Some of the burnt areas

Catholic Bishops of South Africa have countered assertions by the country’s authorities that the continuing attacks on Nigerians and nationals of other African countries were motivated by anger towards drug dealers, pointing out that they are simply xenophobic attacks and have nothing to do with drugs.

The bishops who stated this in 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, noted that it was with dismay that they took note of the recent upsurge in violence against foreign nationals.

According to the bishops, 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.

“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,” Tigagale said.

“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.”

The bishops wondered why South African drug dealers were not being targeted if truly it was about drugs.

“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?” Tigagale wondered.

“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.”

The bishops called on all people of faith, and all people of goodwill, to speak out and take action, noting that all religions preach fair treatment to foreigners.