A Call against xenophobia

 Some of the women at the prayer session organised by the Heads of Christian Denominations. - (Picture by Innocent Makawa)

Some of the women at the prayer session organised by the Heads of Christian Denominations. – (Picture by Innocent Makawa)

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Keynote Address by the President of the Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations BISHOP ISHMAEL MUKUWANDA of Trinity Methodist Church, Harare April 22 2015

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ONE profound saying from King David in Psalm 133:1 reminds us of the need to live together in harmony with our brothers (and sisters) when he said, “How good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters live together in unity.”

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Today, we meet together with heavy hearts as we remember some of our mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, uncles, children, aunts, nephews and nieces who are being hounded like wild animals by our own brothers and sisters in our neighbouring country of South Africa.

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Their only crime was crossing the Limpopo to get an honest living in a different part of God’s creation. They were/are in South Africa not to plunder its resources or to reap where they did not sow, but to fend for their families in a land that God created for all his creation.

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The level of hatred and anger displayed by our brothers and sisters was unprecedented: decapitating some and burning others alive. One needs to ask the question, “How can we do this to ourselves, a black person murdering another black person?” This does not imply that murdering someone of a different pigmentation is acceptable or justified.

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God the creator, author and perfector of our lives made us all in His image so that we may love one another even with our differences.

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The xenophobic attacks on foreign nationals were perpetrated in defence of what the South African citizens claim is rightfully theirs: their land, their jobs, their businesses, their women and their country, but they do not know how they came to be in South Africa.

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The Almighty God reminds us in 1 Corinthians 10:26 that, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.” And again in 1Timothy 6:7, “For we brought nothing into the world and we take nothing out of it.”

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Xenophobic or Afrophobic attacks as some would like to call them, bring vain glory to perpetrators as they defend what is not theirs.

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God is very clear about how we must treat strangers and foreigners as God instructs us in Exodus 22:21, “Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him (or her), for you were aliens in Egypt.”

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Who knows where we came from? A few hundreds of years ago, some among us were South Africans and decided to move north. Today they are called foreigners.

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A few hundred years ago some among us came from the north but today, if we go back north, we are considered foreigners. The Samaritan was called good not because he had helped another man but because he had changed the whole programme of his day and amended his budget for the sake of a stranger, somebody he had never met.

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1. Having watched the gruesome events of xenophobic attacks in Durban and Johannesburg;

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2. Hearing reports of the deaths, injuries and suffering of fellow Africans at the hands of the delinquent community members;

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3. Pained by the thought of the unnecessary suffering of the people who are seeking to make ends meet back in their countries;

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4. Horrified about the inhuman conduct and barbaric acts by the perpetrators;

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5. Concerned by the human insecurity the actions have triggered in the region;

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6. Noting that people in South Africa feel let down by the unfair labour practices;

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7. Supporting the South African Council of Churches and their members for the work they have done on anti-xenophobia activities and urge to lift their voices louder. As a region, we condemn all acts of xenophobia and urge that there be no retaliation in other countries. We call on the Church to pastor to those that feel disadvantaged by the presence of people from other countries and to pray for all to love one another.

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8. We call upon the people of Africa to re-invent the spirit of Ubuntu; to rediscover and acknowledge the sacredness of life.

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We need to be reminded the words of our Lord Jesus Christ in Matthew 22: 39 – “The second most important commandment is like it: “Love your neighbour as you love yourself” and His new commandment in John 13:34-35, “Love one another as I have loved you. If you have this love among you, all will know that you are my disciples.”

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Therefore, call on all the people to have love for each other.

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This calls for people from other countries to respect the South African people and laws of that country. In turn it also calls for the South Africans to treat others fairly and make use of the laws to deal with those that are delinquent. We call upon all South African employers to observe the laws of the country and not be engaged in unfair labour practices that causes friction between the locals and other people of African origin. In all this, vengeance should never be an option for the Lord admonishes us, “It is mine to revenge; I will repay.” (Deuteronomy 32:35) or Romans 12:19, “Do not revenge my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath …………….”

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We call upon our regional governments to act decisively where xenophobia rears its ugly head so that it is nipped in the bud. We also urge all leaders to speak responsibly on sensitive issues to avoid arming the criminal mind with excuses for carrying out barbaric acts on people from other countries.

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Some of our brothers and sisters are coming back home, others have already arrived. They are coming back to the very same country that seemed to offer them nothing, bitter and buttered physically and emotionally. Yes, we have prayed but this is not enough for people who are desperately looking for hope. Prayer itself is not work but prayer inspires us to go out and work.

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In conclusion we need to remember that things do not just happen. There is a message in everything that happens whether it is good or bad. These xenophobic attacks, bad as they are, force us to think seriously about the socio-economic and political problems in our own country.

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May the Almighty God give us wisdom and strength to bring healing to our brothers and sisters after going through this harrowing experience as the salt of the earth and the light of the world.

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AMEN.

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