SOCIAL JUSTICE PROGRAMME
The overall objective of this programme is to empower local churches and communities to be actively involved in fostering peace, healing and reconciliation, increasing participation in democratic governance, as well as enabling social transformation by empowering disadvantaged communities to take charge of their lives. The programme is divided into the following aspects: Self Help Groups, Empowering for healing and transformation, Democracy and governance and Social Justice Season.
SELF HELP GROUPS (SHGs)
In many ways than one, empowerment aptly describes what Diakonia is all about – helping people to help themselves. The reasoning is that the struggle of the poor will only succeed if the poor themselves play the leading role. It would be counter-productive to provide help without the involvement of the people for whom this help is meant. The participation of the recipients of the service is essential. SHGs strengthen the poor communities and help them to regain self-respect and a place in society.
Individuals in poor communities are mobilised to form groups where they are taught life and income generating skills so that they embark on projects which can guarantee them a humane life. In the groups they are empowered financially, socially and politically.
The groups are involved in different income-generating activities such as bead-making, thatching, building houses, and vegetable gardening.
Benefits of the groups are not just financial. Members often find spiritual and emotional support in the groups. “At the end of the day, you can always come to the SHG to get help with your problems”, stated one women at an evaluation.
Once a number of SHGs are strong, they form a Cluster Level Association (CLA). This is an organisation that takes up community issues on behalf of the SHGs. When there are enough functioning CLAs, they form a federation.
EMPOWERING FOR HEALING AND TRANSFORMATION
The depth of pain, damage and hurt in our country, let alone our municipality, is so acute. The high levels of domestic violence, poverty, child abuse, HIV and AIDS, as well as the effects of the historic political violence, have left many people in KwaZulu-Natal with limited capacity and strength to engage meaningfully with their lives. They are still carrying the scars. There is therefore a need for healing. Diakonia requires that Christians facilitate that process.
The portfolio has two aspects:
* Stress and Trauma Healing – The Stress and Trauma healing courses offered by the Diakonia Council of Churches are an effective tool for transforming people’s lives.
Level 1 of the two-level training course enables participants to learn about healing through their own experiences of stress and trauma.
Level 2 prepares them to move on with their lives better equipped to manage their own stress. In addition, participants are motivated to provide a service to their own communities, as well as establish support groups if appropriate.
*Reconciliation – This encourages member churches to put reconciliation issues on top of their agenda and to create spaces to talk about diversity issues.
DEMOCRACY AND GOVERNANCE
Diakonia has a prophetic duty. That means, testifying against injustice and oppression, and being an advocate of human worth, compassion and justice in society. The prophetic role of the church is an essential part of its identity. Whenever the church loses this prophetic function of being the advocate for the rights and welfare of all human beings, especially the poor and the excluded, it loses its identity. It ceases to be the ‘sacrament of salvation’ and is no longer the Church of Christ.
The democracy and governance aspect of our work enables local churches and communities to understand their rights as citizens in a democracy as well as how the system of local government works, in order for them to engage and lobby public officials and decision makers to implement policies and programmes that uplift the lives of the citizens, and to hold them accountable to the citizens.
Activities carried out under this portfolio include: the formation of advocacy groups, voter education, election monitoring and observation.
SOCIAL JUSTICE SEASON
The Social Justice Season takes place once every two years during the month of August. Churches come up with the appropriate theme, and bible studies are then developed.
The 2011 theme is: “Towards a Transformed Society” will be divided into the following four sub themes:
1. Attitude – God and Self (A Theological Reflection on Attitudes)
2. Theological Reflections on Governance / Leaders (Holding People Accountable)
3. Sharing Resources (An Economic and Environmental Justice Issue)
4. Moving Forward with Hope (The Good News)
1999 “Jubilee 2000” (Economic Justice)
2001 “AIDS, Work, Democracy & Peace” (Economic Justice)
2003 “God’s Gift: The Earth – our Home” (Environmental Justice)
2005 “Good News for the Poor” (Economic Justice - Theologically)
2007 “Oikos Journey” (Economic & Environmental Justice)
2009 “Building Bridges” (Reconciliation)