Xenophobia: The Prompt Reaction of the Catholic Church in South Africa – Lesson For The Nigerian Churches

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By Rev Fr Angelo Unegbu

As the gory stories of the xenophobic attack of Africans especially Nigerians living in South Africa were trickling in, the mood of many Nigerians was that of sadness and gloominess.

But many of us were consoled by the pastoral, didactic and prophetic reaction of the bishops’ Conference of South Africa which exposed the mischievous attitude of their government. If you have not read that letter, please google it now and read it.

Among other things, the fearless shepherds said: “once again we receive reports of the authorities doing very little to protect the victims. We received reports of the police standing by idly in Pretoria while shops were looted and people were attacked.

Not a single arrest was made on that day…” (Google it and read the rest.)
In that short, precise but deep missive, the bishops showed really that the Church has not lost her role as the voice of the voiceless, the light, the salt of the earth and help of the helpless.

What I found most interesting is the quickness of their reaction. They did not wait for their next general meeting or synod when everything must have come and gone and even forgotten. Meanwhile, they were protecting foreigners many of whom are not even Christians.

In which other country do Nigerians suffer more xenophobic attacks than in their own country? Who is speaking on their behalf?

Operation Python Dance, Operation Crocodile Tears, attacks on Shiites, 97 and 3 percent ideology, incarceration of members of the opposition even against the court order, killing and incarceration of Biafran armless agitators,

the labeling of armless agitators and protesters as terrorists whereas the Fulani herdsmen on a killing spree are not even criticized, the detention of Omoyole Sowore and other protesters and so on – what do you call these if not aggressive forms of xenophobia and state-organized terror on its own citizens.

In all these, our churches remain virtually silent because they are afraid of the xenophobic attack of the government.
According to Archbishop St. Oscar Romero: “A Church that doesn’t provoke any crises, a gospel that doesn’t unsettle, a word of God that doesn’t get under anyone’s skin, a word of God that doesn’t touch the real sin of the society in which it is being proclaimed — what gospel is that?”


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