Inter Religious Council, the African Women of Faith Network, the Mercy and Peace Foundation and the Global Network on Religion and Children join We Will Speak Out South Africa and various other partners to speak out in unity as a family that cares for the vulnerable. Gender-based violence, femicide and all other forms of abuse and injustice are incompatible with the tenets of all religions. As people of faith, if we stand together and act locally by offering both our friendship and support, not just as concerned citizens, but as caring family members, we can perhaps begin to transform our society into a more peaceful one.

We can sustainably transform communities by helping organise healthy and regular activities for families, children, youth and the unemployed. Help host sports, arts, extra lessons, empowerment workshops and programmes, interfaith prayers, study groups, support groups, music, drama, dance and host periodic celebrations, talent shows or community picnics where progress can be enjoyed and we can help transform our society. These activities bring us to our unified goal which is peace and love.

In addition to all these suggestions is one I wish to give special mention to Service. 

When we take the time to engage in serving our community together, we foster bonds of friendship, we grow spiritually and we give back, which gives us an opportunity to practice gratitude and balance for the blessings we enjoy. When we foster a spirit of service in our neighbourhoods, our neighbourhoods become more united and a common vision is created. Naturally, when this begins to happen, our communities become safer for everyone.

Everyone can serve. Through service we are empowered, we find our voice and purpose. When these essentials are developed, our family members become stronger and find their agency to speak out, speak up, progress and protect themselves. It is when someone is kept voiceless that abuse can easily emerge.

We have the opportunity, privilege and challenge to find creative ways to work alongside the vulnerable and rise up together in peace.

“Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam. The world is but one family.”
Hindu Faith