Why is South Africa in the state it is?
It’s a tragedy that many children in South Africa are growing up in dysfunctional families. These children spend their formative years living in an environment where parents are absent, or the relations between parents become strained and abusive.
And when the fabric of healthy, loving families begins to unravel, its ugly symptoms become rife in our communities: alcohol and drug abuse, emotional and physical violence and crimes such as vandalism, theft and murder. Here is a story of the abuse suffered by a young boy who later became a member of a street gang in Cape Town.
Wounds that never heal
You could hear him from a mile away as he stumbled and cursed his way back from the shebeen. At such times he had the same look on his face as a township mongrel with rabies – complete with curled lip and saliva at the edges of his mouth. But there was nowhere to hide from this cruel man who happened to be my father. Not when you lived in a shack the size of a shoe box.
As his large body barged through the door I would lay in bed and pretend I was asleep; the smell of alcohol, sweat and cigarettes hanging thick in the air. Then the insults and screams he hurled at my mother – her face gaunt and wrinkled from worry – would become louder until I couldn’t drown it out anymore. “How dare you speak to me like that you worthless cow!” Apart from the verbal abuse the family drama often turned violent. On some occasions he would beat her until she collapsed and lay sobbing on the concrete floor. “Shut up Ntombi,” he would shout, “you know you asked for this.” Every time it happened I felt ashamed but I never dared to make a sound. I knew there was probably nothing I could do to stop his aggresive behaviour. That didn’t stop my father from attacking me – a poor, timid boy unable to stand up for himself. I hated myself for not trying.
My mother unexpectedly died when I was only thirteen years old. For the first time in my life I took charge and ran away. No one was ever going to hurt me again. And those who tried would pay the price: an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. I never saw my father, or that rusty shack again. But the memories still haunt me every day of my life.
Altough one’s background is never an excuse for choices made, Christians do have a responsibility to take care of the needy and to help bring about social justice. Not only should we treat our own family with love and respect, but we should also reach out to others – especially the vulnerable: the widows and the orphans, the abused, the forgotten and those less fortunate.
In Mark 12:31 we are told: “‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” I personally believe building a new South Africa starts with this powerful idea of helping people get better before they get bitter. If we are obedient to this verse we will live in a peaceful society, one where the dignity of every human being is respected.
What do you think; is change possible through the power of God's love?
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