, 09 October, 2019 / 2:33 AM
When the dust around xenophobia mainly in South Africa seems to be settling amid high level interventions, members of the Standing Committee of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) have added their voice to those of the regional bodies of Bishops’ conferences, condemning xenophobic violence and reprisal attacks and called on governments and political actors to end hatred on the African continent.
“We, the Standing Committee members of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), are deeply saddened by recent xenophobic attacks in South Africa that resulted (in) reprisals in different parts of the continent, especially, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC),” begins the SECAM statement availed to ACI Africa Tuesday, October 8.
“We join voice with our brother Bishops of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) and Inter-Regional Meeting of Southern African Bishops (IMBISA) and all others, to condemn the barbaric destruction of life and property, the hatred and maltreatment suffered by foreigners in various African countries over the years” reads in part SECAM’s statement.
“We are most seriously concerned about derogatory and inflammatory remarks made by different people, including high profile ones, concerning migrants, refugees, asylum seekers, and other vulnerable persons, following the xenophobia and reprisal attacks,” the Bishops stated in their October 4 communique.
“Xenophobic violence and its reprisals are a total shame not only to our corporate personality but also to Catholicism in Africa, in particular, and Christianity in general,” the Bishops have decried in their statement titled “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”
“We call on the leaders of all categories to avoid utterances that inspire violence,” they said and appealed to African nations to act with speed saying, “governments and political actors should urgently bring an end to the rising tide of hatred and any form of violence everywhere on the African continent and the Islands.”
South Africa has been the scene of xenophobic violence in recent months sparking reprisal attacks in other African countries. As a result, several countries repatriated their citizens.
South Africa decided to send emissaries to the West African country to apologize for the violence and gave assurances that South Africa is taking measures to protect all nationals in the country.
According to SECAM, “xenophobia signifies (amongst other things), the failure to realize that we have a common origin and common Father, God, who made each of us in his own image and likeness.”
“Consequently, it does not matter where you are born (South Africa, Nigeria, Cameroon, Zambia, Zimbabwe etc), we are all true brothers and sisters of the one family of God and should be each other’s keeper (Gn 4:9),” reads the statement signed by the President of SECAM, Philippe Cardinal Ouédraogo, Archbishop of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.
In the statement, SECAM reminds the faithful about “what the Holy Father, Pope Francis has continually urged everybody to do, namely, welcome, protect, promote and integrate migrants and any other stranger among us and to build a society that seeks peaceful well-being in equality and reject all discrimination.”
Making reference to the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation of Pope emeritus Benedict XVI, Africae Munus, SECAM Bishops “solemnly appeal to all people living in Africa, Christians, especially, to eschew all forms of violence, prejudice and hatred and promote the dignity of each human person wherever he/she finds him/herself, become an agent of reconciliation, justice peace and unity.”
“We passionately urge parents, relatives, guardians, teachers and other mentors to help children to seriously appreciate what it means to be sisters and brothers in God’s family,” the Bishops say.
They also advocate for responsible and constructive journalism, appealing to the media “to refrain from disseminating divisive and dehumanizing information, ideas and initiatives, and commit themselves to engaging media for the promotion of positive messages.”
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa