African bishops slam racist violence in Durban

The Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference has spoken out against “xenophobic violence” in Durban, in statement signed by conference spokesman, Pretoria’s Archbishop William Slattery.

Five of South Africa’s 50 million inhabitants are from such troubled countries as Somalia, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, and even Pakistan. Tensions between natives and immigrants due to high unemployment led to violence after the Zulu king Goodwill Zwelithini was quoted as saying that foreigners had to leave.

The bishops have called on the Zulu traditional leader, who insists his words were misinterpreted, to “categorically condemn this violence and publicly propagate the value of hospitality entrenched in the Zulu culture”.

Pointing out that Durban’s Cardinal Wilfrid Napier has already condemned the violence, the bishops recalled biblical injunctions to treat foreigners as though they were natives, and while acknowledging that legitimate reasons may have underlain some of the violence, insisted that South Africa is “a rainbow nation”.

 “We conquered apartheid with very little use of violence,” they said. “The same principle of Ubuntu needs to be applied in order to calm the recent spates of violence and unrest.”