Remember us winning the Rugby World Cup in 1995? We are a nation of miracles. We are the rainbow nation where amazing things happen. Remember that. Remember that.
And so, WHAT NOW? The World Cup finished today and after the World Cup, what next?
We’ve seen the excitement in our communities, the togetherness, the wonderful hospitality our visitors have received. As a nation, we became one.
We’ve seen a closer bonding between African nations. For many of the younger people, they’ve never had so much fun, or experience of community. For the younger disadvantaged people, there has been a focus in their lives. For a few weeks we forgot all about our differences and problems. We had a common goal. Soccer became the rage.
As I was driving to church the other day at lunch time, there were builders out in the street playing football in the road. We all smiled and waved at each other as I passed. They were having fun and we had a common bond.
And so, WHAT NOW?
Sadly, we have a dark cloud looming over us. We have the ugly threat of xenophobia breaking out again amongst our people.
[In May 2008 a series of riots started in the township of Alexandra (in the north-eastern part of Johannesburg) when locals attacked migrants from Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe, killing two people and injuring 40 others.]
There is so much resentment in the townships of foreign neighbors – of migrants and refugees. They are seen by residents to take away the precious few jobs available, to entice their children to use drugs, to be jumping the housing queue, increasing crime and to be dragging communities down. These perceptions create enormous problems. Amongst other things, people are hugely frustrated over unemployment, service delivery and development.
Refugees and migrants are calling for the government to take a stand against xenophobia. To quote Kamanda, originally from the war torn Democratic Republic of Congo, “We need the South African government to stand up and say who we are and why we are here, but they say nothing.”
Many of our <a target=”_blank” href=”http://www.africa.com/south_africa/leaders”> South Africa</a>n communities have good leaderships and are able to work hard and choose dialogue and conflict resolution. A Dutch cultural anthropologist, who has been living in a black township in Johannesburg for his master’s degree research fieldwork, believes that communities do have the power to choose non-violence to defuse tensions between migrants and locals. He believes that we will need strong leadership that enforces zero tolerance of xenophobia.
Who is my neighbor? The question is one of boundaries and factions. It is a question that seeks to define who is in and who is out.
Renowned priest and author, Henri Nouwen says that our world today is ‘…..full of fearful, defensive, aggressive people….inclined to look at their surrounding world with suspicion, always expecting an enemy suddenly to appear.’ The result is, he says, that many if not most strangers become the victims of fearful hostility.
“Our call is to move from hostility to hospitality by creating that holy space in which strangers may cast off their strangeness and become our friend.” Today, we live in a complex society. What are our solutions?
To quote Bishop Brian on the subject of xenophobia: “Sadly the levels of corruption and protectionism within the South African government are such that it does not seem to have either the capacity or the political will to deal with social delivery problems or to acknowledge and face the issue of the growing number of refugees in our land …” He states that “the only scenario that offers a viable future is that of ‘Walking Together’, and that that ‘walking together’ is a walking together of political leaders with their people in a journey in which politicians recognize that they are public servants elected to serve their people and held accountable to that calling.
We remind ourselves with an explanation from our own Archbishop Desmond Tutu:
“One of the sayings in our country is Ubuntu – the essence of being human. Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can’t exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can’t be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality – Ubuntu – you are known for your generosity.
We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole world. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity.”
Bishop Brian challenges us to move beyond the divisions that have separated us for so long to the point where we can truly say, “I used to be black/white/Zulu/colored/ male/female/gay; now I am a South African/African/human being. And from that point to be able to move to the point where we can say, ‘I am a Christian.’ We are all one in Christ Jesus. We are the body of Christ, the visible image of the invisible God.”
I leave you with the following three thoughts:
If I am only for myself, then what am I?
In human community, everyone is our neighbor.
Being a Good Samaritan takes more than a change of mind. It takes a change of heart.
To quote the 2010 World Cup slogan – “FEEL it. It is HERE (in my heart).”