23 April 2015
I, Ebenezer, Bishop of Grahamstown call upon all Anglicans in our Diocese and all God- fearing people to join us in prayer during this difficult time in our country. We cannot be silent when people are being displaced and killed. Our communities could be quiet now but, nobody knows when things like these would reach our communities. It is opportune for us to make our voice heard and together stop these unacceptable behaviours. I would like to draw your attention to Exodus 23: 9, “You shall not oppress a stranger; you know the heart of a stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”
We therefore cannot detach ourselves from misery and pain that we see before us. Our beloved country has lately taken centre stage globally, unfortunately for the wrong reasons. The defacing of statues has not helped our national unity and social cohesion programmes. It has led to even more gruesome incidents where the target now shifted to foreign nationals with looting of their businesses as well as unprovoked and unwarranted physical assault directed at them which have resulted in loss of lives – with the grim picture of the callous murder of the recent victim of such attacks -Mozambican national, Emanuel Sithole (may his soul and all others departed in like manner, rest in peace and rise in glory on the Day of the Lord), indelibly imprinted in the minds of the people of this Land and reminiscent of the murder of Abel by his brother Cain instigated by jealousy. In these circumstances the voice of the church has to be heard and registered, in accordance with her dynamic prophetic and voice of conscience mandate accorded her by the gift of the Holy Spirit from the Risen Christ!
We are encouraged by the remarks of the Primate of the Anglican Church in Southern Africa, Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, who registered that our brothers and sisters from neighbouring African States are also created in the image of God ,in whom we are as well. There can be no justifiable or defendable reason for taking life in the manner it is happening; we also add our voice of concern and alarm at these happenings in our country. We have been fortunate, so far, that there have not been incidents reported in the Province of the Eastern Cape yet. The pro-active attempts by the leadership across the Political, Religious, Business and Community Structures are highly appreciated and lauded.
We now join forces to also add our own voice of reason in cautioning the people of God in the Land, to please, in the Name of the Prince of Peace, desist from these acts of violence that have now assumed unacceptable proportions, and to harness their anger and lay down all weapons restoring peace within the communities, and to embrace our .foreign national brothers and sisters in keeping with the Great Commandment to love one another. This enjoins all of us to truly be our brothers’ keepers! The impact of this wave of violence has far-reaching implications for the country as a whole, impacting on the economy, community stability and the global image of the country, as well as detracting from the gains of democracy in the last two decades, Unabated, this could escalate and reach proportions that have the potential to plunge the whole country into a conflagration that will be impossible to extinguish. The country took the noble stand in doing away with the Death Sentence. Amongst the limitations God imposes on His people in the Decalogue are: “Thou shall not kill, Thou shall not steal. Thou shall not covet thy Neighbour’s belongings.” These lynchings and kangaroo court justice practices constitute a contravention of God’s Commandments.
In these situations it also behoves leaders, in all spheres, to exercise caution and restraint when on public platforms, so as not to add fuel to the fire but rather quell the damage. As South Africans we are a great nation well known for being tolerant with one another, having entrenched a Constitutional framework that is an envy of the world, embracing values based on Ubuntu, fundamentally being a God Fearing Nation!
Let us, for the Love of God and His sake, relent and humble ourselves before God and repent of this grievous sin. God made this promise to the children of Israel which could apply to us as well: “If my people who are called by my Name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from Heaven, and will forgive them their sin and will heal the Land.”
I implore all of you to actively participate in all attempts to prevent this from happening in our communities and also pray that this wave of xenophobic attacks be silenced and calmed in the Name of Christ. Let us dedicate the first Sunday- in May to a Diocese-wide prayer day for end to Xenophobia.
Yours in the service of the Shepherd of shepherds
BISHOP of GRAHAMSTOWN