A statement by the Catholic Bishop of Manzini

“In the midst of all that is happening in the country, we note that nobody is safe. The eye for an eye mentality seems to have grabbed the nation. The violence has reached alarming levels.” (Thulani Maseko)

A society that accepts this level of violence is condemned to experience even higher levels of it which can only generate more death and suffering.” This was my message after the killing of two police officers in Manzini in October 2022. More killings have taken place since then. Sadly we seem to have accepted them as the “new normal” in the Kingdom of Eswatini.

On Sunday 22 January 2023 we woke up to the news of the senseless killing of Thulani Maseko. The number of national and international statements on his killing and the media coverage talks about the kind of person he was and his role in the present moment of our country. He was concerned about the levels of violence being experienced and the impact it has in the lives of many. He believed that only an all inclusive national dialogue could be a strong foundation for the future of our country.

He wrote: “There can be little doubt that eSwatini is enduring a low-key civil war. We are concerned that without the dialogue, next year will be more violent. (…) At the end of it all, we need to sit down and shape the destiny of the country together.”

His killing points to those who make a choice for violence, death, fear and exclusion as foundations of our common future. To them applies the words of our Lord: “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.” (Lk 19:41-42)

Responding to his killing with violence will be going against what he stood for. It will also show that “what makes for peace” is hidden from our eyes.

As Pope Francis says: “Peace, which is our obligation, is first of all a gift of God.” (22.05.2022) Therefore in this critical moment of our country, I call on every person in the diocese of Manzini to daily pray for God’s gift of peace but also to make a concrete personal commitment to be a “peacemaker” (Matthew 5:9), to make peace possible without making excuses that the time is not right or that it is not possible to resist the temptation of violence. Let this be done through our words and actions as both, words and actions, have the power to build and destroy. We should never underestimate them.

May the Spirit of the Risen Lord give us the wisdom and the courage to find ways to break the cycle of violence.

Our hearts reach in prayer Thulani Maseko’s family, friends and all those who mourn his death. May the God of all consolation grant them peace and strength. May Jesus, the Good Shepherd, welcome him home.

Bishop of Manzini                                                                                                                                                                                23 January 2023