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Southern Africa Indian Ocean Division of Seventh-day Adventists Decries Xenophobic Violence


The world’s attention has been drawn to Johannesburg, South Africa today after photographer James Oatway caught a violent attack on camera. During a night of unrest in Alexandra township, South Africans looted and destroyed foreign-owned shops. The next morning, Emmanuel Sithole of Mozambique was walking in the area when he was attacked by four South African nationals. Sithole was beaten and stabbed, and left for dead. Oatway captured graphic images of the attack that lasted just over two minutes. He helped other witnesses get Sithole into a vehicle after the attack, but the victim of the violence died soon after.

The Adventist Church in South Africa condemned the violence in a strongly-worded statement issued by Paul Charles, Communication Director for the Southern Africa Indian Ocean Division of Seventh-day Adventists.

The statement follows in its entirety:

Seventh-day Adventist Church Response to the recent and current Xenophobic Attacks in South Africa

The Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Southern Africa Indian Ocean region is outraged by the recent/current xenophobic attacks against foreign nationals in South Africa. There is no justifiable reason to warrant the senseless violence and prejudice bringing shame to a new and free democratic South Africa. To embrace true freedom means to renounce a spirit of domination, abuse or violence against people. Without reservation, our Leadership and almost 3.5 million members in Southern Africa condemn all these senseless and horrendous acts of violence and hatred which has also affected members of our church.

The President of the Southern Africa Union Conference, Dr Tankiso Letseli, has issued a statement that “the SDA church in South Africa have mobilised ADRA SA & MOWCS SA as a way of intervening. We have identified persons who have been displaced by xenophobic violence. Currently, MOWCS SA, together with MOWCS KNFC Area Office, is on the ground providing food supplies & needed help to not less than 1500 persons daily in the Durban area. We are currently providing cooked meals in Chatsworth and Chesterville areas. The President of the KNFC (Pastor C M Nhlapo, together with his team) is working with the MOWCS KNFC to make inroads in affected areas for further intervention. The TOC Leadership, together with Pastor Mpho Rantsoabe, MOWCS TOC Director & his team, has identified “hot spots” in Johannesburg area for the purpose of responding and intervening. We are also trying to mobilise the support of ADRA International, through ADRA AFRO, so that we can increase our reach.”

An inhumane crisis of this magnitude affects the entire world church and international community. All local Seventh-day Adventist churches are urged to intensify their efforts with ADRA SA & MOWCS SA, government and other faith-based organisations to alleviate the suffering as a result of this evil acts-of-violence.

We also appeal to all those affected to co-operate with government agencies like the police and department of Home Affairs so that those perpetrators of the violence can be brought to justice.

We all, each one, regardless of our nationality, color or creed are made in the image of God (Colossians 1:15) and take the issue of human dignity very seriously. This constrains us to treat one another as brothers and sisters and an injury to one affects us all. The collective fabric of South Africa is diverse and dynamic and must be preserved at all costs without violence or the shedding of blood. Human dignity elevates every person we meet to the status of one with infinite worth, a person to be respected, loved, and honored.

The Bible commands and conditions us how we should treat one another. ”If a foreigner lives with you in your land, you are not to mistreat/oppress/ him. Foreigners living among you must be treated like your own people. Love them as you love yourself…” Leviticus 19: 33,34.

May God help us renounce all forms of violence, coercion, and violations of people’s consciences and physical and emotional integrity. May He grace us with the strength to embrace peace in all its dimensions. May He give us the determination to uphold every person’s dignity. May He also create in us the will and the passion to work for the freedom of everyone until the One who is coming comes.

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