DURBAN, May 25, 2012 (CISA) -The Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference has called on President Jacob Zuma to lead the nation to a new dialogue on reconciliation and dignity.
“Let us all make every effort to be the South Africa we want to be and want to become,” said Cardinal Wilfrid Napier, Archbishop of Durban.
The cardinal also expressed shock at the tone and temperament of the language surrounding the furore over the painting The Spear by Brett Murray depicting President Zuma, saying it has exposed a number of fault lines in our South African civic discourse.
“We need honest, respectful and clear dialogue in South Africa. We have lived with enough violence in word and deed,” said Cardinal Napier.
He also expressed strongly that the Catholic Community does not in any way hold the position of the Nazareth Baptist Church (Shembe) or of the broader Christian Community.
Nazareth Baptist Church Spokesperson Enoch Mthembu said, “This man has insulted the entire nation and he deserves to be stoned to death. What he did clearly shows his racist upbringing because art does not allow people to insult others…”
However, in response to this statement, Cardinal Napier said, “Calling for the ‘stoning’ of someone who has created an expression of his own vision is tantamount to hate speech and is a very clear incitement to violence. Let the courts decide, this is why we have an independent Judiciary and laws that are not arbitrary.”
Cardinal Napier said, “The jump to the language of race has once again allowed us to default to the easy position of blame without having to make any effort to understand or to attempt a broader dialogue.”
“Let me be clear. I don’t like the painting, its graphic subject matter or the slur on the character of the president. But simply reducing this incident to the level of race is a sad indicator that we have, once again, allowed the easy card to be played because it serves to deflect us from the real issues of national reconciliation and the building of a community that chooses the highest possible good rather than the lowest and basest human instincts,” said the cardinal.