South African bishops condemn violence

In a statement issued from Johannesburg, the “Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) has observed with sadness the outburst of xenophobic violence in Durban which the Catholic Archbishop, Cardinal Wilfrid Napier has already condemned.” The statement was signed by Archbishop William Slattery, Archbishop of Pretoria and SACBC spokesman.

Violence took place after the local press had reported some statements of the king of the Zulus, Goodwill Zwelithini, according to whom foreigners had to leave South Africa. The traditional leader of the Zulu (which the Constitution recognizes has a ceremonial and symbolic role) had stated that his words had been misinterpreted.

“While we acknowledge that the utterances by His Majesty, the king of the Zulu nation, never meant nor intended this violence, we believe that he should categorically condemn this violence and publicly propagate the value of hospitality entrenched in the Zulu culture”, says the message.

At the origin of violence there is a war among the poor: out of 50 million inhabitants, South Africa has 5 million immigrants from countries in difficulty such as Somalia, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe and Malawi. There are also immigrants from China and Pakistan. Due to a high unemployment rate, there are tensions between natives and immigrants, many of whom are committed to crime. “We understand the anger that the people may be feeling towards the foreigners for various legitimate reasons”, write the Bishops. “But we are a nation of peace; we are a rainbow nation. We conquered apartheid with very little use of violence and a settlement was reached peacefully”.

The message invites foreigners not to commit crimes and warns everyone to the responsible use of social media in order to avoid spreading hate messages. The Bishops conclude by asking the government to intervene to identify those who incite clashes and to address problems that generate a “context for this horrible violence”.