1. WHAT IS XENOPHOBIA:
When we talk about xenophobia, we refer to the “hatred of foreigners”. This hate is unleashed by the presence of foreigners in a particular country by a group of the population and/or citizens of the country. These citizens release their frustration; unhappiness; hatred; etc. on these foreigners by way of boycotting their businesses; destruction of their businesses; stealing and destroying their personal property; making it uncomfortable/impossible in the workplace; drive them away/out of society; they are assaulted; robbed and even killed, etc.
In the past, we have experienced sporadic incidents of xenophobia in our country, but never before has it escalated as in the past month or two – so much so that the army was deployed, in conjunction with the police, in some hot spots (it makes one think of the apartheid regime who instituted regular clock rules in riot afflicted areas). Dozens of foreigners’ shops were looted and burned; foreigners were assaulted and some, sadly, were killed.
It is alleged that the spate of attacks began when the Zulu king, Goodwill Zwelinthini, recently, during a mass rally, said that foreigners “must pack up and go” as they are depriving citizens from jobs. Shortly thereafter, violence erupted in Durban and spread to other parts of the country.
The U.N. however, stated that the latest wave of violence was sparked in March due to a labour dispute between foreigners and citizens.
There is no doubt that one of the reasons for the violence, can be placed on the door of so called “blue collar job opportunities” which foreigners snatch up. Local citizens of the Republic thus losing out on these opportunities. Conrad Mbewe (Pastor of Kabwata Baptist Church in Lusaka, Zambia – see: http://sola5.org/xenophobia-south-africa-ticking-time-bomb/) asked the question as to why South African employers give preference to foreigners, particularly Africans from the rest of Africa? He, inter alia, said that this trend of preferring foreigners over locals is not something new. In America, for instance, workers from Latin American countries are the ones snatching up blue collar jobs; in Western Europe it is people from Eastern Europe, etc. And, according to Conrad, the reason for this is very simply put: “They (the foreigners) are harder working and are satisfied with less pay!” He continues and states that the reason xenophobia hardly ever or never occurs in the US and Europe, is as a result of a very low unemployment rate – the implication: South Africa, who has a soaring unemployment rate, should be creating jobs resulting in drastically reducing xenophobia.
“Blue collar jobs” is not the only reason for xenophobia (I’m a millennia away of being a political and/or labour analyst) and I base it simply on the fact that there has been little to none xenophobic violence in the workplace lately. These barbaric attacks are primarily aimed at entrepreneurs (traders) – maybe it’s merely the tip of the iceberg and easy targets for attackers, whilst foreigners at for example mines are more protected – there is simply more to xenophobia than meets the eye.
Lastly, regarding the background, the Minister of State Security claimed that as little as 1% of the population are pro-xenophobic. If one had to use the media as a benchmark (Facebook, news, etc.) and judging by reactions to the violence, it appears that he is correct, especially after Monday’s (20 April 2015) tremendous positive civic response. People were protesting against the xenophobia (for example in Alexandra local men stood guard during the night in order to protect foreigners).
What are the consequences of this xenophobia? Again, I am not an expert, but it appears, if I may briefly summarize, as follows:
• South Africa has once again become the skunk of the world;
• South Africans abroad fear for their lives and/or property (dozens of white South Africans have fled Mozambique recently and returned to South Africa);
• South Africa’s trade in foreign countries suffered tremendous losses;
• Overseas investors only become more reluctant to invest in our country which further impacts negatively on the country’s economy;
• People live in fear and conjures up images of a country being destroyed and where large-scale bloodshed takes place (as Conrad called it, “South Africa is a ticking time bomb”) – bloodshed as in the 60’s and 70’s in Africa with Uhuru.
• The EFF’s outspokenness and militant actions, instructing whites to return to their place of origin (including Europe); statues of historical figures being splattered with paint; open land that is occupied (overt provocation). The ANC government’s overt discrimination against whites regarding appointments; talk of farms being reduced due to the government’s land reform policy (resulting in large numbers of white farmers leaving the country to farm elsewhere in Africa), etc. All this and more has resulted in more whites living in fear and asking themselves, “Is it only a matter of time before xenophobic attacks start against them?”
