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Churches play a big role in the justice system – Min Radebe

The Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, Mr Jeff Radebe delivered the 18th annual Archbishop Dennis Hurley Lecture held under the theme “The Role of the Church within the Criminal Justice System at the Diakonia Centre, in Durban on 21 November 2013.

The lecture, attended by, among others, Diakonia management, leaders of the Dennis Hurley Centre and the Peace Institute, leaders of Ecumenical bodies and other faith-based organisations sought to encourage churches to play a more pivotal role in the criminal justice system.

As a renowned leader of the Catholic Church, Archbishop Hurley made a significant contribution in South Africa’s political history. He was appointed Archbishop in 1952 and Head of the Bishop’s Conference in the same year. “He steered the church during the challenging times in South African history, with his active involvement in the Freedom Charter in 1955; the Sharpeville Massacre in 1960; the rise of Black Consciousness; the revival of Black Trade Unions and the Soweto Uprisings,” remarked Minister Radebe.

Tracking down history, the minister recalled that, Archbishop Hurley’s first appointment as President of the Bishops’ Conference was that he was convinced that bishops had to issue a joint-statement on Human Rights and Race Relations. “Not all bishops were taken with to this idea, thinking that it would put the church on a collision course with the State. The joint-statement was issued regardless of disapprovals. It was the first time that the bishops had issued such a political opinion,” said Minister Radebe.

In his address, the minister reflected on how the church can assist the criminal justice system in alleviating challenges associated with the apartheid legacy. “Faith-based organisations can play an important role in many aspects of the justice system, such as assisting with victim empowerment services, contributing to prisoner rehabilitation and re-integration back into the community of those who have served their sentences,” the minister explained.

He further mentioned that such organisations can assist the youth in delinquency prevention; substance abuse treatment and standing by victims of crime and supporting their families. “There is also a role for faith-based organisations in forming partnership at local level through interactions with Community Policing Forums and Community Safety Forums.  In his concluding remarks, the minister said: “Churches are better placed to instil moral rectitude which will, in our view, contribute to the reduction of criminality in our country.”

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By Benson Ntlatleng