National Interfaith Council of South Africa | Background

In 1997 former president Nelson Mandela convened a national religious leaders’ summit to consider collaboration with the government. Then President Mandela told the summit that religious and political organisations would not be able to achieve their objectives if they acted separately. He called on the religious sector to establish structures that were rooted among communities and to enter into partnership with government for development. This initiative led to the formation of the NRLF.

President Mandela and the NRLF convened the 1999 Moral Regeneration Summit that culminated in the formation of the Moral Regeneration Movement (MRM). Both the NRLF and the MRM made significant contributions. The NRLF developed a code for the persons in positions of authority which was endorsed by all political parties. It also developed the Bill of Responsibilities while the MRM developed the charter for positive values.

The decline of the NRLF from 2004 to 2007 forced other faith- based organisations to consider the establishment of an alternative organisation. After extensive provincial consultations the Commission for Religious and Traditional Affairs (CRATA) convened a Presidential Interfaith Summit which was addressed by President Jacob Zuma on 27 November 2008.

In his address to the Summit, President Zuma said by their nature and inception, religious institutions played a developmental role. Consequently, he appealed on them to organise themselves and relate with government for reconstruction, development and progress. In response to the call, leaders of the national faith-based organisations that had met at the Summit convened a national leadership summit in 2009 to consider unity and co-operation of national FBOs and partnerships with government.

The leadership summit resolved to form a new organisation called the National Interfaith Leaders Council (NILC). In August 2009 the National Council of NILC met with President Zuma for introductions. President Zuma described the formation of NILC as “The holy revolution of the people of God against corruption, moral degeneration and the invisibility and marginalisation of previously disadvantaged people and communities. Essentially, the President called on the NILC to play a development role.

The President not only gave the full support to the formation of the NILC but also noted with approval the appropriation of the interfaith concept which in his view, denoted inclusivity and co-operation of the people of God. He also urged the NILC Leaders to engage all religious formations to ensure that the organisation was representative.

More specifically the president and the NILC agreed the organisation should continue to mobilise all the faith based groups and communities to become members at provincial, regional and local levels. This would broaden NILC into a viable interfaith movement by cascading it to all facets of South African Society.

The NILC will embrace the principle of inclusive action in which action rather than words defines its identity, self-understanding and commitment, and that religious infrastructure should be opened for utilisation, nation building and social cohesion. Therefore, NILC should be the custodian of moral regeneration programmes, and should work with government to convene a national summit, which would provide joint programmes of action with targets and objectives.

The NILC and the departments of Labour, Social Development and Land Reform have already established a joint working group to prepare for the Summit. This joint working committee identified possible areas of co-operation at a meeting with the Minister of Social Development, Hon. Edna Molewa in 2009.

These areas include programmes on the following:

youth clubs for moral, cultural and social development
anti-drugs and alcohol abuse
early childhood development
psycho-social support for children and families
mobilising the haves to adopt a child each and pay for their education
victim empowerment for abused women and children
elderly persons clubs that facilitate interaction and healthy living amongst those in their twilight years
And safe motherhood for young women in which they give birth without exposing themselves and their babies to health risks


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