Calling our country to prayer

Cape Town faith organisations are calling for a daily two-minute period of silence at 12 noon from Monday 12 July until South Africa is cleared to return to Level 1 in the Covid19 response.

The call echoes a practice which originated in Cape Town during World War 1 when the entire city came to a standstill for two minutes every day at the sound of the noon day gun. The first minute was to pray for those whose lives had been lost in the war, and the second was to give thanks for those still living. The practice was the brainchild of Cape Town City Councillor Robert Brydone in 1918, and it became a worldwide observation of respect for the victims of war and compassion for those left behind.

Now, Cape Town faith organisations are calling for a return of the daily practice of communal silence as it represents a moment of solidarity when everyone is focused on the same desired outcome, namely acknowledgement of shared grief, comfort for the bereaved, and a prayer for healing and peace in our troubled land.

The organisations, which include international award-winning organisations Cape Town Interfaith Initiative, Religions for Peace and Faith Hope Love Communities as well as the Western Cape Chaplaincy, represent a broad cross-section of faiths that live side by side in Cape Town. 

The groups are inviting all South Africans to participate in the daily two-minute silence.

Rev Dorothea Gopie, Chairperson of the Western Cape Chaplaincy, said the call would go out across their membership to begin the practice from Monday 12 July.  She said: “This is a call to realign ourselves with God and to bring our communities together in united prayer for something that we all want, which is the good health and wellbeing of all the people of South Africa.”

James Ellman, Director of Elsie’s River based NGO Faith Hope Love Communities, said the situation for many people was worsening daily as the Covid19 lockdowns impact job security, food security and push people out of their homes. He said 12 noon was already the set prayer time in the Catholic guide. He urged people of all faiths to participate, saying: “There is power in prayer, especially communal prayer.”

Cape Town Interfaith Initiative‘s Chairperson, Reverend Berry Behr,  said the call from the Interfaith communities is based on the understanding that although people of different religions pray differently, all prayer is powerful and represents the solidarity of a common intention and plea to the Divine. She urges everyone to participate:

“Even if you are not affiliated or do not identify with any specific religion, just observing a moment of silence is powerful not only to align with the flow of life but also to bring peace into your own heart and mind. Covid19 does not recognise race, religion, nationality, economic status, or gender. It affects all of us and all of our loved ones, colleagues, and communities. Standing together at this time will give citizens a sense of purpose, and a feeling of contributing to the greater good. It will also send a clear message to Divine Creation that we are seeking healing now.”

Action points to participate:

  • Set an alarm for 11.59 every day, and again at 12.01.
  • When your alarm sounds, stop whatever you are doing. Hold silent stillness for two minutes. If you do not pray, simply focus on your breath.
  • Think about those who have passed away during this pandemic, and about the continued safety of the rest of us.
  • Pray that we all take steps to stop the spread of this pandemic, like wearing our masks and maintaining social distancing.
  • Invite others to join you. 

Together we are stronger.