Be tolerant, urges bishop

Mary Papayya

Mary Papayya

Religious leaders in KwaZulu-Natal yesterday expressed deep concern at the increasing intolerance of the supporters of various political parties and political leaders.

The clergymen and women said churches and other civil society organisations had a key role to play in speaking out against all forms of intolerance and prejudice, especially when these were displayed by people elected to leadership positions.

"Our leaders are expected to present themselves as good examples at all times," Diakonia Council of Churches spokesman Bishop Barry Wood said.

Speaking ahead of the ANC breakaway leaders' convention this weekend, Wood emphasised the importance of safeguarding the values of democracy - freedom of speech and association being central - as well as the right to vote.

"Democracy is about change; democracy is our means to ensuring we have a government that is answerable to the people; democracy entrenches our right to organise ourselves politically and socially," Wood said.

"We must defend these values and the church has a role to play in educating its members.

"Democracy means we can differ from one another and we can form new parties.

"We can and must allow for change and we must protect the rights of those who seek to do so," Wood said.

He said those who enjoyed the public stage had to avoid any reference to violence, however obscure that might be, and seek rather to create an environment conducive to peace building and neighbourliness.