Catholic bishops from South Africa have demanded action from the government over recent violent attacks on African migrants.
In a strongly worded statement, the bishops compared the “rising tide of hatred and intolerance” to “the rising tide of hatred in Nazi Germany.”
A wave of deadly riots and xenophobic attacks have taken place in several South African cities, including Johannesburg, Pretoria, Malvern, Turffontein and Krugersdorp.
South Africans have attacked foreign nationals from other African countries. At least ten people were killed in the most recent attacks, two of whom are foreign nationals.
The statement, which was written by Archbishop Buti Tlhagale OMI for the South African Catholic Bishops’ Conference, was highly critical of the Government’s response.
“Once again we receive reports of the authorities doing very little to protect the victims. We received report of police standing by idly in Pretoria while shops were looted and people attacked. Not a single arrest was made on that day,” they said.
South Africa attracts migrants from other parts of Africa because it has one of the continent’s biggest and most developed economies.
However, high unemployment is rife in South Africa, and some South Africans blame foreigners for taking jobs.
Referring to the recent attacks, Lulu Xingwana, South African High Commissioner to Ghana, said: “I won’t call these xenophobic attacks. This is crime and we must deal with both South Africans and foreigners who are criminals.”
The bishops referred to the denial of the South African authorities. ”Once again the authorities resort to the old explanation: that this is not xenophobia, but the work of criminal elements.”
“Let us be absolutely clear – this is not an attempt by concerned South Africans to rid our cities of drug dealers,” they said.
“It is xenophobia, plain and simple. If it was about drugs, why are South African drug dealers not being targeted as well? If it is the work of a few criminal elements, why are South African owned businesses not being looted as well?”
The bishops warned against indifference and apathy in the face of injustice. They also referred to the “direct and uncompromising” Catholic teaching regarding welcoming migrants and strangers.
“God makes it absolutely clear that He has a special concern for refugees, migrants and strangers. Deuteronomy 10:18 says: “He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing.” He isn’t just concerned about the foreigners. He loves them,” they said.
The statement ended with a direct appeal for action.
“If we do not take urgent action to stop it, there will be nothing left,” they said.
“I appeal to all people of faith, and all people of good will, to speak out and take action. In the words of St Francis: ‘Make us channels of your peace.’”
Picture: Police patrol the streets after overnight unrest and looting in Johannesburg, South Africa, on 3 September 2019. (CNS photo/Marius Bosch, Reuters)