The Association of Vineyard Churches South Africa today issues an urgent and emphatic appeal to our nation and its leaders, in the light of the worsening situation regarding violence against foreign nationals in our country.
Scripture, as well as the best traditions in Africa, teach us that nations and peoples are judged, and earn either honour or dishonour, by the way they treat their strangers. We believe this to be true and critical to our national survival and spiritual well-being, and that xenophobia is a denial of and insult to our humanity, our national dignity, our democracy and the struggle against Apartheid. It is a contradiction of the introduction to our national Constitution that says: “South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity.” In that sense, we believe, with the Apostle Paul, that there is no longer any divide between people into “insiders” and “outsiders”, that is not erased by the crucifixion of Christ. “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.”
We therefore make a call to the people of South Africa, and in particular the leaders of our nation, whether local, regional or national, whether of churches, political parties or local communities:
- To repent of and apologise for the mistreatment of people on the basis of their nationality, culture or ethnicity, and in general, of the spirit of violence that holds many in its grip. “… remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. For through him we both (“insiders” and “outsiders”) have access to the Father by one Spirit.”
- To demonstrate solidarity with the victims of this xenophobic abuse and violence, by visiting, sheltering, counseling and seeking their healing. “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.”
- To publicly and unequivocally distance ourselves, as well as our public, religious and political institutions, from xenophobia and all those who promote and practice it. We regard silence by leaders as consent to these detestable practices.
- To engage with all concerned, whether citizens or expatriates, in talks and plans for peace and the protection of all who live in our cities, and the improvement of their circumstances. “In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”
(The quoted scripture texts are from Ephesians 2:12-22 NIV)