South Africa is once again faced with the tragedy of xenophobic violence, and the Community of Sant’Egidio expresses grief and profound condemnation towards the recent attacks against foreigners, in which lives are being lost and hundreds displaced.
The increased influx of foreigners from other African countries has long since been a contentious matter, as seen during the 2008 attacks in which many foreigners were killed, and a multitude were injured and displaced.
Not only are these actions despicable and embarrassing, but they are not in line with the ideal of the democratic and free Rainbow Country for which many have lost their lives. This goes against one of the ideals former President Nelson Mandela cherished. “I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities.”
These acts of vandalism and violence are symptoms of deeper societal problems, and foreigners are the scapegoats of these social and economic injustices. Mob violence, like many other forms of evil which are not firmly addressed, spread like a wild fire, and the situation in South Africa is not an exception to this rule.
Our deep concern in the face of this tragic and gruesome violence drives to us to want to speak more forcefully in favour of peace and reconciliation. Peace and reconciliation is vulnerable but essential, and should be preserved at all costs. Violence is never a solution, irrespective of the justifications presented by the perpetrators.
The Community of Sant’Egidio is an international association of the Catholic Church present in 73 countries in all the continents. We obey the Lord Jesus command: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (Gospel of Matthew 25,35). On a volunteer basis we, in South Africa give food to the homeless people, help the poor children and visit the lonely elderly. We live a brotherhood without borders in the spirit of God, the Father of all human kind. In the daily life of the Community of Sant’Egidio it is inspiring to see South African members, young immigrated youth from West Africa or from Zimbabwe together, helping the South African people in need.
Our hearts go out to victims of these attacks, and their families. We will remember them all in our weekly communal prayers and our personal prayers. Our prayers for peace, reconciliation and the end of violence will take place in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Polokwane and Durban next days, in an effort to answer with an emphatic “no” to violence and xenophobia. In this difficult time, the need for solidarity is even greater, and we implore all people to exercise acts of compassion towards all the people in need, no matter their nationality.