/ 27 May 2010

Day of prayer for Bafana — but who will attend?

A “National Day of Prayer” for Bafana Bafana and the World Cup has been scheduled for May 29, but it appears that some religious groups won’t be attending.

Pastor Ray McCauley, chairperson of the National Interfaith Leaders Council (NILC) and leader of Rhema Christian Church, announced plans for the day of prayer on May 26.

NILC, in partnership with the South African Broadcasting Corporation, Gauteng and the City of Tshwane, will hold the event at the Lucas Moripe Stadium in Atteridgeville.

Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, as well as Gauteng premier Nomvula Mokonyane, are expected to attend.

McCauley told the Mail & Guardian this week that the event had been structured to ‘make all religions feel included”. He said that all religious denominations would be represented at the event, including those of the Jewish, Hindu and Muslim faiths.

However Ashwin Trikamjee, president of the South African Hindu Maha Sabha and co-chairperson of the National Religious Leaders Forum said: “I know nothing about it. He has not invited everyone.”

Sinthal Ramiah, chairperson of the Gauteng branch of Hindu Maha Sabha, said he had heard of the event but had not yet received an invitation. “We would have loved to have been part of it,” Ramiah said.

Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein confirmed to the M&G that he had received an invitation from NILC but had declined, as the event takes place on a Saturday — the Jewish holy day of Sabbath. On this day members of the Jewish faith are forbidden to drive in a car, use electricity and write, among other things.

In his response to NILC, Goldstein regretfully declined the invitation and added: “The South African ethos of ‘Unity in Diversity’ obviously requires that any joint national event such as this be done at a time that all religious communities can participate. I am sure that this is an oversight and would urge you that on all future such occasions thought be given to the individual religious requirements of the many diverse communities that make up our wonderful country.”

Moulana Ebrahim Bham, chief theologian and general secretary of the Jamiatul Ulama, told the M&G that he had received the invitation but had forwarded it to their Pretoria office as the venue for the event was in Atteridgeville. The Darus Salaam Islamic Centre confirmed they had received the invitation and were still unsure of who would attend the event.

General secretary of the South African Council of Churches, Eddie Makue, categorically told the M&G, “No, the SACC is not involved at all [in organising the National Day of Prayer].”

The M&G previously reported that the ANC had marginalised the South African Council of Churches in favour of NILC because it refused to “cosy up” to the ruling party.

“As general secretary I have been invited. But as it is just an invitation, there is no role for us other than as passive participants,” Makue said.

Secretary general of NILC, Professor David Mosoma said “we did not exclude anybody”, and said that an invitation has certainly been sent to the Hindu Maha Sabha and if it had not reached them, perhaps “it is still in the pipeline”.

Mosoma said it was “understandable” that Goldstein would be unable to attend and that “interfaith is not about undermining the religions of other people”.

He noted that Saturday was simply chosen for logistical reasons and “in future we will take that [the Sabbath] into account”.