Zimbabwe churches call for immediate end to xenophobia

United Methodists joined other ecumenical church leaders in calling for an immediate end to xenophobic violence in South Africa.

In calling for an immediate stop to the ongoing xenophobic violence against immigrants in South Africa, Bishop Ishmael Mukuwanda said more practical measures should be taken by Zimbabwe. Mukuwanda is the president of Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations, an umbrella organization for all Christian groups, and is also the Zimbabwe Council of Churches president. Zimbabwe United Methodist Bishop Eben Nhiwatiwa is a member of both the umbrella group and the council.

“We need to pray, and also come up with solutions and urge politicians and MPs to do something to correct the reasons why our children (Zimbabweans) are running away to South Africa, because if we do not correct that, we will not get an everlasting solution,” he said. He spoke at a prayer meeting organized by the Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations.

Zimbabwe has an estimated 3 million nationals who have fled the country for better opportunities in South Africa. Of these, more than 800 have voluntarily been repatriated back home while the majority are still living out of country.

The Rev. Shingi Munyeza, Evangelical Fellowship Zimbabwe president, represented the body of Pentecostal churches. Munyeza declared that there is no justification for the murderous acts happening in South Africa, a nation that received support from other African countries during the apartheid era.

“The Evangelical Fellowship Zimbabwe condemns this inhuman, criminal, horrendous and diabolically motivated behaviour which can neither be socially, legally nor politically justified under whatever pretext or context. The sacredness of human life cannot be compromised or exchanged for any personal or corporate gain,” he said.

His statement applauded the South African government for the public denunciation of xenophobia, but urged them to employ more effective and sustainable ways of stopping the unreasoned fear of foreigners or strangers.

‘Economic refugees’

Munyeza called on the Zimbabwean government to offer “practical, appropriate, relevant, immediate and long term remedies to the diverse categories of Zimbabwean immigrants living in South Africa.

“We further implore the government of Zimbabwe to take urgent political and economic steps to reduce the need for our people to become economic refugees in neighbouring countries where they are exposed to all kinds of humiliation and xenophobic attacks.”

“We are completely appalled. . . we have completely lost our humanity,” said Songe Chibambo the Pan African Missions director for African Enterprise from South Africa.

“The significance of this gathering is that God is calling us as the church to be our brother’s keeper. . . we must be interwoven with the cobweb of humanity,” said Bishop Guide Makore of the African Evangelistic Enterprise Zimbabwe, an interdenominational parachurch organization.

The Rev. Sabina Chikeya and the Rev. Dudzai Mutsikwi, both United Methodists, were highly optimistic that these prayers and calls by the church leaders will bring about a positive change to the happenings south of the Limpopo River.

The prayer meeting was an initiative by the Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations.

Maforo is a conference communicator in the Zimbabwe Episcopal Area.

News media contact: Vicki Brown at (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org. 

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