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Zambia Catholic bishops urge SA leaders to take responsibility over xenophobic attacks

THE Zambia Conference for Catholic Bishops has urged the South African leadership to take responsibility for the xenophobic attacks in that country.

ZCCB president Reverend George Lungu said xenophobia and its resultant chaos were not just criminal but cruel, barbaric and abominable as could be seen in some video clips circulating on social media.

“’You were once foreigners in a foreign land’ (Ex 22:2). The Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops (ZCCB) joins various religious groupings and people of good will in condemning the xenophobic attacks taking place in South Africa that are targeted on foreign nationals from a number of African countries,” he said. “In particular, we recall the words of the holy father, Pope Francis: ‘In the name of God who has created all human beings equal in rights, duties and dignity, and who has called them to live together as brothers and sisters, to fill the earth and make known the values of goodness, love and peace…. In the name of innocent human life that God has forbidden to kill, affirming that whoever kills a person is like one who kills the whole of humanity, and that whoever saves a person is like one who saves the whole of humanity; we, who believe in God…call upon ourselves, upon the leaders of the world as well as the architects of international policy and world economy, to work strenuously to spread the culture of tolerance and of living together in peace; to intervene at the earliest opportunity to stop the shedding of innocent blood and bring an end to wars, conflicts, environmental decay and the moral and cultural decline that the world is presently experiencing’.”

Bishop Lungu said what was being witnessed was a violation of the fundamental human rights that every person was entitled to despite his or her religion, race, colour, ethnicity and nationality.

“We are indeed deeply saddened by the occurrence of xenophobic attacks that have been taking centre stage in South Africa in recent years. We fear that if this trend is not curtailed, it may lead to outright displeasure and alienation of the citizens of South Africa from the rest of the continent,” he said. “Xenophobia and its resultant chaos are not just criminal but cruel, barbaric and abominable as can be seen in some video clips circulating on social media. What we are witnessing is a violation of the fundamental human rights that every human person is entitled to despite his or her religion, race, colour, ethnicity and nationality. The Word of God teaches us to treat foreigners with the human dignity they deserve, saying: ‘You must not mistreat or oppress foreigners in any way. Remember, you yourselves were once foreigners…(Exodus 22:21).”

Bishop Lungu called on the South African government and local authorities to do more in managing the situation whilst maintaining the values of Ubuntu, civility, tolerance and peaceful coexistence in that rainbow nation.

He said to refuse to live side-by-side with other human beings was a danger to the existence as human beings.

Bishop Lungu said any form of intolerance must be confronted and eradicated at all cost.

“Further, leaders should not be seen to exacerbate the situation by paying a blind eye of what is happening or issuing inflammatory sentiments against African immigrants,” he said.

Bishop Lungu urged Zambians resident in South Africa to take extra care as they carry out their affairs and that they make themselves available to the embassy, so that they can be offered protection where necessary.

“Back home, we strongly condemn any acts of violence, lawlessness and rampant destruction of property. We further urge all Zambians to restrain themselves from any acts of violence or vengeance against South African nationals and their property or businesses. We hereby call for calm and diplomatic advocacy, whilst respecting people’s right to hold peaceful matches within the confines of law and order. Our Christian faith calls us to forgive and reconcile especially with those we consider to be our enemies. ‘You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also” (Matthew 5:38-39),” said Bishop Lungu.

“Above all, we urge leaders, educationists, especially in South Africa, to inculcate the spirit of Ubuntu in post-apartheid generations as this will help them appreciate the spirit of co-existence.”

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