• It seems that the wave of xenophobia in our country is being incited by an “unknown force” for ultimately political gain, by casting doubt on the current government (EFF perhaps?). Political instability is another potential consequence of xenophobia.
Of course there are many more consequences that can be named.
4. THE WORD OF GOD:
Let us consider some Bible verses and what is says about aliens:
• Ex.23: 9 ~ You shall not oppress a stranger, since you yourselves know the feelings of a stranger, for you also were strangers in the land of Egypt.
• Lev.19: 10- Nor shall you glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the needy and for the stranger. I am the LORD your God.
• Lev.23: 22 ~ When you reap the harvest of your land, moreover, you shall not reap to the very corners of your field nor gather the gleaning of your harvest; you are to leave them for the needy and the alien. I am the LORD your God.
• Deut.10: 19 ~ So show your love for the alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.
• Deut. 26: 11- …and you and the Levite and the alien who is among you shall rejoice in all the good which the LORD your God has given you and your household.
• Num.15: 30 ~ But the person who does anything defiantly, whether he is native or an alien, that one is blaspheming the LORD; and that person shall be cut off from among his people.
• Ps.146: 9 ~ The LORD aprotects the strangers; He bsupports the fatherless and the widow, But He thwarts the way of the wicked.
• 1 Pet. 1: 1 ~ Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen.
• 1 Pe.2: 11 ~ Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul.
(These are but a few verses giving us an indication of what the Lord’s attitude towards foreigners is).
5. BELIEVERS’ ATTITUDE / REACTION:
What are we as believers to do in light of these xenophobic attacks in our country? More importantly, what does God expect of us?
• First, we must realize that foreigners have a special place in God’s heart.
• We must love our neighbours – certainly strangers – regardless of what their motives are and arrival in South Africa (they are not just a bunch of thieves, murderers, fraudsters and drug dealers – yes, there are certainly a large number of them deserving of this label), the word of God is very clear that we should love our neighbour, but also our enemies.
• As believers we should not be part of unverified talks and fear-inciting-stories.
• We ought not, like the world, automatically assume that when a murder, or any other crime for that matter, is committed that Nigerians or Zimbabweans are to blame. Says who? Can such statements be motivated by statistics? Do we realize how many locals (yes, even whites!) are guilty of various forms of criminality? We may not agree with the masses (and let’s be honest with each other – especially racist whites) and immediately accept that foreigners are mainly involved in criminality, because then we as believers are too inciting xenophobia ~ Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things (Phil.4:8).
• We must realize that our country, like the rest of the world, are caught in the grip of the fall of man, and that ever increasing brutality, criminality, fraud, etc. will be experienced as the coming of our Saviour draws closer.
• As believers, our beliefs are grounded in God’s sovereignty and therefore we have to consider all these events in light of that -God is indeed in control and we need to submit to His sovereign Will. We live in “the already and the not yet” – our Lord IS THE Ruler and King of this world and He reigns over kings and rulers (including President Zuma and the Malema’s) of this world ~ And on His robe and on His thigh He has this name written: “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS” (Rev.19:16). In conjunction with this verse we should also read Eph.1:21-23 ~ …far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.
• We, as believers, must also make our voices heard against xenophobia – we can not and should not keep silent.
• We, as believers, must extend a hand of love, support and help towards people who are subjected to xenophobia.
• As believers, we must not live in fear ~ For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline (2 Tim.1:7). Fear is able to consume and destroy; it is blinding, and one can no longer think rationally nor according to the Word of God that should serve as encouragement and a solid anchor, it’ll become buried in obscurity. Stacey Reaoch (“Desiring God’s” BLOG: www.desiringgod.org/articles/when-fear-seizes-you) suggests the following 7 tips to counteract fear:
– God’s Truth: Ask yourself if your frame of mind is reality, or your imagination? Paul encourages us under all circumstances to pursue the Truth (Phil.4:8).
