Monday, May 19, 2008


The numbers of organized attacks against foreign nationals in South Africa are increasing. Media reports tell how residents of Alexandria and of Diepsloot went on a rampage against foreigners, who were forced to flee after they were assaulted, robbed and their houses torched. A few months back in the Eastern and Western Cape, Ethiopians and Somalis were being chased out of their homes and their spaza shops.

Xenophobia is of course not new. Ever since the beginning of time people have banded together in clans and cultures. We do this for mutual support and protection, and we clothe this in communal terminology such as English manners, or Afrikaner culture, or Xhosa traditional ways. While this is useful for social cohesion, it becomes evil when used as a tool to harm people who are outside of the cultural grouping.

The children of Israel were often tempted to exclude people who were not Jewish – but they were reprimanded: “If an alien who resides among you wants to celebrate the Passover…he may draw near to celebrate it” (Exodus 12:48). In fact they were expressly told that aliens had equal rights before the law: “There shall be one law for the native and for the alien who resides among you” (Exodus 12: 49).

Jesus insists that hospitality to the foreigner is an essential part of being his follower: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me…just as you did it for one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me” (Matthew 25: 38-40). It is the Christian way to welcome the aliens/refugees/strangers into our midst. And when we are unwilling to do so we demonstrate that we have not understood Jesus who changed us from being strangers and aliens, into citizens of the household of God (Ep 2:19).

Those people who want to throw foreign national out of our country are sinning against God. And they will be held to account for their selfish disregard towards the sanctity of human life. Let us hear the instruction of Romans 12:13 to “extend hospitality to strangers” and show the love of Jesus to all who are aliens and foreigners.

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