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Diakonia as a case study in Christian non-violent social action for peace and social justice in South Africa, 1976-1982.

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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.


Thesis (M.A.)-University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, 2009.


Church and social problems--South Africa., Peace--Citizen participation., Social justice--Citizen participation., Theses--Conflict resolution and peace studies.