Bishops’ statement on the recent attacks on foreign nationals

The Chairperson of the Office of Migrants & Refugees, at the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC), Archbishop Buti Tlhagale has condemned, in the strongest possible terms, the recent attacks on foreign nationals that occurred recently in Soweto and Zeerust. “Once again, we had to see media images of well dressed, well fed South Africans looting foreign owned shops, assaulting the owners, threatening them with death and leaving destruction and shattered lives in their wake” said Tlhagale. The Archbishop said he was taken aback to see the looters loading refrigerators, stoves and other equipment onto trucks, and driving away with it, while the Police stood by and did nothing.

In both Zeerust and Soweto, says the Archbishop, accusations of foreigners selling drugs and selling expired goods should have been brought to law enforcement agencies. But as the events unfolded, the local residents took the law unto themselves. Archbishop Tlhagale says “we are therefore, furthermore, concerned about ongoing reports of incitement against foreign nationals in Mamelodi and Polokwane.

Tlhagale continues that the statistics show that more than 80% of South Africans claim to be Christians (, we therefore appeal to them that the most important commandment that they have to adhere to is “to love their neighbour as they love themselves” (Mark 12:31). Hatred towards anyone (even those of a different nationality, tribe, race, gender or religion) is a direct violation of this command. St Paul said that “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

To the 80% of South Africa’s self-identified “Christians” (which presumably includes the majority of those that rampaged through the streets of Soweto and Zeerust) the nationality of their fellow humans shouldn’t have entered the equation. God Himself makes it clear that He has a special concern for refugees: “He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing” (Deuteronomy 10:18). Jesus identified with refugees to such an extent, that he said that everyone who welcomes a refugee is welcoming Him (Matthew 25:35).

Archbishop Tlhagale has urged those still walking in the darkness of hatred, prejudice and ignorance, to turn to the light of compassion and human solidarity. He has called for sympathy for foreign nationals who have suffered damage, injury and loss. Archbishop has reiterated that “South Africans should extend their hands to work with all people of goodwill, who want to rid our country of xenophobic hatred and prejudice”.

Every human being is created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). It is only once we begin to collectively act according to this truth, that God will be able to bless us and heal our land.

For immediate release. For further information contact Fr Patrick Rakeketsi at 012 323 6458 or 073 380 5629

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