Religion and Sport: Moulding Leaders of Tomorrow

Religion and Sport: Moulding Leaders ofThere is a general uproar about moral decay and degeneration especially among young people in most societies and Southern African countries are no exceptions.

Elderly people often complain, among other things, that the youngsters of today have no respect for their seniors. In short, the young people of today are deemed a “lost generation”. It cannot be contested that rapid urbanisation, abuse of alcohol and drugs which result in sexual promiscuity and unsafe sex are some of the drivers of high incidences and prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Southern African countries.

Traditional African cultures and traditions are under pressure to cope with the unprecedented onslaughts on family values and morals.

Instead of playing the blame game whereby community and national leaders attribute all bad things and moral decadence to Western cultural invasion, there is need to be innovative as the very lives of youth who are supposed to be the leaders of tomorrow people are at risk. The young people of Sub-Saharan Africa, including Southern Africa, are indeed “endangered species”.

The HIV/AIDS pandemic has reduced average mortality to around 40 years for the African adult. Nowadays, when people reach their 50th birthdays, it is indeed a cause for celebration. Even the advent of anti-retroviral therapy (ARVs) has not done much to alleviate the precarious situation and reality of the deterioration of the length and quality of life for the majority of Africans.

The challenges of nation-building demand that additional tools be added to the arsenal of societal interventions designed to not only improve the quality of lives but to actually preserve livelihoods.

In this connection, though religion and sport are indeed strange bedfellows, they can be welded into a potent force that can bring stability to the lives of many young people.

Churches and faith-based organisations command many resources, which can be utilised to promote active and healthy lifestyles through sport and physical recreation. It cannot be right to have congregations full of obese and unhealthy people. Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes, hypertension and cardiac complications do not discriminate on the basis of religious affiliation or denomination.

To this end, establishment of sport and recreational clubs at churches and faith-based organisations will help to attract young people who might otherwise have avoided these institutions thereby improving their health.

In some countries, inter-denominational sports leagues have been established, which provide for competition between sports people of various religious faiths. This is indeed a welcome development as it illustrates the positive combination of sport and prayer.

Active participation in sport and recreation helps to foster disciplined and dignified lives, which are traits or attributes that churches and faith-based organisations try to inculcate especially among the young people. On the other hand, it is also a fact that as one advances in a sporting career, emotional intelligence, spiritual growth and psychological balance become necessary.

Some elite sports people have failed to cope with fame and newfound riches because of lack of stability in their lives. Celebrity status goes to their heads and they fail to keep “their feet on the ground”, as it is often said. Some of the elite sports people become alcoholics and destitute drug addicts after their playing careers.

In this connection, religious and faith-based organisations therefore help with counselling of sports people and youth in general. Prime examples of talented sports people who have fallen from grace are George Best, Diego Maradona, Mike Tyson and Paul Gascoigne

Apart from deficiencies in sports career management, the afore-mentioned former sports stars have suffered from lack of spiritual development and growth. As their careers progressed, there was a converse reduction in their ability to cope with wealth and fame. They simply did not have the life skills to cope with their enhanced status in life.

It has been proven that sport can assist a great deal in dealing with post-traumatic stress, especially in situations of civil strife and conflict. Basically, kids want to be just that, kids. They like to play, run, jump, swim, or kick balls. They do not want to be running around carrying assault rifles and machetes, maiming and killing people as well as raping women and girls. Unfortunately, recruitment and utilisation of child soldiers is one of the realities of life in Sub-Saharan Africa. In order to manage post-conflict situations, therapy through spiritual counselling and sport are useful tools in moulding “normal” human beings.

Most religious and faith-based organisations advocate for respect of life. On the other hand, sport promotes acceptance of winning and losing as well as respect for opponents and authority. If you kill your opponents, who are you going to play with tomorrow? “Do unto others as you would like them to do unto you” is also a recurring theme throughout various religions and faith-based life lessons.

The dynamic global economic and political environment with its financial recessions and other insecurities has made life very complicated for almost all nations and communities. There is need for paradigm shifts in terms of confronting the challenges facing various nations, especially those of Southern Africa. Sport and physical recreation are fundamental to positive human development. Policy makers and planners can only ignore this fact to the detriment of the people and nations that they are supposed to lead. In addition, it is equally perilous to ignore the spiritual development and growth of people and communities to uphold the sanctity of life, gender equity and justice.

Given the serious challenges confronting individuals, groups, communities, sports and religious leaders have nothing to lose from exchanging notes and combining forces. It is basically about preserving life and forming necessary alliances for the benefit of the people that both sectors of social claim to serve.

Praying for good health is not enough; people must actually exercise to achieve good health.Tomorrow

September 2013
« Aug   Oct »