News reports today tell us that attacks as a result of xenophobia are still happening, and they're now spreading to a larger portion of South Africa. While Johannesburg is apparently beginning to grow quiet(er), unrest of looting and violence has moved onward to Cape Town.
I've been hesitant to post links to what I have been reading and seeing on various websites: article after article, story after story, videos and pictures one after another. Hesitant not because it is unimportant, but because I trust that in posting links to places to do such reading on Monday, you will be able to follow up on your own. However, if you have not, I urge you to. South Africa is hurting and in need of our prayers, to say the least. Need some help in finding said articles? Start with these articles on BBC, CNN, or one of South Africa's own news sites, SABC.
This is difficult to watch from far away, to think of all that it means for the Rainbow Nation that after 14 years, troops have once again had to be deployed to help settle the unrest.
It also means something for us here in the U.S. Yes, as with all global conflicts it affects us as we pray with and for them. Yet it can also serve as a mirror in many ways. While the violence and looting are not as obvious and easy to point the finger at, the reality is we are doing the same thing here. Every day in the United States, there are victims of xenophobic attacks. Folks who are harassed, underpaid, stripped of human dignity, beaten, arrested, imprisoned and "sent home" to their nation state. Here we sit in the US, pointing fingers across the world at the tragedy of thousands of lives being destroyed because they thought they were seeking a better life in the "safe haven" of South Africa. For the continent of Africa, South Africa is "the land of milk and honey."
To the world, you know who has that title? The United States. The worst part is, if you're white and speak English, that's all fine and good. But if do not have those two qualities- specifically if you are either from south of our border (Mexicans are targeted the most, but really, Latin Central and South- Americans are given the same treatment) - you will face significant xenophobia in the US. For the very same reasons that we shake our heads today at the South Africans who are looting and walking the streets in anger.
What is happening in South Africa is not okay. Let us continue to shake our heads, to pray with them, and to seek peace in the midst of their violence. But let us not point fingers. Let us instead join hands. Join hands in the fight for true equality, recognizing that there are many reasons for people to have to leave their country, and it is a long, painful, unwelcome process for most.
As a privileged white American citizen, that is something I will never understand or experience. Sure, I have encountered some pretty rough experiences within some of my travels. But the mere fact that such experiences were "in the midst of travels" and I was able to get away from them states exactly my point. In many ways, I have won the "genetic lottery," as by the mere location of my birth I have had and will have privileges (such as said experiences) allotted to me that many would never even dream of.
I am continuing to hold South Africa in my prayers tonight. I lift up those being attacked and seeking a place of refuge and safety in a foreign land believed to have much promise. I lift up those who are trying to help and to stop the attacks. And lift up the attackers, that they might overcome their fears and see the errors of their thoughts and ways, seeking a way of peace.
I also lift up said persons in countries around the world - including the US - for though we aren't in the news right now, these are not isolated incidents. Lord, help us that we might see that there is no such thing as an illegal person, and that you have called us to "love our neighbors" - no matter how near or far our neighbors might have journeyed from to reach us.