The Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference has observed with sadness the outburst of xenophobic violence in Durban which the Catholic Archbishop, Cardinal Wilfrid Napier has already condemned.
Our charter, the bible, is very clear “When a foreigner lives with you in your land, don’t take advantage of him. Treat the foreigner the same as a native. Love him like one of your own. Remember that you were once foreigners in Egypt. I am God, your God”. (Leviticus 19:33-34)
We understand the anger that the people may be feeling towards the foreigners for various legitimate reasons. However, we are a nation of peace; we are a rainbow nation. We conquered apartheid with very little use of violence and a settlement was reached peacefully. The same principle of Ubuntu needs to be applied in order to calm the recent spates of violence and unrest.
While we acknowledge that the utterances by His Majesty, the king of the Zulu nation, never meant nor intended this violence, we believe that he should categorically condemn this violence and publicly propagate the value of hospitality entrenched in the Zulu worldview “isisu somhambi asingakanani singangenso yenyoni ”. This would amplify his influence as a peacemaker and a loyal leader of the soil.
We commit ourselves to pray to God for this situation to be resolved and to be available as agents to broker peace. We also commit financial support from the SACBC Foundation for the displaced people.
We urge the foreigners and expatriates to avoid being involved in any unfair labor and illegal business practices. We also exhort them to expose those who are here illegally and report any criminal elements among them. This is to be expected of every responsible citizen, both foreign/expatriate and native.
We urge our society to avoid irresponsible use of social media. Many graphics and verbal postings do very little to change the situation but exacerbate the violence. Before posting, always ask yourself if it will bring any good or if it will fuel the conflict.
Finally, we urge the government to take leadership in this matter. Leaders of this violent movement should have been identified and confronted for dialogue and accountability. Issues that provide a context for this horrible violence need to be addressed immediately.
May all South Africans remember that “whatsoever you do to the least of my brethren, you do it unto me” (Matthew 25:40) and that the Freedom Charter (1955) says “South Africa belongs to all who live in it.”