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St Marks Church fire, a symbol of social degradation

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The historic St. Marks Anglican Church, lauded as a symbol of standing the test of time against oppressive Apartheid policies, was set alight this week in an incident that has been widely condemned. On Wednesday, vandals petrol-bombed the church, setting a section of the  130-year-old land mark ablaze. The fire, which caused partial damage to the church, is allegedly the work of a student attending the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. The student is currently in police custody. An engineering building, at the university’s Cape Town campus, was also damaged by fire on the day the church was set alight.

A section of the church was partially damaged in the blaze. Photo credit: Velani Ludidi

Speaking to VOC News, the Muslim Judicial Council’s deputy president Maulana Abdul Khaliq Allie said that there is only one appropriate response and that is “total condemnation.”

Given the history attached to the 130-year-old church, Allie says the church stands firm despite Apartheid repression in which forced removals of a diverse, but close-knit community, became the legacy of the land on which it is located.

“In those years [there was] integration and coexistence between our communities [the church] symbolises that… [and so] we are deeply saddened at this incident that has taken place.”

Maulana further notes that an important aspect that should be given precedence is the fact that the incident spoke to the moral decay that is evident within our communities.

“Places of worship – be it churches, synagogues, temples, masaajid – are places of sanctity and places of hope and compassion and it must be protected by all citizens.”

Allie also condemned the break-in at the Bonteheuwel masjid on Thursday night, an incident which underlines the lack of protection of sacred spaces.  Allie says communities need to deal with the root cause of social decay that perpetuates crime, adding that communities need to embark on a campaign of “moral regeneration.”

“We need to speak as an interfaith community, and it must be led by the Muslim community, because Islam stands for peace…we must go to the root of this vandalism against our masjid, against churches or any place of worship.”

Meanwhile the Anglican Diocese of Cape Town expressed its shock at the incident. 

The Anglican Diocese of Cape Town has expressed its shock at the petrol bombing of the historic St Mark’s Church in District Six. Protesting students were allegedly behind the arson attack, with one student arrested yesterday afternoon. A CPUT engineering building was also set alight. In a statement today, Archbishop Thabo Makgoba said the church was a beacon of hope which had played a pivotal role in the struggle for justice and freedom. He said the church was “the vanguard of the marginalised of society and feels pained that its property is being targeted”. He said it was disappointing for all associated with St Mark’s District Six that a place of worship could come under attack.

The moulana says that vandalism can never be justified.

“It requires collectiveness; the Department of Safety and Security, government agencies, the CPF’s, communities leaders, as well as the religious leaders of our communities, to be working hand-in-glove…No amount of violence or vandalism can ever be condoned.”

In response to continued vandalism of religious, private and state owned property, the MJC is calling on the broader South Africa to work together and take control of communities.

“The platform of Jumuah [Friday prayers] and the mimbar [pulpit] is perhaps the most powerful platform that must remain uncompromised to convey the message that we must remain law abiding citizens, we must be able of stand for morality and must be able to stand together against any and all forms of violence.”

VOC 91.3fm



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