Bishop Evaristus Thatho BITSOANE 
(Bishop of Qach's Nek, Lesotho)


I am speaking on behalf of the Lesotho Catholic Bishops? Conference (n. 112 and the following numbers of the Instrumentum Laboris: justice and peace)

Geographically, Lesotho is completely surrounded by the Republic of South Africa and is economically dependent on it. The socio-political life is heavily influenced by the Republic of South Africa.

In Africa, where political unrest and armed conflicts are numerous, Lesotho has had its fair share. In 1970 a large number of the members of the main opposition party in Lesotho had to flee the country for their own safety and were refugees in the neighbouring countries. After some years the Church in Lesotho took upon itself the role of a "servant" to work for the repatriation of Lesotho citizens who were refugees in other countries.

This was not easy, especially because the majority of those in exile were not Catholics. So the Church first had to organise several meetings of the Heads of different Churches and sects. The aim of these meetings was to convince religious leaders that Lesotho citizens had a right to live in their own country even though their political ideologies were different from those of the ruling party.

Now the Church and other denominations and sects had to work for national reconciliation. A number of meetings were organised at different levels where all were given a chance to voice their fears. Churches were encouraged to speak to their followers and to prepare them for multi-party elections. The Pastoral Letter of the Bishops insisted on clear party manifestos, so that the electorate would know clearly what each party was promising the nation.

Multi-party elections were held peacefully in 1993, but this does not mean that the work of the Church for justice and peace is over. There are still many cases where the Church should play an active role if the spirit of trust is to return to the country. Many people are living under fear.

The majority of the inhabitants of Lesotho are Christians, but our way of living is far from Christian. It is essential for the Church to maintain a certain contact with the rulers, even at the expense of being perceived as supporters of the ruling party. Such contacts enable religious leaders to voice the concern of the voiceless. On the other hand, there is a danger that our Christians fail to play their role in the socio-political field and always look up the Bishops to point the way.

For a future, I think, our Catholic schools have an important role to play. They have a duty to educate the consciences of the young who are the future leaders of our country. The social teachings of the Church should be part of the curriculum of our schools. If the young become convinced Christians there is hope that they will work for the good of all. Justice and peace structures should function at all levels even among the youth.

Original text: English



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