During the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), Pope John XXIII and the bishops from all around the world decided that the Church needed to be more involved in the world. For that, they established a Pontifical Commission for Justice and Peace and decided that each bishops’ Conference should establish a Justice and Peace commission and that all Bishops work towards establishing Justice and Peace commissions in their Dioceses. The Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) was one of the first bishops’ Conferences in the world to establish a Justice and Peace department in 1967.
The department effectively became the SACBC’s anti-apartheid mobilisation and campaigning arm throughout the apartheid era. During the political transition period, the department focused mostly on the negotiation process, elections support, and (subsequently) the TRC process. Over the past decade in the post-apartheid era, the department established dedicated programmes in gender, environmental justice, economic justice, land reform, democracy, reconciliation, training, social renewal, trade justice, and international solidarity and peace-building.
The department functions as the official social, economic, and environmental justice advocacy and peace-building agency of the SACBC with dedicated programmes across a wide range of key thematic areas such as gender, economic justice, environmental justice, participatory democracy, race relations, land reform, social renewal, international solidarity, trade justice, peace-building, and training for organisational and skills development of the justice and peace network throughout the SACBC region.
The purpose of J&P is to promote justice and peace action in the light of Catholic Social Teachings as an integral of the evangelising mission of the Catholic Church in Southern Africa, within the 29 Dioceses. The J&P’s mandate includes:
- Helping the church community to be aware of the suffering, injustice, divisions and violence in the territories served by the Conference and to be committed to transforming society.
- Raising awareness among people about the causes of suffering and poverty and helping them recognize the social implications of faith for all areas of human life as well for the environment.
- Working for a more just society where the basic human rights of all people are respected especially those of the poor, of women and others who are marginalised;
- Having a special concern within the Church for preaching and promoting action for justice and peace in support of the poor, disadvantaged and oppressed and to act as an advisory body on justice issues;
- Promoting awareness of the integrity of creation and encouraging the church community to work for environmental justice;
- Being a contact point for women’s groups and assisting these groups to raise women’s concerns in the Conference especially those dealing with issues of justice relating to women in society, the role of women in the Church and their participation in its life;
- Address injustice within the Church itself so that it can be a more credible witness to its gospel message.
As the Justice and Peace Department of the SACBC, we continue the mission of Christ in our societies by promoting human dignity, justice, peace and the integrity of creation both within the church and in the broader society, drawing on gospel values and the social teachings of the church. Our work is informed by a preferential option for the poor and marginalised, a fundamental commitment to social justice, and the eradication of poverty. We thus want to help all levels of the Church in our region to realise that work for justice and peace is an integral and indispensable part of our Christian faith.
We aim to realise our vision by:
- Building communities at the local and diocesan levels comprising women, men and youth who are motivated to promote and work for justice, peace and social transformation at the local, diocesan, national and international levels; and
- Harnessing the vast expertise that exists within and without the church in all sectors of society to deepen the understanding and analysis at all levels of the Church of issues that require our response and advocacy for a more just and peaceful society, leading to effective action.
We do this in a spirit of community service, ecumenism, and partnership with other role players.
For more information or joining our Parish Justice and Peace Committee, kindly contact Sifiso Ndwandwe via email.