Religious leaders unite against XeNOphobia
In solidarity with the victims of xenophobic violence, WCRLF led a prayer service and silent vigil at the St George’s Cathedral in partnership with the City of Cape Town on 21 April 2015. This was followed by an anti-xenophobia march in Khayelitsha in commemoration of Africa Day on 23 May 2015 in partnership with the Western Cape Christian Ministers Association (WCCMA).
Below is the Press Release issued at the event, along with messages shared by various religious leaders.
Bishop Dr Derek Mtsolo addresses the community in the campaign march against xenophobia in Khayelitsha for Africa Day
Religious leaders of the Western Cape #StandingUnitedAgainstXeNOphobia
Cape Town, South Africa – Messages of hope and faith have poured in from Western Cape religious leaders in their united response to the recent xenophobic or afrophobic violence that has spread in the country. To show their solidarity and sympathy with the victims of the aggression, religious leaders gather in unity at the Saint George’s Cathedral and hosted a media briefing with a common message of peace and love for All beings.
Summarising the purpose of the event and highlighting the important role of religious leaders, Pastor Xola Skosana, Chairperson of the Western Cape Religious Leaders Forum (WCRLF), states:
“We are seeking to make visible the symbolic presence of people who embody society’sideals and society’s deep sense of the transcendent, i e, God, and religious integrity. An Imam in Islam, a pastor or a priest in both Christian and Jewish faith communities, a Guru in Hinduism or Buddhism or the Baha’i faith are people held in high esteem not only because of what they represent, but what they embody.”
Below are some of the messages offered by various faiths:
“Our hearts go out to the families of those who have been murdered and to those who havebeen displaced and terrorised in the recent harrowing xenophobic attacks. Cruelty to other human beings on the basis of their ethnic origin flies in the face of the Bible’s teaching that every person is created in God’s image and must be accorded dignity and respect. As Rabbi Judah Loew of Prague writes ‘when one loves G-d, it is impossible not to love Hs creations.’ May our love for God inspire us toward a renewed love for every human being, each of whom has a role in bringing the world to the state for which we yearn when, in the words of Isaiah, ‘Nation will not take up sword against nation’” – Rabbi Anthony Knopf, Jewish Faith
“Cape Western Quakers recognise that of God in all people. We feel shocked and horrified by the present xenophobic violence. We call on Government, civil society and the faith community to reach out to those in need, to protect children and the vulnerable, and to work towards justice and reconciliation between those who perpetrate violence and those who suffer. We must help the affected through relief programs, identify the root causes of past and present xenophobia, and develop responses so that this is prevented in the future. We appeal to leaders and the media to be more responsible in what they say.” – Cape Western Quakers
“Our thoughts of healing and peace to all that have been affected by the recent xenophobic violence. Violence can never be justified and violence is a reflection of a deeper erosion of our essence as a people. When we truly embrace the spiritual teachings of our individual traditions, we all come to the common understanding that the divisions we hold about ourselves based on nationality and race are superficial – that in essence we are all children of the One Creator. Any violence or pain inflicted on the other is actually inflicting pain on ourselves. As leaders and people of this country, these incidents of violence and attitudes of treating our brothers and sisters from other countries as outsiders demands deeper reflection, constructive dialogue and action to restore and heal the soul of our nation. Let us remember and hold in our awareness the wisdom shared by Madiba, “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” – Sr Pratiba, Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University
“God calls us to live in harmony and peace with one another and all of creation. SAFCEI, the Southern African Faith Communities Environment Institute, condemns the xenophobic attacks in the strongest possible terms. Life on this planet flourishes where there is diversity. Equally, human society is enriched by diversity. We all benefit from the varieties of cultures, traditions and customs and our economies are strengthened by the gifts of differing communities. Tolerance and inclusivity are the hallmarks of harmonious living and the way to peace. We call on all people to uphold these values and show compassion and love for our fellow human beings and for all of life, and to end these horrendous xenophobic attacks.” – Kate Davies, Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute
“O Children of Men! Know ye not why We created you all from the same dust? That no one should exalt himself over the other. Ponder at all times in your hearts how ye were created. Since We have created you all from one same substance it is incumbent on you to be even as one soul, to walk with the same feet, eat with the same mouth and dwell in the same land…” – Tahirih, Reading from Baha’i Faith
“Islam teaches us that all human beings are equal and does not discriminate between one’s race, gender, geographic origin, language, etc. The only distinction is accorded to the one who is the Most God Conscious. As a signatory to the International Charter of Compassion, AFOSA calls upon all fellow South Africans to introspect and bring this Charter to life by practically expressing our disgust with the current state of affairs and extending compassion to the victims of the violence.” – Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider, Ahlul Bait Foundation of South Africa (AFOSA)
“We assert that no circumstances can justify the persecution and maltreatment of vulnerable people that have been displaced for various reasons from their own countries of origin. We reject the stereotypes of political refugees or economic migrants as criminals and people usurping the economic opportunities of the poor. The South African Council of Churches (Western Cape) recognizes and confesses the complacency of the religious communities and the prosperous middle and ruling classes in willfully ignoring the dire plight of the excluded poor from South African material comfort and opportunity. As followers of Christ we strongly side with both the persecuted and the excluded and call on all responsible authorities of state and civil society to address the deprivations of all the poors. We urgently call for an organized National and Provincial dialogues on the ‘status’ of foreign nationals, and our national ‘attitude’ towards their presence in South Africa. Our future socio-economic development hinges on our ability to relate to other African nations in a manner that fosters unity of purpose and human dignity.” – Vena Mqondisi, South African Council of Churches, Western Cape
Elizabeth Petersen, Director of WCRLF concludes that the WCRLF, as part of its advocacy role, sees itself as a symbolic religious and moral presence, which brings together religious leaders from all the major religious structures and institutions to walk alongside the voiceless, ignored and marginalized; using its influence and power in public life.
“We seek to create a model and ethos that does not speak on behalf of, but rather with people in and through their pain and suffering. WCRLF’s Symbolic Presence and Statements endeavours to open up and ignite further conversation in communities. It should awaken people’s dignity and agency as they make meaningful contributions to the healing and transformation of our country. WCRLF’s work is to deliberately highlight human pain and in particular black people’s pain; and to help facilitate a Healing process which offers us three phases i.e. uncovering, discovering and recovering (Hand & Freyr, 1993). We believe that there is a need for us as a country, especially leaders from all corners of society, to linger a little longer in the uncovering and discovery phases of the Healing process so that our recovery strategies and policies are truly informed by the people’s pain and suffering. There a growing urgency to acknowledge and address the root causes of the evil that befalls us (in and through the most recent Xenophobia violence) in our quest to recover the soul of African people and all peoples in the world.” – Elizabeth Petersen, Director of WCRLF