Bishop Martin's Statement on Xenophobic Violence
17th April 2015
Like many others I have also been thinking and praying about the xenophobic violence in SA at the moment – and for the victims – and would like to add a few thoughts.
- Scripture teaches that Jesus is to be found with those who suffer and are persecuted. Therefore those who attack others are fighting directly against God, and are agents of evil. It has to be condemned in the strongest possible terms.
- When I have travelled in Africa, particularly in Tanzania, I have found that South Africans have a very bad name. “We cared for you in your time of trouble. We took you in and supported you during your struggle against apartheid,” they say. “But look how badly you are treating us now.” Many feel betrayed and very disappointed.
- Although this violence is clearly perpetrated by a minority, nevertheless it highlights what a violent society we are. I suppose we should not be surprised: colonialism took the land violently; apartheid enforced its “law and order” with great violence. Many of the liberation movements resorted to violence in response. Indeed it is surprising, and a miraculous answer to prayer, that we have achieved so much through negotiations and non-violent means.
But what can we do as members of the church? Here are some suggestions:
- Love your neighbour and refuse to be caught up in any xenophobic attitudes or actions. Treat everyone with honour and respect.
- Speak to people (not just from the pulpit, but in every day encounters) about Jesus’ way of love, acceptance and forgiveness – the way of peace. And continue to pray for South Africa, her people and leaders.
- If it is true that much of the violence stems from extreme frustrations and a sense of powerlessness in the face of unemployment and poverty, then let us, the church, get involved in social and community development. In particular let us use our church buildings and land to care for the community: grow crops, feed the hungry, start homework clubs…
Jesus said, “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16)