Reflecting on the August local government elections during the Annual Meeting, Diakonia Chairperson, Revd Ian Booth, urged the church to be born again with a new identity where none are excluded from being brothers and sisters.

In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Revd Booth noted that the most despised “other” was the hero because he was the best example of a neighbour.

He said, “Our response to the question ‘who is my neighbour?’ must begin where Jesus ends off: go and be a good neighbour to others. We must overcome our discomfort, put aside our prejudice, and be a good neighbour to the one who does not belong to our family, who is not like us, who does not live in the same place as us, who speaks a different language, practices a different religion, and makes us feel uncomfortable.”

Revd Booth added that the message of the reign of God speaks of a new humanity whose identity comes from the image of God planted in each one of us. “When Jesus speaks to Nicodemus of new birth he speaks of the need to take on this new identity in which the old divisions of race, gender and nationality and economic class into which we are born no longer count,” he said.

One good example of being a neighbour, Revd Booth said, is to rise to the challenge of being a leader in the crucial task of nation building and conciliation in South Africa.

“In an apparent leadership vacuum, someone needs to step up to the plate and take the lead in pulling the nation through the crisis and finding a place of healing and renewal. If it is not people of faith who do this, it will be people with other agendas and motives who seek to control the destiny of this nation in ways that feed their agenda. Each of us needs to ask what we can do to rewrite the script and show that there is a different way of living and relating,” Revd Booth said.

It would be incorrect to think that the divisions in the South African society that have come to the fore as a result of the 2016 elections will disappear after the elections. He said, ” People are dying, cities are burning, the people are deeply unhappy. It is naïve to believe that once the local government elections are over the tensions and camps and divisions will disappear, and we will live together in harmony. These have been simmering for years, and have come to a head in this election cycle.

“It becomes incumbent upon us to change this picture by the way we live and relate to others. The words we speak, the signals we transmit by our unspoken attitudes, the messages we convey by our actions; these will be the measures of our commitment and contribution to a new and transformed society,” he said.