The Western Cape Religious Leaders Forum (WCRLF) was formed in 2005 in response to the proposal by civil society and government for a united religious sector. Stakeholders, including the Interfaith Commission against Crime and Violence (ICCV), the Cape Town Interfaith Initiative (CTII), and the Western Cape provincial government, were consistent in their call for a strong leadership body to represent the religious sector.

Motivation by civil society and government for a united religious sector

The motivation for the formation of the Western Cape Religious Leaders’ Forum (WCRLF) was motivated from three different sources:

  1. The then Archbishop of Cape Town, Njongonkulu Ndungane, chaired an ad hoc forum called the Interreligious Commission on Crime and Violence. This had grown naturally out of the religious response to Cape Town Acts of Terror in 199?s. The Archbishop asked for this committee to be reformed, to be fully representative and inclusive and to be formalized.
  2. The Cape Town Interfaith Initiative formed in 2000, which was largely a lay initiative, felt the need for a strong leadership body that would both endorse its work and vision and also form a mouthpiece when the interreligious voice needed to be heard.
  3. The Provincial Government under the then Premier Ebrahim Rasool wanted one religious body that it could turn to particularly in times of crisis and when support from the religious sector was needed to engage with specific critical issues.

Recognizing the convergence of these three needs, a small steering committee was formed and asked to create a constitution and construct an effective Religious Leadership structure in the Western Cape. Progress of this committee was slow – and with the emigration of its Chairperson Dr. Amy Marks who had been the previous Vice Chair of the ICCRV, it fell to Fr John Oliver, the then Chairman of CTII, to push towards the launch of the WCRLF in August 2007. A guiding document to the process was the MOU made between the Government of the Republic of South Africa and the National Religious Leaders’ Forum. The broader constituency met twice at the Muslim Judicial Council in Athlone on January 24th 2007 and March 28th 2007 in order to debate the constitution and the structure of the proposed organisation.

The launch took place at the Samaj Centre in Rylands on Tuesday 14th August. Key note speeches were given by the Archbishop of Cape Town and the Premier of the Western Cape who both gave the WCRLF their 100% endorsement. An interim working group was elected together with an executive.

The Working Committee:

Moulana Abdul Khaliq AllieMuslim MJC
Dr Nigel CrawhallBuddhist Theravada
Mr Mickey GlassJewish Orthodox
Mrs Tahirih MattheeBaha’i
Rev Barry IsaacsChristian Evangelical
Mr Siyabulela MkangisaAfrican Traditional
Rev Daniel MakhaAfrican Independent
Rev Michael MullerChristian Reformed
Mr Lester HoffmanJewish Orthodox
Fr. John OliverChristian Anglican

The Executive: 

Most Rev Thabo MakgobaChristian Anglican
Moulana Igshaan HendricksMuslim MJC
Bishop Andrew HefkieChristian Methodist
Guru KrishnaHindu
Rabbi Matthew LiebenbergJewish Orthodox
Rev. Alan BoesakChristian Reformed

The working committee finalized the constitution and applied for registration under the NPO Act and constructed a Code of Ethics. A number of advocacy and lobbying concerns were brought to the committee and these were acted upon within the obvious limitation of not having funds for office or staff. The work continued through the commitment of the members the Working Committee, the generosity of CTII who offered office space and its Chairman who served as the volunteer Convenor of WCRLF.

The Working Committee addressed a number of issues, religious leaders gathered for debate which in some cases led to statements being published, and a number of strategic partnerships were created.

For more information, visit the People page.

Levels of interreligious tolerance highest in the Western Cape

A partnership was created with Konrad Adenauer and Stiftung in presenting the findings of the South African leg of the World Values Survey, which was administered by the Centre for International and Comparative Politics, University of Stellenbosch. Religious leaders gathered on the 23rd October 2007 to listen to the findings and noticing amongst many statistics that the levels of interreligious tolerance levels were the highest in the Western Cape.

The WCRLF partnered with the United Nation Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in the planning and execution of a International Conference on Human Trafficking. The Religious leadership of the Western Cape was well represented at the conference and Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane and Premier Ebrahim Rassool were both key note speakers and participated in the opening march from St. George’s Cathedral to the International Convention Centre. WCRLF has participated in Human Trafficking programmes and will be supporting the anti-trafficking action campaigns during 2010.

Integrating interfaith into public schools

In 2006 a solid partnership was made between the WCRLF and the Western Cape Department of Education. This arose out of the concerns of the then MEC Cameron Dugmore that there should be greater involvement by faith communities in schools. His request that WCRLF help to set up 5 provincial services of prayer and thanksgiving in the support of the matrics was duly accomplished and paved the way towards regular gatherings of this nature in the years ahead. The first Weekend of Prayer for Education was held on 28th -30th September 2007.

WCRLF is a registered non-profit organisation (NPO 067 195)

Written by Fr John Oliver, WCRLF Convenor, 2009

Read more about the Purpose and Programme areas of the WCRLF.