The late anti-apartheid activist Paddy Kearney has been hailed for playing a critical role in dealing with the 2015 xenophobic attack.

His funeral mass took place at the Emmanuel Cathedral in Durban. Kearney was one of Durban’s most well-known religious and human rights leaders.

Kearney (67) died in a Durban hospital on Friday following a heart attack. He was born in 1942 in Pietermaritzburg. He dedicated his life to fighting the injustices of apartheid and was a champion for the poor.

Kearney headed the work of Diakonia ministries, an organisation that soon trained people to set up social action groups in during the struggle against apartheid the 1980’s. His fight for social justice continued post-apartheid fighting for the voiceless.

The director of Dennis Hurley Centre, Raymond Perrier worked closely with Kearney. He says Kearney’s death has left a void in society.

“Paddy was very involved with Archbishop Hurley in the very beginning s of work to help people affected by HIV and AIDS. So it’s fitting that his funeral is on World AIDS Day. Dennis Hurley through Diakonia and through the Catholic Church helped to address the stigma of HIV, help people with AIDS to get all the support they needed. We wonder who is going to fill the gap he leaves behind, who is going to fill his shoes and a real sense of deep sadness and deep loss,” says Perrier.

Chief executive officer of the KwaZulu-Natal Christian Council Dr Douglas Dziba has commended Kearney for his mediation in talks to end xenophobic attacks in the province.

“My work with him was on migration, xenophobia and refugee issues. I was quite surprised when the refugees didn’t have anything to eat so we were requesting churches to make contributions but from his own pocket for the whole month I would go with to Hope Farm in Cato Ridge where he took his own money bought food, blankets, to contribute and to donate to refugees,” says Dziba.

Kearney will be cremated on Monday in a private family ceremony.

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