THE Council of Churches in Zambia says the violence in South Africa if not curbed has the potential to spread to all parts of the continent and once that happens it will not be easy to end it.
CCZ general secretary Reverend Canon Fr Emmanuel Chikoya said the church was concerned over the recent xenophobic violence that erupted in South Africa, claiming lives of fellow Africans from other countries.
“In view of this development, we have witnessed a wave of retaliatory attacks on South African businesses in Zambia and other countries on the continent. We may not have full details on the magnitude of retaliatory attacks being launched against South Africans and businesses of South African origin in other countries but in Zambia, South African chain stores such as Shoprite and Pick n Pay were attacked, forcing others in other towns to close,” he said.
“We wish to state that the ugly developments in South Africa have affected all of us emotionally and spiritually in that we all have brothers and sisters who are at risk of the xenophobic violence in that country. We, however, believe in the words spoken in 1 Peter 3 that sympathy, brotherly love, tender hearts, and humble minds must drive our actions whenever we are faced with such challenges. If we be a Christian nation of which we are called, let us not repay evil with evil but instead with love.”
Fr Chikoya said the xenophobic violence going on in South Africa cannot be overcome with violence against nationals of South African origin but rather the opposite was what would bring about peace.
He said darkness was never overcome with darkness but with light.
“Fire is never put off with fire but with water. We, therefore, call on our brothers and sisters in Zambia and other countries on the rest of Africa to maintain peace by showing more love and kindness to nationals of South African origin in their respective countries for the continuity of peace on the continent,” Fr Chikoya said.
He said while calling for peace to prevail in Zambia and the rest of Africa despite the ugly xenophobic attacks in South Africa, Council of Churches in Zambia was deeply affected and alarmed by the ugly developments in South Africa.
Fr Chikoya said what was important to note is that this problem was not new and for that fact it makes extremely sad reading that the deadly violence was beginning to recur in the same country, “leaving us to question as to whether authorities in South Africa are doing what is expected to end the violence once and for all.”
“We wish to remind the South African government that this violence if not curbed has the potential to spread to all parts of the continent and once that happens it won’t be easy to end it. The xenophobic attacks going on in South Africa are a desperate call for the South African government to identify the root causes and come up with lasting solutions if the shared African identity is to be fully promoted,” he said.
“Just like other governments on the continent have taken upon themselves to grant protection to citizens and migrants from other countries which include South Africans themselves, the South African government has the full responsibility to grant protection to citizens and migrants from other countries on the continent. In this regard, we wish to echo the voices of the Fellowship of Christian Councils in Southern Africa (FOCCISA) and the South African Council of Churches (SACC) that there should be no room for criminal acts against people from other countries and properties.”
Fr Chikoya said poverty and unemployment should never be used as an excuse to engage in criminal acts.
“While we call on SADC and the AU to take a stronger position to ensure African countries address the systematic and root causes of poverty that drive vulnerability and mass migration, the South African government has the responsibility to ensure that migrants in that country are safeguarded from such attacks going forward,” he said.
“The South African government must act decisively on anyone or indeed authorities that have been inciting xenophobia through their irresponsible statements. Whether foreign nationals in South Africa are there legally or illegally, attacking and killing them in the manner South African nationals are doing is unacceptable as it takes away the dignity of human beings given to them by God the creator.”
Fr Chikoya echoed other international bodies in calling on SADC and the AU to institute an inquiry that would come up with the causes of xenophobia in South Africa and address the problem before it escalates to other countries on the African continent.