Updated: Jun 13, 2018
Nyasa Times, a Malawian publication reported yesterday that the government of Malawi has started the ‘voluntary repatriation’ of its citizens at the wake of the xenophobic attacks that have claimed the lives of dozens and displaced many others in South Africa. My heart just really sank when I read that report and ever since these attacks started, I have had so many questions on my mind on the situation and I am not even sure anyone has an answer to the eminent monster that has hit our terrain. When a visitor decides to leave your house in bad blood, it is a shameful thing in my culture, so thats why the action by the Malawian government pained me. It feels like its total strangers dealing with each other.
Among those who have been affected by the attacks are Somalis, Congolese, Malawians and my very own countrymen, Zimbabweans – and because of the latter you would understand how deep this wound cuts for some of us. The violence seems to be provoked by comments made by the reigning Zulu king, Goodwill Zwelithini and I also read that Jacob Zuma’s, who is the country’s premier, son, Edward also made some comments which might have contributed to such hostility to foreigners.
I am really just heart broken by this. Human life is of great value because of the imago dei (image of God) which humans uniquely possess. On a secondary level, I am heart-broken because this violence is incited by fellow Africans on their kinsmen. Are we not one people? What things can you point out that make us different in our African-ness? Nothing. Look at it this way, between 300–600 ethnic groups in Africa speak Bantu languages and we share so many other similarities which outweigh any differences that we have. Bantu peoples inhabit the geographical area stretching east and southward from Central Africa across the African Great Lakes region down to Southern Africa.
There are about 650 Bantu languages by the criterion of mutual intelligibility, though the distinction between language and dialect is often unclear. That is why as Shona as I am I am able to pick up so many phrases from so many other languages because our roots are pretty much similar. By just those facts alone, we can see that we are of one blood and one lineage – which would need a whole blog for me to prove. I guess all I am saying is that we can chose to focus on state boundaries all we want but our history, roots and language and culture bear witness to our connectedness.
One thing that I pick up often from the media and conversations is that South Africans have been carping about the prevalence of foreigners taking over jobs in their country. And by all means, that is a genuine concern. I am just not sure whether these foreigners ‘buy’ their way into positions or they are legitimately qualified to do because then that would have its own implications on the modus operandi of human resources in the Rainbow Nation. If there is shadiness around how these foreigners are employed, then I agree there is a problem – but, the problem is more with the defunct system rather than the prospective employee, if this were true.
So its complicated.
As I watched the video circulating around seeing these young men (who I really think are younger than me) being tied onto a tyre and being burnt, my heart sank. What on earth is that? How does one even do that? I got even more emo when I saw the lady who happens to know one of the people being burnt screaming and shouting at the sight of her loved one smoldering. That’s just inhumane.
But the question is, so what’s really the problem? And I know the answer – and it is not anything other than sin. Xenophobia is a symptom and sin is the root of it.
Writing about this doctrine on the total depravity of mankind, John Calvin said:
So, if sin is the problem, and xenophobia is the symptom, then what is the solution? The gospel.
The total depravity of man is clearly seen in all of the Bible. Jeremiah talks of man’s heart being “deceitful and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9) – that can be the only explanation to a man setting another man ablaze in broad day light because he is a foreigner. The word of God also teaches us that man is born dead in transgression and sin (Psalm 51:5, Psalm 58:3, Ephesians 2:1-5).
We are also taught that because unregenerate man is “dead in transgressions” (Ephesians 2:5), he is held captive by a love for sin (John 3:19; John 8:34) so that he will not seek God (Romans 3:10-11) because he loves the darkness (John 3:19) and does not comprehend the things of God (1 Corinthians 2:14). Therefore, men suppress the truth of God in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18) and continue to willfully live in sin. Because they are totally depraved, this sinful lifestyle seems right to men (Proverbs 14:12) so they reject the gospel of Christ as foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:18) and their mind is “hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is unable to do so” (Romans 8:7).
That is the best explanation I can offer about this! So, if sin is the problem, and xenophobia is the symptom, then what is the solution?
That might sound crazy but that is really the answer. The sin problem can only be solved via the gospel which the Apostle Paul says, “…is the power of God unto salvation to anyone who believes…” (Romans 1:16).
According to the last census held in that land in 2011, about 79% of the population is ‘Christian’, with Zionist and other ‘apolostic churches’ having 11.1% and 12.5% of the total Christian population. It is common knowledge that these churches do not hold onto the gospel as it is revealed in the scriptures. Pretty much, they largely have a prophet who hears directly from God and has no need of the written word of God. So, the groups which are holding the Christian reigns in South Africa are actually not anything close to biblically sound. So there is clearly a crisis.
It is my prayer that my brothers and sisters in the faith in that land would go all out and preach the gospel of God’s grace and hence God will, in the process, call out all His elect from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light.
May we continue praying. Grace and peace.