We should never be comfortable around those who discourage equality, reconciliation and peaceful coexistence, writes Jabulile Buthelezi
THE ultimate ideal of freedom and its possible resolve for all humanity, continues to be defied.
The yearning to equally experience freedom in complete essence of tolerance and coexistence remains our biggest worldwide challenge yet. The will to witness freedom enjoyed by everyone, is repetitively competing with the egotism of the type of consciousness that brings about a revolutionary wave, driven by an elite group of people advocating for human rights intensely, only when it favors one’s desired social comfort or perhaps when it aligns with the architype of their preferred set of beliefs and falls within the safetynet of a certain social-construct, economic standing, and faith based preference. To regard freedom and to support the dynamisms aimed towards the advancement of it thereof, purely because the notion of it at the time falls within one’s safety net, is not being entirely open to the true nature of freedom or in some instances, solidarity where necessary. Ever noticed how freedom always makes perfect sense to us, mainly because it fits our benefits. Yes! It is key to stand firm for what you believe in and fight for it. But it is not honest to grand-stand, only when the fight helps to keep you at a pedestal of your comfort. In-fact, if this is the sole or main reason why some people are comrades, fighters, change agents, shapers, opinion makers and the likes, then we are headed for an even much bigger crisis. As this could possibly mean, people can gladly choose to fold their hands and deliberately not support the cohort of social justice, if it does not benefit them in any way, completely forgetting the core of our humanism, which mainly rests upon the pillars of striving to simply do what is right. Even when circumstances don’t allow, but doing it anyways, because it is the right thing to do. It is improper to dismiss the fundamental morale of fairness, and the care to show compassion to others. We certainly cannot dismiss concerns and the pain of others, merely based on the notion that “It does not belong to me and I don’t care”, after all; we are Madiba’s children of the ‘rainbow’ isn’t it? Perhaps we have an opportunity of redefining the fallacy that the so called ‘rainbow nation’ has upheld over the past 23 years, into a genuinely integrated society that stand in one accord against the infringement of human rights, corruption, leaderless key institutions and the decay of communities. So, not all is lost. Because we can still be the real ‘Rainbow’ The universal declaration on human rights (UDHR) has many faces, and yet the most important face of it all, is that of an oppressed human, one who struggles to capture the reality of being a free agent, even in their own country, finding difficulty in aligning to their chosen freedom of thought, the right to believe and affiliate to whatever they prefer, without being subjected to public scrutiny by much louder, stronger and more influential groups, or ridiculed based on various religious interpretation of how freedom ought to look like for others. The global narrative that paints religion as a source of cross cultural conflict, is not entirely the only reason why societies struggle to maintain a progressive socioeconomic landscape. I have learnt that most of us prefer to support freedom only if it benefits what we have chosen to align with, the moment it does not entirely favor our preference we become villains of progress. Working against the very society we are meant to be building, it’s a very strange concept of viewing things. Yes, no one can take away another’s human right, the political atmosphere in most countries like the middle east, some parts of Mexico may not necessarily make it easy for citizens with certain choices to enjoy all the rights and freedoms in their own country. It is therefore important that, for the sake of those persons, whether we know them or not, or ever get to meet them or not, we do not stop advancing models of peaceful coexistence. The concept of humility, is a virtue that many of us ignore and we often sideline those who uphold it as being timid minded. I believe humility is one of the most basic and fundamental humane elements that directly influence a possible reality that can demonstrate to us all, our preferred extent to which we are prepared to allow human dignity to thrive, or not to thrive under our watch. It’s almost like a litmus test for us as a people to see how much we are willing to support each-other, stand with and for each other, when it comes to the cohort of social justice. By virtue of being a multifaceted society, we are thereby envoys of peace, we cannot afford communities that are enemies to progress. We ought to boldly advocate a more human face to the systems that create additional barriers that makes it impossible for humankind to cut across laws that further fuels restrictions on others being able to access and exercise their human rights. The ability to recognize each other as equally human, the willingness to genuinely look at one another and be brave enough to sit across each other, despite our diverse cross-cultural chains, the decision to choose to bring forth a common focus of advancing each other and help incline social cohesion for the benefit of building a solid global sense of respect and coexistence for everyone, starts with being willing to care enough to open space for progressive engagement and urgent conversations that matter, conversations that must be had, regardless of how difficult or uncomfortable they are. At some point as a society we need to get to a level, where we understand that each of us, holds the power to become a voice of reason, this responsibility does not only fall within the power of the influential, most opinionated, rich and famous. We are all responsible for the kind of society we cultivate, after all, we are all part of the very society, we are the society. This is why the continuous disregard for human rights on our watch, by authorities, leaders and key offices in the land, expected to lead by example cannot be acceptable. In order for us to do business together, raise children and advance ourselves the layers of one being Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Atheist, Rastafarian etc … should not be the determining factor of why we cannot coexist in one society as a people. I was recently invited to speak at the 8th International Religious Liberty Association World Congress in the Fort Lauderdale; Florida United States and I was challenged to explore models of why people with intense religious and philosophical differences can’t possibly live together without any form of violence or infringements of rights? The experience required that I examine faith-based diplomacy, mediation, justice, and the art of peacemaking in a constantly changing and complex world. These were feelings not foreign to me, because as a South African I have been grown in a country, that has upheld a difficult historical legacy of the apartheid regime, a reality that brought forth segregation in many forms. Our country proudly defeated this kind of past and has just entered 23 years of a Democratic era, yet as we evidently see, we still struggle to find our solid ground on issues of inequality. There are many reasons to this challenge, but I suppose if we are to seek a better socio-economic territory, it is going to be very key for us to engage in necessary conversations. I have also realized that this struggle is a global phenomenon and models of peaceful coexistence are continuously challenged, sidelined and sadly in some cases silenced, this cannot be the case of the 21st century. To look beyond the political, biblical, and social segregation is a personal choice. To seek to tell a different story and support a cause that can help paint a different face and advance peace and coexistence for everyone, requires the humility to allow that reality a chance. We should never be comfortable to sit around and keep warm company of people that continuously discourage acts of reconciliation and possible efforts of state solutions, for others. People that regress efforts of peace building, and paint Religious Freedom and the cohort of social justice as the root cause of conflict and intensified inequality, should not dominate the fiber of our society, for they drive it to nowhere. There is something very wrong with us, if we are going to become a society that allows oppressive mindsets to rule over the most valuable element of humanity, which is a life of another at the expense of another. To want to uphold basic human rights is not an impossible ask, wanting to uphold peace and stand for right even as a citizen in a conflict driven country, is not a waste of time. So, we are not advocating for a fallacy, as agents of change, meant to drive the reality of peace and help safeguard models of coexistence. We should continue to be bold enough to see what we fight for, translated into policies, and legislations, that can enhance ordinary lives at grassroot level and enrich a progressive humanity. Jabulile Buthelezi is an author and activist