’Plain needs prayer and action

Pastors praying for Sandy Markgraff, the mother of Stacha Arends, at the service.

At a prayer service held at the Thusong Centre in Tafelsig last week, faith-based organisations were called on to engage with government to tackle the crime and social issues Mitchell’s Plain is grappling with. And church leaders have responded, vowing to make churches available for monthly prayer sessions around the area, the first of which will be held next week.

Eddie Andrews, mayoral committee member for area south, said he believed that all religious organisations had the same mandate – to be a rescue ship – but cautioned that to tackle crime, a lot more than prayer would be needed.

“I also observed there is a disconnect between religious organisations and the three spheres of government. If the intention is to be a vessel of or for God then you have to do a lot more than pray,” he said.

“There has to be a practical component to the prayer. It’s that pursuit that requires faith-based movements to engage with government so that we work in unison and that resources can be acquired from government.”

Last Thursday’s event, attended by community-based organisations, the faith-based fraternity and concerned residents, was organised by Ursula Peters, the principal of Mini Footsteps Kindergarten in Tafelsig, and Ashley Potts who is the director of the Cape Town Drug Counselling Centre (CTDCC) in Eastridge and deputy chairman of the Mitchell’s Plain Community Police Forum.

The event started off with a prayer session and soft music, the walls of the venue covered in clippings of news articles – both positive and negative – about Mitchell’s Plain.

In acknowledgement of, and concern for, what was happening in their community, residents held their hands over each article and prayed.

Mr Potts said over the past few weeks there had been a rise in “senseless atrocities” across Mitchell’s Plain. “We all have a part to play… residents, organisations and the faith community,” he said. “If Mitchell’s Plain is to ever find healing, it needs to start with prayer, followed by action,” he added, echoing Mr Andrews’ sentiments.

“Pastors put aside their titles, each pledging to get active in their surroundings. There are so many ills that surrounds us daily, but there are more good deeds done by our residents and organisations,” he said.

Ms Peters said she was concerned that youngsters were increasingly getting involved in criminal activities and questioned where the area’s future leaders were.

“It is time that we stand up and take action. We cannot watch how our children die and get caught up in drugs and gangs,” she said.

Ms Peters said the murder of 11-year-old Stacha Arends had prompted her and a group of women in Tafelsig to mobilise and raise awareness about crime. A march organised by them, on Thursday March 30, attracted more than 3 000 supporters (“Hands off our children,” Plainsman, April 5).

“The death of Stacha hit residents hard and people decided to take action. Today (Thursday April 13) we started the prayer sessions and we are encouraging churches to host the community for the services monthly,” she said.

“We will move into different areas in Mitchell’s Plain as Tafelsig, Beacon Valley, Eastrige. In fact, the whole area needs prayer. We then hope to roll this out in every sector. We are asking people to come forward, the more the better,” she said.

Tafelsig resident Joanie Fredericks, the co-founder and development director at NEAD Community Development, is the spokeswoman for the newly established Mitchell’s Plain Crisis Forum, which was formed after Stacha’s death. “We as residents also have a responsibility to our community. Where we can, we need to help,” she said.

Pastor Alfie Fabe of Kingdom Ministries International in Strandfontein said churches must work beyond their four halls. “Churches, schools and organisations should get involved in projects and programmes that will empower and benefit the community. It’s important that you are pro-active, so let’s keep walking the streets and pray for our community,” he said.

The next prayer session will be held at Eastridge community centre, at 10am, on Thursday May 18. For more information, you can call Ursula Peters at 073 858 8745.