At the moment there’s a lot of fear and hype surrounding Xenophobia in SA. There has been a new wave of attacks on foreigners, in several big cities. Many hundreds of Zimbabweans, Congolese, and Indians have been forced to leave the country, whilst businesses have been burnt down and looted.
So far, there’s been very little sign of it in rural areas, and media coverage of the city violence appears to have been blown out of proportion – but its still a slightly tense time to be a non local living in South Africa.
You can deal with foreigners in two ways – you can burn down their shops, or you can have them join your family.
Last week, we were invited to a wedding. We are good friends with the bride’s brother, Paulos, and he invited us to the intimate evening reception in the family homestead.
We turned up, in the dark, and were ushered through to a traditional round Zulu hut, where generations of his family awaited us. Packed wall to wall with gogos (grandmothers), the bride, children, uncles, step mothers, brothers, we squeezed into a space and sat with our, somewhat terrified, children.
Speaking through Paulos as translator, the Nkolo (senior male) of the family welcomed us, introduced everybody in the family, and asked us to pray for them.
Over the next 40 minutes we sung songs in Zulu, English and Sotho. We laughed, and smiled, and shook hands, and hugged. We gave gifts, and received gifts. We were welcomed into the Mthethwa family, they told us “You are now Mthethwa” – which is a real honour, although its going to be a pain getting my passport and driving license changed.
As I look at this beautiful country – and when I look home at looming elections where UKIP gains in the polls – I feel more and more that xenophobia is such a sad waste of energy.
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household.
Last month, when I was given the chance to preach in Harrismith (you can hear the recording here), I spoke on the above passage, and it resonates in us today.
Ultimately, you can deal with foreigners in two ways – you can burn down their shops, or you can have them join your family.
I’m proud to be a Mthethwa, and by extension, proud to be South African too. Let’s build bridges, welcome those in need, and build a better country – a better world – together.