Paul Charles, communication director of the Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division Seventh-day Adventist Church, released the following statement in response to ongoing attacks against foreign nationals living in South Africa:
The Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Southern Africa-Indian Ocean region is outraged by the recent, current xenophobic attacks against foreign nationals in South Africa. There is no justifiable reason to warrant the senseless violence and prejudice bringing shame to a new and free democratic South Africa. To embrace true freedom means to renounce a spirit of domination, abuse or violence against people. Without reservation, our leadership and almost 3.5 million Seventh-day Adventist members in Southern Africa condemn all these senseless and horrendous acts of violence and hatred which has also affected members of our church.
The President of the Southern Africa Union Conference, Tankiso Letseli, issued the following statement: “The Seventh-day Adventist Church in South Africa has mobilised Adventist Development and Relief Agency South Africa and Meals on Wheels Community Service (MOWCS) South Africa as a way of intervening. We have identified persons who have been displaced by xenophobic violence. Currently, MOWCS South Africa, together with MOWCS Kwazulu Natal-Free State Conference (KNFC), Area Office, is on the ground providing food supplies and further aid to no less than 1,500 persons daily in the Durban area. We are currently providing cooked meals in the Chatsworth and Chesterville areas. Pastor C M Nhlapo, President of the Kwazulu Natal-Free State Conference, together with his team, are working with the MOWCS KNFC to make inroads in affected areas for further intervention. The Church's Trans-Orange Conference leadership, together with Pastor Mpho Rantsoabe, have identified 'hot spots' in the Johannesburg area for the purpose of responding and intervening. We are also trying to mobilise the support of ADRA International, through ADRA Africa Regional Office, so that we can increase our reach.”
An inhumane crisis of this magnitude affects the entire world church and international community. All local Seventh-day Adventist churches are urged to intensify their efforts with ADRA South Africa and MOWCS South Africa, government and other faith-based organisations to alleviate the suffering as a result of these evil acts-of-violence.
We also appeal to all those affected to cooperate with government agencies like the police and the Department of Home Affairs so that those perpetrators of the violence can be brought to justice.
We all, each one, regardless of our nationality, color or creed are made in the image of God (Colossians 1:15) and take the issue of human dignity very seriously. This constrains us to treat one another as brothers and sisters and an injury to one affects us all. The collective fabric of South Africa is diverse and dynamic and must be preserved at all costs without violence or the shedding of blood. Human dignity elevates every person we meet to the status of one with infinite worth, a person to be respected, loved, and honored.
The Bible commands and conditions us how we should treat one another. "If a foreigner lives with you in your land, you are not to mistreat or oppress. Foreigners living among you must be treated like your own people. Love them as you love yourself…” Leviticus 19: 33,34.
May God help us renounce all forms of violence, coercion and violations of people’s consciences and physical and emotional integrity. May He grace us with the strength to embrace peace in all its dimensions. May He give us the determination to uphold every person’s dignity. May He also create in us the will and the passion to work for the freedom of everyone until the One who is coming comes.