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Catholic Bishops of South Africa have said the claim by the South African authorities that the attacks on Nigerians and other foreigners in the country by some South Africans were not xenophobic was incorrect.
A statement by Archbishop Buti Tigagale of the Southern African Catholic Bishop’s Conference Office for Migrants and Refugees which was made available to journalists in Abuja on Saturday stated that the attacks were xenophobic.
He said the Catholic bishops stated that it was with dismay that they took note of the recent upsurge in violence against foreign nationals.
He stated that the violence started a few weeks ago in the Johannesburg CBD, occurred in Pretoria, and last week again in the Johannesburg CBD, Malvern, Turffontein and Krugersdorp.
Tigagale said, “Once again we receive reports of the authorities doing very little to protect the victims. We received report of police standing by idly in Pretoria while shops were looted and people attacked. Not a single arrest was made on that day.
“Once again the authorities resort to the old explanation: that this is not xenophobia, but the work of criminal elements.
“Let us be absolutely clear – this is not an attempt by concerned South Africans to rid our cities of drug dealers. And this is not the work of a few criminal elements. It is xenophobia, plain and simple.
“If it was about drugs, why are South African drug dealers not being targeted as well? Are we really to believe that there are none? And why are drug addicts who rob people in our city centres to get money to buy drugs not being targeted? If it is the work of a few criminal elements, why are South African owned businesses not being looted as well?
He added, “The teaching of the Church is direct and uncompromising. More than 80% of South Africans claim to be Christian. What are our religious leaders teaching the multitudes that fill our Churches every Sunday? Galatians 3:28 says: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
”By the same token, there is neither South African nor Nigerian nor Ethiopian. We are all one in Christ Jesus. “Let us take heed of this. We are facing a rising tide of hatred and intolerance, no different to the rising tide of hatred in Nazi Germany. If we do not take urgent action to stop it, there will be nothing left.”
He stated that all religions preach fair treatment to foreigners. He called on all people of faith, and all people of goodwill, to speak out and take action.