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Imam Rashied Omar steps down as WCRLF chairperson

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The Western Cape Religious Leaders Forum (WCRLF) successfully convened its 4th Annual General Meeting at its Zonnebloem headquarters on Thursday 13 November 2014. Established in 2007 under the patronship of the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, the Most Reverend Dr.Thabo Makgoba, the WCRLF brings together representatives of the Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Baha’i and African Traditional religious communities along with all the main denominations of Christianity.

In terms of the WCRLF constitution, its Chairperson and deputy-Chairperson should serve for a period of two years, and the Chairperson should rotate every two years among the various faith communities that are represented. Imam Rashied, who had been serving as WCRLF chair since 20 June 2012, completed his two year term and consequently stepped down. He was succeeded as WCRLF chair by Pastor Xola Skosana of the Way of Life Church and the Western Cape Christian Ministers Forum (WCCMF) based in Khayelitsha.

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In his chairperson’s address, Imam Rashied identified the Safe Manenberg Campaign as one of WCRLF’s modest achievements of the past year and called on religious leaders to do more to properly represent the concerns of the marginalized citizens in our City and Province. He alsoexpressed his deep gratitude to his colleagues in the WCRLF executive for sacrificing their valuable time and energies in keeping the Forum together during the past two years and wishedthe incoming executive well in taking the WCRLF to even greater heights in the future.

In paying tribute to Imam Rashied’s leadership of the WCRLF over the past two years, WCRLF honorary secretary, Mickey Glass, described Imam Rashied as someone who led from the front and who always made sure that the faith communities fought despair in the name of hope. Mickey Glass, who represents the Union of Orthodox Synagogues, said that much of the activities and successes of the WCRLF were due almost entirely to Imam Rasheed’s initiatives and leadership. He commended Imam Rashied for raising the status of the WCRLF through his sincerity and commitment to principled interreligious cooperation.

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Here is the full text of Imam Rashied’s address to the 2014 AGM of the WCRLF:

WESTERN CAPE RELIGIOUS LEADERS FORUM (WCRLF)
ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING 2014

Chairperson’s Report

Imam Dr. A. Rashied Omar

During the past year the Western Cape Religious Leaders Forum (WCRLF) received a generous grant from the Open Society Foundation for South Africa (OSF-SA) for its programme expenses. In addition, WCRLF also served as the financial custodian for a second OSF-SA grant for a Safe Manenberg Campaign, which was constituted by a coalition of civil society organisation

Modest Accomplishments

Some of the modest accomplishments of WCRLF during the past year are as follows:

1) On 7 November 2013, WCRLF agreed on a Memorandum of Understanding with the National Interfaith Council of South Africa (NICSA) at the Muslim Judicial Council offices in Athlone. WCRLF once again reiterated its firm policy onindependence from government and political parties.

2) On 14 November 2013, WCRLF pledged their allegiance to the Western Cape Department of Transport and Public Works’ Road Safety Pledge at the Muir Street Mosque in District Six. The event was well attended by WCRLF members, but there appeared to be a lack of follow up by the Department of Transport.

3) On 6 December 2013, WCRLF organized an Interfaith Prayer Service for Nelson Mandela, hosted by the City of Cape Town at the Grand Parade. Despite the months of planning for the event it was not well attended.

4) On 28 February 2014, WCRLF played a role in facilitating the convening of a Mini-Summit on Sanitation between the City of Cape Town and the Social Justice Coalition (SJC). The primary focus of the summit was to review the Janitorial Service operating in 14 informal settlement communities as a result of a prior agreement between the City, SJC and WCRLF. The mini-summit was opened by Mayor Patricia De Lille.
In his report summarising the outcome of the meeting, Craig Stewart, the representative of Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, recommended that if the summit outcomes were followed up diligently by all stakeholders, they could serve as a useful middle ground for collaboration on areas of mutual agreement. WCRLF continues to encourage ongoing dialogue between the City and all stakeholders. Our sincere thanks to Craig Stewart for his able leadership efforts in this regard.

5) During the first quarter of 2014, WCRLF once again, under the leadership of our chief patron Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, played a key role in the success of the Electoral Code of Conduct Observer Commission (ECOCC). The main goal of ECOCC was to provide conflict mediation between political parties contesting the 7 May 2014 general elections. There exists an urgent need to conduct a critical evaluation to determine the ongoing efficacy of ECOCC in future elections.

6) On 15 June 2014, WCRLF held a successful Manenberg Prayers for Peace interfaith service at the Anglican Church of Reconciliation. The event was addressed by WCRLF patron Archbishop Stephen Brislin and former president of the Muslim Judicial Council Shaykh Ebrahim Gabriels. A second interfaith service is being planned for December 2014.

Safe Manenberg Campaign

In February 2014, the WCRLF began the implementation of the Safe Manenberg Campaign, a community safety project initiated in partnership with a coalition of organisations as a response to recurrent upsurges in gang violence. The overall goal of the project is to contribute to the creation of a safer and more peaceful community environment in Manenberg through generating synergies among existing organisations and mobilising additional resources to address the root causes of gang violence.
Since its inception in February 2014, the project has achieved major successes in four key areas:
• developed strong partnerships with key community-based organisations (CBOs);
• formed a Community Safety Forum that meets regularly on a weekly basis; the forum consists of representatives of the main stakeholders in the field of community safety in Manenberg;
• started a successful youth program in partnership with the Manenberg Development Coordinating Structure (MDCS) regularly attended by approximately 40 youth members; the program holds weekly youth sessions at the Manenberg People’s Centre, organises educational trips to various locations in Cape Town, and completed a successful youth leadership camp for 40 youth in October 2014;
• laid the foundation for interfaith dialogue in Manenberg through holding mass interfaith prayer services and other interreligious activities.

Key Challenges

I would like to highlight two of the major challenges confronting WCRLF.

The first is our inability to achieve consensus on the issuing of statements on social justice issues. The Dalai Lama’s visa debacle is a case in point.

The second continues to be the broadening of WCRLF constituency as well as properly representing the concerns of the marginalised citizens in our city and province. Our various attempts at achieving this goal in the past year proved to be inadequate.

Three initiatives usefully illustrate this.

The first was WCRLF’s ill-conceived attempts at mediating between a group calling itself Concerned Citizens (Group of 85) and the Ses’khona Peoples Rights Movement in December and January 2014. The second was the lack of response from Khayelitsha’s religious leaders to the Refuse Collection and Area Cleaning Social Audit in informal settlements in Khayelitsha between 30 September and 5 October, 2013. Lastly, the lack of critical solidarity from both WCRLF’s broader as well as Khayelitsha religious constituents to the important work of theCommission of Inquiry on Crime and Policing in Khayelitsha,which convened from January to May 2014, is lamentable. We need to find appropriate ways of addressing this challenge, and a useful starting point would be for all of us to take joint responsibility for this fault line.

Unfortunately, during the past year we also spent an inordinate amount of energy and time in negotiating a mutually agreeable contract for our part-time director. We were eventually able to come to some agreement in late August 2014 thanks to a welcome intervention by Reverend Alan Storey. Since then, we have made good progress in becoming organisationally proficient and legally and constitutionally compliant and have employed an administrator to provide additional office support.

Conclusion

In conclusion, as our director has reminded us, WCRLF is in a critical time of transition and we need the commitment of all of our respected religious leaders in providing the necessary collective leadership at this stage in the life of the Forum.
I would like to express my deep gratitude to my colleagues in the WCRLF executive for sacrificing their valuable time and energies in keeping the Forum together during the past two years. We wish the incoming executive well in taking WCRLF to even greater heights in the future.


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