– God’s Presence: We ought and should take comfort in the fact that we are never alone (Ps.46:1).
– God’s Grace: God promised despite adverse circumstances that we will be enveloped in His grace (2 Cor.12:9).
– God’s Sovereignty: God is always in control of our lives (Dan.4:34-35).
– God Listens: Pour out your heart to God in prayer – God hears our prayers (Ps.40:1).
– God can be trusted: Early and late rush my adversaries me, and I have many enemies, O Most High. The day when I get scared, I trust only you (Ps.56:3-4).
– God’s Greater Plan: We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who are called according to his purpose (Rom.8:28) – believe this and hold fast onto this truth.
Even though this may be a very real threat in the future for white believers, we should cherish an eternal perspective – someone once said, “Sudden death, sudden glory.” We need to be less blind sided by the things of this world and ponder/focus on our eternal destination – this life is but a through fare to our eternal glory. Randy Alcorn (in his book “Heaven”) verbalised it well when quoting Genesis 3, the earth’s first radical transition (mankind’s fall and first judgment) can be seen as one bookend of human history. In Revelation 20, we see the second bookend in the earth’s last radical transition (Christ’s return and last judgment) … “Life on earth is indeed only a very short passage to eternal glory!”
• Suffering for Christ during our lifetime is a reality and a calling. The Kingdom can only be established through suffering ~ Just as it is written, “FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED” (Rom.8:36), but we should always realise that we …But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us (Rom.8:37) and above all, death can not separate us from him.
• As believers, we must pray for our neighbours AND our enemies ~ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous (Matt.5: 44-45). How should we pray for our enemies? For repentance? Yes, for conversion in the first place, but if our enemies have not been chosen/elected or earmarked for salvation, we must pray for a change of heart; and indeed a changed attitude.
• We ought and should pray more for the authorities, those appointed in authority by God (Rom.13:1-2; 1 Tim.2:1-2 and 1 Pet.2:13-14 – yes even should they not do God’s will – 1 Pet.2:18-19), so … eg:
– The inhabitants of our country will be truly served by them (this includes foreigners whom tenure here – and do not think for one moment that all foreigners in the country are here illegally).
– The inhabitants of the country … ~ …so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity (1 Tim.2: 1-3).
– The inhabitants may experience law and order and justice (Prov.8: 15).
• We must realise that we are called for such a time as this and therefore we must let our light shine – people we come into contact with should be able to view the Kingdom of Christ Jesus through and in us.
We read in Esther 4:14b ~ ...And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this? As Esther of old, we must realise that we were placed on the southern tip of Africa for a reason and purpose – our ancestors did not flee to Africa, from Western Europe, homesteaded here, for their faith in vain. God’s plan for His children (us) are to be purified and that His Kingdom come, necessitating suffering – it does not involve our “fancies, success and prosperity” (in contrast to the “health, wealth and prosperity theology”). We have been called to follow Jesus Christ and to live fully and completely for Him ~ Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions (Col.1:24). Jesus says in Matt.10:38 ~ And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. Thus life on earth for believers will not be a “Sunday school picnic” – especially in lieu of Jesus’s suffering He endured- ensuring our redemption – and He commands us to follow Him in suffering!
I would like to conclude with Conrad Mbewe’s words from the passage he wrote last week: “Our greatest problem is not that we are broken or sick. Our greatest problem is that the God of the universe is righteous in His holy anger, and He is coming to pour out His divine wrath on all who do not worship Him as God. The Biblical Gospel tells us that the Good News is far better than the fact that we will be made healthy and wealthy (even though this will be true for all believers in the new Heavens and the new earth). The Biblical Gospel tells us that we get God as our treasure. We get to worship God as God. He sets us free from all other posers that promised joys they could never provide. Conrad closes with a quote by one Ken Mbugia who said, “Africa needs the Gospel more than it needs food aid. We need the Gospel more than we need democracy. The prosperity we need the most is not offered by the American dream.”
Kobus van der Walt
(Pastor: Vaal Triangle Reformed Baptist Church, Three Rivers, Vereeniging, South Africa)