Original Research - Special Collection: Youth marginalisation as a faith-based concern

Social justice required: Youth at the margins, churches and social cohesion in South Africa

Elisabet le Roux, Elina Hankela, Zahraa McDonald
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 74, No 3 | a5046 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v74i3.5046 | © 2018 Elisabet le Roux, Elina Hankela, Zahraa McDonald | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 24 April 2018 | Published: 11 October 2018

About the author(s)

Elisabet le Roux, Unit for Religion and Development Research, Stellenbosch University, South Africa
Elina Hankela, Department of Religion Studies, University of Johannesburg, South Africa
Zahraa McDonald, Centre for International Teacher Education, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, South Africa


The divides within South African society remain stark, also for youth born after apartheid officially ended in 1994. At the same time, adherence to a faith tradition is statistically high among South Africans, and faith-based organisations (FBOs), an umbrella term including but not limited to churches, also have high levels of youth participation. Scholars have identified positive connotations between FBOs, civil society, social welfare and social care. Within this broader context, and based on qualitative interviews and focus group data, this article explores how young people in two South African communities experience isolation and separation in their everyday life and how they perceive the role of churches, in particular, in strengthening or weakening this sense of marginalisation. On a theoretical level, the article reflects on how two dimensions of social cohesion relate to one another in young people’s everyday life. The first dimension comprises of aspects such as participation, diversity and trust, whereas the second relates to justice and equity. Special attention is given to the relationship between the two dimensions of social cohesion in the context of local churches. We argue that the experiences and perceptions of the interviewed young people support the view promoted by some scholars that, for social cohesion to actualise in society, issues related to social justice must be addressed. Furthermore, churches could play a more central role in doing so – at least more so than what appears to currently be the case.


Social cohesion; Social justice; Marginalised youth; Churches; South Africa


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