Prominent community activists, religious leaders, non-governmental organisations and concerned community members gathered for a processional march and interfaith service at the Joseph Stone Auditorium in Athlone on Sunday. The well-attended event was organised as a public stand against gang violence in the Cape Flats and saw several speeches and prayers made by well-known community figure such as Dr Alan Boesak. While all stakeholders in the event recognised the importance of taking a stand against gang violence, religious leaders have noted with concern the socioeconomic conditions behind the social ills plaguing local communities.
“Cape Town is bleeding with violence at the moment,” said Imam of Gatesville’s Masjidul Quds, Sheikh Abduragmaan Alexander.
“Mothers and fathers are crying and young children are being shot. This is totally unacceptable and we feel it’s by time the community stands up and says they’ve had enough.”
Sheikh Alexander says the service was an exemplary display of unity.
“The wonderful programme brought about a beautiful movement where priests and religious leaders across the spectrum came together, prayed and appealed to the people to reclaim the streets in the name of almighty God.”
The Muslim Judicial Council (SA) also weighed in on the event, saying that it supports “any community driven initiative.”
“The MJC supports any community driven initiative and this IS a community driven initiative – it isn’t necessarily a top-down initiative and that’s the type of solution we often require in our communities,” said head of media and communications at the MJC, Fazlin Fransman.
“It is critical for us, as an organisation, to ensure we facilitate that our community leaders are able to take the forefront of all these issues.”
The MJC says that it has a two-pronged approach in dealing with gang violence.
“As the MJC, we have a two-pronged approach at how we look at and deal with gang violence. We have to engage with communities and community leaders and also ensure that we engage with decision makers – whether they’re in government or whatever sphere they’re in,” said Fransman.
“There are socioeconomic conditions that fuel gang violence on the Cape Flats [and] we need to find innovative ways to ensure our youth are captured in a positive way rather than a negative way. We need to make sure we cut the flow [into gangsterism].”
Fransman added that the MJC supports all organisations and individuals combating gang violence.
“From the MJC’s perspective, we support any individuals or organisations, from any faith community, in terms of combating or addressing gang violence within the Western Cape.”
The event was organised by the Service & Allied Workers Union of South Africa (SAWUSA) and was initiated with the belief that faith leaders can be “critical players” in responding to the crisis of crime and gangsterism in the Western Cape.