READER LETTER | Church leaders endorse call for peace in Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Chief justice Mogoeng Mogoeng.
Chief justice Mogoeng Mogoeng.
Image: Freddy Mavunda/ Business Day

Dear President Cyril Ramaphosa,

The matter in which chief justice Mogoeng Mogoeng expressed the Christian viewpoint of peacemaking refers.

As Christian leaders, we wish to express our deep concern over the finding by the Judicial Conduct Committee which deemed Mogoeng to have acted improperly in the webinar with Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein, and also with the order that he retract his words and repeat a pre-written apology.

In his finding against the chief justice, justice Phineas Mojapelo stated that this matter was not one of religious freedom of expression.

We humbly beg to disagree. It is, at its most fundamental, a matter of religious freedom of expression.

Having studied Mogoeng’s comments through a biblical lens, we, as Christian leaders, regard them to be a call for peace and peacemaking in the IsraeliPalestinian conflict.

Such a call lines up with the core imperative of our faith, which is to reflect the heart of a loving God and to take a stand against the opposite of peace, which is war.

While there is a lack of consensus in the church on how to view modern-day Israel and the ongoing conflict with Palestine, there is uniformity about Christians pursuing the call to be peacemakers.

From both the religious and national arena, it is almost inconceivable that someone who believes our country should use its past experiences for the purpose of peacemaking, now finds himself sanctioned and ordered to retract his words.

What needs to be made clear here is that calling for peace is neither the sole preserve nor the sole mandate of politicians. Such a pursuit is basic human decency and sanity itself. And for the Christian, peacemaking is a duty to which we are all called, in every instance.

We therefore find no fault with Mogeong’s approach. Rather we wholeheartedly endorse it and urge our government to adopt it.

Our majority Christian nation should use its experience and authority gained through our own process of pain to assist other divided nations.

To claim the chief justice’s utterances were otherwise motivated is to overlook, misinterpret and misrepresent the essence of what he said — which was, in our view, neither political, nor biased. Rather, what seems to be the main objection against him is that he did not line up with a particular bias.

And the problem, when the state begins to embrace and advance this type of agenda, is that it amounts to a full-frontal attack on the most fundamental tenets of our faith and therefore, on the Christian community of SA.

It is also significant that the chief justice has, in the past, made remarks on land reform, economic redress, curbing corruption, and the need for ethical leadership — all of which are issues of national interest and which might be disagreed with by those who hold different points of view.

Yet from the Christian perspective, these remarks have lined up with another tenet of our faith — that of justice.

Must our chief justice now be gagged, and be required to echo only what is deemed in some quarters to be “politically correct’’ and be intimidated into suppressing his faith?

As citizens and as Christians we often find ourselves sitting on the sidelines of national affairs and watching while politicians and others who hold public office make pronouncements — some of them incendiary — on judicial matters.

We wonder why the principle of “separation of powers” does not apply to these individuals.

We appreciate that a judicial process is underway, but we would appeal to you, Mr President, as well as those in other positions of authority, to broaden the focus of an overly narrow gaze and pay heed to the words of Jesus, who, in the Gospel of Matthew said: “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God.”

Our chief justice has expressed his faith by serving SA with unwavering courage, righteousness and patriotism.

We see no deviation from this course in this instance.

- Afrika Mhlophe is a pastor at the Good News Community Church


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