Churches bemoan ‘culture of violence’
CHURCH leaders under the umbrella body – Christian Council of Lesotho (CCL) – have decried the “growing culture of violence” in Lesotho and absence of mechanisms to peacefully resolve conflicts.
In a press statement issued yesterday, the CCL said the escalating cases of murder in the country had left many “imprisoned by fear” thereby tainting Lesotho’s long-held image of a peaceful nation.
The statement was signed by Archbishop Gerard Tlali Lerotholi OMI of the Roman Catholic Church, Bishop Mallane Taaso of the Anglican Church of Lesotho, Reverend Tšeliso Masemene of the Lesotho Evangelical Church of Southern Africa, Reverend ‘Mapeete Mokhosi of the African Methodist Episcopal, Reverend BM Setshedi of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa and Reverend Monaheng Sekese of the Assemblies of God Lesotho.
The church body says murder cases were continuing to increase with each passing year. The statement comes amid a climate of fear that has engulfed the country following the myriad of killings and attempted murders over the course of the year.
“Crime statistics vary year to year starting from 2013 to 2016, and we face far higher rates of murder in the country,” read part of the statement.
“God categorically says, ‘You shall not kill’ (Exodus 20:13). Our families are torn by violence. Our communities are destroyed by violence. Our faith is tested by violence. We, as your spiritual leaders, have an obligation to respond.
“Violence is destroying the lives, dignity and hopes of the people. Fear of violence is paralysing and polarising our communities.”
Hostility, hatred, despair and indifference, the council states, were at the heart of a growing culture of violence.
“Our social fabric, as Basotho who have been known by a culture of peace, is being torn apart by a culture of violence that leaves people dead and families afraid in our homes.
“Our society seems to be growing numb to human loss and suffering. A nation born in a commitment to life, liberty, peace and pursuit of happiness is haunted by death; imprisoned by fear and caught up in the elusive pursuit of protection rather than happiness.”
The church leaders urge the government to “seriously” undertake its role as a protector of the populace.
“Government ought to retain the primary role for ensuring the survival, livelihood and dignity of the people. It has to protect the vital core of all human lives in ways that enhance human freedoms and human fulfilment.
“It means protecting people from critical and pervasive threats and situations. We, therefore, urge the government to seriously undertake its role to protect the people.”
The first step in turning away from violence, says the council, is to have respect for life.
“Respect for life is a fundamental moral principle flowing from the Church teaching on the dignity on the human person (Genesis 1:27). We, therefore, strongly condemn heinous crimes,” states the CCL.
“We also strongly appeal to the people committing these evil acts to stop immediately. It is an approach to life that values people over things. Respect for life must guide the choices we make as individuals and as a society: What we do and what we do not do; what we value and consume; what we support and what we oppose.”
The council also calls for a new urgency in fostering peace: “It is time, in the words of Deuteronomy 30:19, to ‘choose life so that you and your descendants may live…’ We must realize that peace is most fundamentally a gift from God (John 14:27).
“Let us, therefore, hear and act with new urgency on the words of Jesus: ‘Blessed are the peacemakers; they shall be called children of God.’ (Matthew 5:9).”