A Christian Response to Xenophobia
citizens and refugees has become increasingly common. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees has expressed concerns over the safety of refugees in South Africa, especially after the graphic pictures of South Africans burning Zimbabwean refugees in brutal necklace murders made front -page news worldwide in 2008.
A study based on a citizen survey across the member states of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), found South Africans expressing the harshest anti-foreigner sentiment out of all proportion to any other countries in the region. The rainbow nation now has a reputation for Xenophobia.
The Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR), found that 87% of police officers in the Johannesburg area believed that most undocumented immigrants are involved in crime. Many refugees, particularly Zimbabweans, report being victimised, threatened, assaulted and robbed by South African officials.
Human Rights Watch reports immigrants from Malawi, Zimbabwe and Mozambique have been targeted for physical assault under a campaign known as Buyelekhaya ( "Go back home "), which blamed foreigners for unemployment. Some of the incidents they reported:
A Mozambiquan and two Senegalese were thrown out of a moving train by a group returning from a rally in Alexandra township that blamed foreigners for unemployment.
Residents in Zandspruit demanded that all Zimbabweans leave their area and then forcibly evicted them and burned down their homes.
"Destructive forces are at work in the city; threats and lies never leave its streets." Psalm 55:11
In Olievenhoutbosch, Zimbabweans were attacked and killed and their belongings set alight amidst demands by the locals that police remove all immigrants from the area. "These foreigners disrespect our culture, they don’t speak our language, they take our women and they take our jobs!"
Somali Businessmen Targeted
Over 47 Somali refugees were murdered in two months as part of a campaign to drive Somali traders out of townships in the Western Cape. "These foreign people come to South Africa with nothing, but tomorrow he has cash, third day he owns a shop and fourth day he has a car. Where do these foreign people get this money from?"
Jobs for Us - Not for You!
Local people attacked immigrants from Malawi, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. "Because the foreigners are taking away our jobs! "
Zimbabweans point out that the reason why over half of the population of Zimbabwe have fled their country is because of the oppression of Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF regime, which is supported by the South African government. "The solution is to stop supporting the tyrant Mugabe who is destroying our country and we will return to our homes and farms in Zimbabwe."
Economic Suicide of Zimbabwe
In 2005, Mugabe launched Operation Murambatsvina ("Drive out the filth"), which destroyed the homes of over 1.5 million Zimbabweans. This was in retaliation to these areas voting against the ruling party in the elections. Zimbabwe has committed national suicide by destroying the commercial farms, which not only fed the country, but provided the largest amount of foreign exchange, employed over a million people and provided homes for more than 2.5 million Zimbabweans.
Instability Fuels Xenophobia
The unprecedented influx of Zimbabweans running away from the collapse of their country has placed greater strain on South Africa, which has received most of these displaced people. Instability in Zimbabwe has led to greater social pressures and tensions in South Africa.
A major solution to the fierce competition for jobs and services in South Africa would be to help re-establish stability and freedom North of the border. In this age of globalisation, the ripple effects of instability in one country affects its neighbours.
Dictatorships Produce Refugees
The violence, insecurity of property and oppression in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola and other parts of Africa, fuels the flood of refugees and immigrants pouring into South Africa and placing ever-increasing strain on the limited infrastructure, resources and job market.
"They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity…" 2 Peter 2:19
The Only Solution
Only Biblical Christianity offers a rational basis for opposing racism and xenophobia, and for pursuing justice. Equality before the law is a Biblical principle. "The community is to have the same rules for you and for the alien living among you; this is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. You and the alien shall be the same before the Lord. The same laws and regulations will apply both to you and to the alien living among you." Numbers 15:15-16
"Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor, or favouritism to the rich, but judge your neighbour fairly." Leviticus 19:15
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of Reconciliation: That God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ… and He has committed to us the message of Reconciliation." 2 Corinthians 5:17-19
"For He Himself is our peace who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility." Ephesians 2:14
Love in Action
Christians are commanded to love the foreigners and aliens in our midst, to love our neighbour, to be good Samaritans and do to others what we would want them to do to us.
Who is My Neighbour?
When Jesus was challenged by a potentially xenophobic question: Who is my neighbour? Our Lord specifically chose a Samaritan, who was a foreigner, despised by the Jews of his day, as an example (Luke 10:29-37).
The people of Israel were commanded to treat foreigners with kindness, because they themselves were once foreigners in Egypt (Exodus 22:21). When King Herod sought to kill the infant Jesus, Mary and Joseph fled with Him to Egypt.
The Christian response to Xenophobia is to love our neighbour as ourselves, to do to them as we would want to be done unto ourselves. Not only opening our church doors to minister to foreigners in our community, but working to help them establish freedom and justice in their own lands, so that they will be able to return to their homes with hope for the future.
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength… love your neighbour as yourself." Mark 12:30-31
Dr. Peter Hammond
P.O. Box 74 Newlands 7725
Cape Town South Africa