Xenophobia Apology from South Africa Council of Churches
An apology from the South Africa Council of Churches in regards to the wave of violence against immigrants and foreigners in South Africa
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ
The Central Committee of the South African Council of Churches has directed me to write to you to share our profound grief and contrition regarding the recent wave of violence that has swept many communities in South Africa. As you will be aware, although a few South Africans were victimised, this violence has been aimed largely at displaced people and foreign nationals.
We are ashamed that in a nation where four out of five people profess to be Christians, we have not been more effective interpreters and practitioners of the Bible’s demand that we show hospitality to strangers and welcome to outsiders. Just as the sons and daughters of Israel were aliens in the land of Egypt, so too many South Africans spent long years in exile in neighbouring lands, including your own countries. Even in times of want and duress, you demonstrated your solidarity with our struggle by making us feel at home and sharing your resources with us graciously.
Our shame is compounded when we acknowledge that we have neglected the imperatives of our culture as well as of our faith. Whatever language we speak, whatever our heritage, as Africans we share a common understanding of our interdependence as human beings. The South African concept of ubuntu – that each person becomes human through his or her relationships with others – has parallels in other societies around the continent.
Although we recognise that the vast majority of South Africans have been shocked and appalled by the spasm of rage and hostility that has convulsed our nation in recent weeks, we also acknowledge that people of faith have a particular duty to confront such behaviour. We therefore confess our shortcomings and ask your forgiveness for our collective sluggishness and timidity. We hope that it will be possible for us to explore ways of working together to build mutual respect, to demonstrate solidarity and to uphold the God-given dignity of all people throughout the region.
In particular, we know that many households around the continent face common struggles against global forces that have made them to feel helpless, trapped and frustrated. Rapidly escalating food and fuel prices, together with diminished access to income, have sown the seeds of fear and insecurity in many communities. One of the consequences of the economic systems and social arrangements prevalent in our countries the burden of caring for the poor is carried by other poor people. In such an atmosphere, the poor are prone to see those who share their suffering as competitors and also as enemies, rather than potential allies in a larger struggle for justice and an equitable distribution of the bounty which God has entrusted to humanity’s stewardship.
Our general failure notwithstanding, we nevertheless wish to acknowledge the brave and charitable deeds of many of our churches and their members. We think especially of churches situated in towns and villages near or along the Musina border gate, as well as countless others who have opened their homes and church buildings to victims of the senseless xenophobia.
The terrible events in South Africa have underscored a number of urgent issues. These include the need for us to cooperate in the search for development paradigms that promote genuine human security, the need for stronger and more structured relations between sister Christian Councils in the SADC region, the need for us to uphold the dignity of all people, the need to address the enormous inequalities that our present economic and political systems have produced. To this end, we also need to work together in order to lobby and influence our government policies with a view to the eradication of economic inequalities. We invite you to join in conversation with us in order to explore these issues. We also commit ourselves to working with you as we together seek sustainable solutions that are consistent with our heritage and our faith.
Mr. Eddie Makue