28 April 2015
PRESS STATEMENT BY THE SOCIETY OF FRIENDS IN CENTRAL AND SOUTHERN AFRICA YEARLY MEETING (QUAKERS)
Statement on Xenophobic Violence in South Africa
The Central and Southern Africa Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) is deeply troubled by the violence aimed at foreign nationals that is spreading throughout South Africa.
South Africa has a terrible history of disrespecting African people. Historically the white minority population used its political power to disrespect and violate the human rights of black South Africans in ways that were violent and brutal. Apartheid was, fundamentally, a legal policy of Afrophobia that dehumanised black South Africans. We are therefore deeply saddened that some South Africans are turning on fellow human beings in ways that are also violent and brutal. Violence has never produced peace; it has simply bred counter-violence.
Our view is that the root cause of this wave of violence is desperation. This includes desperation at a lack of opportunities and jobs, desperation at grinding poverty, desperation at the lack of housing, healthcare and other services, and general desperation at the lack of social justice 21 years on from the end of Apartheid.
This desperation around jobs and poverty affects South Africa’s neighbours as deeply as it affects South Africa, whose economy is crucially linked with that of its neighbours, and the wider continent. It is a desperation that is entirely understandable, but attacking fellow humans will never remove the root causes of suffering in our society.
We call on all South Africans to consider deeply the root causes of poverty and desperation in our country and we call on all leaders, particularly political ones, to:
- Clearly and unequivocally stand against any kind of violent action against all fellow human beings;
- Take concrete steps to ensure an outbreak of this kind of violence does not happen again;
- Ensure that those responsible for perpetrating violent attacks are brought to justice, including those who have engaged in hate speech to incite such attacks;
- Address the root causes of desperation among poor people in South Africa which result in misdirected anger at innocent people, including:
- acting speedily to rid the country of the corruption which is draining the public purse,
- ensuring the progressive roll-out of public services to poor people,
- addressing our economic crisis which has resulted in high unemployment levels,
- providing vocational training to address the unemployment problem,
- reducing economic inequality which has been shown to undermine social cohesion.
Quakers have a 250-year-old peace testimony and firmly believe that there is “that of God” in every human being. In our view, this violence does nothing to build South Africa or to increase South Africans’ hopes of a better life for all. It needs to stop. Forever.
Quakerism is a way of life rooted in a transforming experience of the Divine. From this we seek to live out our principles of truth, peace, simplicity and equality, recognising that of God in everyone. Our meetings offer a place of welcome, encounter and spiritual exploration. Quakers are also called “The Society of Friends”.
The Central and Southern Africa Yearly Meeting unites Quakers in Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Zambia.
Contact person: Helen Holleman, Yearly Meeting Clerk, mobile phone number: 079 227 9698, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org