Churches Addressing Xenophobia

“I want to take this opportunity to firstly apologize for the xenophobic attacks that are hurting our fellow brothers and sisters from the continent. Xenophobia first broke out in 2008 in Alexandra Township in Johannesburg. It got everyone by surprise. No one saw it coming, including the Church, artists, analysts, politicians, etc.

Xenophobia is defined as “The fear or hatred of foreigners and strangers. It embodied in discriminatory attitudes and behaviors, and often culminates in violence, abuse and hatred.”

In South Africa, there is a term normally used to refer to foreign nationals, ‘makwerekwere’. It is a derogatory term used for black foreign nationals from the continent but is not used for people from Europe and America who are welcomed. Xenophobia is directed at migrants, especially black migrants, from elsewhere on the continent.

Many of the hot spot of the xenophobic attacks are in urban areas. They are very rare in rural areas, which means the attacks could be linked to resources and services provided by government.

Some of the reasons are rooted in poverty, unemployment and high crime rates that are acted out in from of verbal and violent attacks majorly but not limited to complaints by the local national’s perception that migrants from other African countries take their jobs and take their ‘wives’; take their shops (Kiosks) locally called “spazas”, and benefit more from government services. There are however some of the undocumented foreigners that are also linked to criminal activities.

The other xenophobic trigger is elections and politics. Xenophobia attacks tend to rise as the country approach national and local government election. It is also suspected that some politicians fuel these attacks. We have recently seen countries such as Nigeria, Mozambique and Zambia retaliating to these xenophobic attacks by boycotting RSA companies and work force

In response to the attacks, The Church has spoken strongly against the attacks, provided refuge, food and other essentials to those misplaced participated in mediation and reintegration programs.

(By Maropeng Moholoa-Anglican Province of Southern Africa)

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