South Africa: Church offers guidance in run-up to elections

 In the run-up to the general election in South Africa which is taking place takes place today, the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference (SACBC) issued a pastoral reflection document to help Catholics decide how best to use their vote. Earlier the bishops called on all eligible church members to vote and on politicians to exercise responsible leadership. The reflection document: "God's Agents of Hope: Sustaining Democracy in South Africa", highlights several aspects of the social, economic, and political context over the past ten years that it encourages voters to reflect on. It also presents members of the church with a faith-based process to decide which party to vote for, outlining some of the important values and attitudes that the church asks voters to take into consideration. Some of these include a holistic assessment of a party's full set of policies and practices, not voting selfishly but also being attentive to the needs of the poor and other vulnerable members of society, and concern for the country's role in relation to the social, political, and economic development of societies beyond South Africa's borders. The document first reflects on why democracy is important and on why the church encourages its members to participate in the election. It then reflects on the past decade and how to appropriately evaluate the achievements and failures of that period. Finally, it guides voters on how to make sense of the claims and promises of the competing parties and on choosing which party to vote for. "Freedom of thought and conscience are the very heart of human dignity, and for this reason the church would never try to decide for its members how they should vote. The competence of the church in this regard is not to tell people who to vote for, but to help people evaluate parties' policies and to give them the tools to make the choices they find appropriate," the bishops' document says. "With this in mind the church asks all of us to inform our consciences by measuring the policies and track-records of the various parties against the values of the Gospel and the church's social teaching." Source: SACBC

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