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Religious leaders urge action against crime in South Africa

JOHANNESBURG, April 10 (JTA) — Religious leaders in South Africa this week took a stand against the country’s growing crime problem. More than 1,200 people attended the interreligious gathering at a Johannesburg synagogue. “We are living in state of absolute anarchy,” said Rabbi Yossy Goldman, chairman of the South Africa Rabbinical Association, at a synagogue service preceding a mass action meeting in the adjacent hall. “We are stretcher cases, ICU cases. Life-support machinery is needed.” Goldman, who emigrated here from New York 21 years ago, said he believed that his “crime resume,” more than his rabbinic credentials, qualified him to address the meeting, which included high-ranking police officers. Goldman noted that his home was burgled twice, his minibus was stolen, his wife and child were saved from an attempted carjacking and murder, and he himself was the victim of a carjacking in a separate incident. “As far back as December 1995, President [Nelson] Mandela declared war on crime. This must be a very silent war, fought clandestinely,” he added. “Has anybody here seen it being waged? Is there any visible policing on our streets?” Goldman said not providing the country’s citizens with basic protection was “immoral.” To spontaneous applause, Goldman issued a “desperate cry to the highest office bearers of our country.” “We say to the government: Give us visible policing and, if it means putting the defense force on the streets — so be it. This is an emergency. Treat it as the emergency it is.” Chief Rabbi Cyril Harris said that according to sacred Jewish teachings, prayer for divine help should be accompanied by self-help. “In the war against crime, we must praise the Lord and pass the ammunition,” he said. “The situation is now so bad that the silent majority of law-abiding citizens must become highly vociferous to demand from the authorities a response towards fighting crime, directly commensurate with the enormity of the problem and the widespread suffering it is causing.”