Firefighters in Swaziland are angry that they are being forced by their bosses to attend Christian church services.
A memo has been issued to stations across the kingdom advising that staff should attend Tuesday fellowship services.
The Observer on Saturday newspaper in Swaziland reported (20 May 2017) the memo from Chief Fire Officer Dumisani Khumalo read in part, ‘Officers-in-Charge are commanded to give support to these services by motivating officers under their command to attend these services. Such services headquarters consider them playing a major role such as counselling in various social problems encountered by officers. It also promotes unity among the workforce fraternity. However, headquarters is compelled to request for your support towards the success of these fellowship services.’
The newspaper reported that some firefighters felt they were being forced to follow the Christian religion and this was against their constitutional rights.
One firefighter was reported by the newspaper saying, ‘We cannot, therefore, have someone forcing down Christianity to us. It would have been better if the fellowship was conducted in such a way that all the religions are followed so that we also have the Muslims, the Bahais and those that believe in ancestors all accommodated,’ he said.
Forcing people to follow Christianity is contentious in Swaziland where King Mswati III rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. In January 2017 a directive was issued by the Swazi Government which is handpicked by the King that Christianity was to be the only religion taught in schools.
The move was considered to be against the spirit, if not the letter, of the Swazi Constitution. When the 2005 Constitution was being drafted, it was decided not to insist that Swaziland was a Christian country. This was to encourage freedom of religion.
Lawyers for Human Rights spokesperson Sabelo Masuku said although Swaziland was predominantly Christian, the Government had to consider the Swazi Constitution which made it clear there was freedom of religious choice.
SCHOOLS RELIGIOUS TEACHING SHAKE-UP
SCHOOLS RELIGION BAN PROTESTS GROW