Diakonia as a case study in Christian non-violent social action for peace and social justice in South Africa, 1976-1982.
Higginson, Fiona Catherine.
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Diakonia is a Christian, church-based, development agency operating in the greater Durban area. It was conceived and established by the Roman Catholic Archbishop Denis Hurley. A qualitative, conceptual, and historical case study of Diakonia and its founder is undertaken. The case study seeks to reveal the nature and role of Christian non-violent social action for peace and social justice in South Africa between 1976 and 1982 – the first six years of Diakonia’s existence. Some of the questions that Diakonia raises about the role of religion in social change are explored, namely: What is religion as belief and ideology? What, if any, is the role of religion in social change? Does the existence of an organisation such as Diakonia demonstrate that religion can directly and positively impact on non-violent human agency for social justice? An understanding of Diakonia cannot be divorced from its situation. The agency is therefore located within the historical configuration of the South African nation-state. In addition, it is analysed in relation the institutional Church; to opposition politics, both secular and religious; to civil society in relation to the state and social change and; to the place of non-government organisations in civil society. Non-violence debates on peace and social justice form an important part of this analysis. The study affirms that religion can make a significant contribution to social justice. Whatever advances social participation, non-violence, equality, liberty and, a better life experience for more of the population is an improvement on the existing state of affairs in a society. Religion therefore has a legitimate role to play in social change.