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No bread, no matches, no candles — thanks to xenophobia

20 May 2008

A few weeks ago there was xenophobic violence at Atteridgeville, west of Pretoria. Two people were killed, and hundreds of foreigners were chased out of Brazzaville, an informal settlement in Atteridgeville West. Father Frumentius, the Orthodox priest there, gave about 20 of them refuge in the orphanage he runs with his wife Evgenia. He told them that if anyone wanted to hurt them, he would tell them that it was private property and they should keep out.

Later the refugees joined others at a school hall. The Orthodox Church helped them with food, and gave them lunch each day. Other churches gave them breakfast and supper.

Atteridgeville people

Today I took Father Frumentius and the three men baptised at the beginning of March, Artemius, Demetrius  and Sergius, to Yeoville, Johannesburg, where the Pope was coming to visit the Catechetical School. They said that since the foreigners left, they could no longer get bread, matches or candles. The foreigners used to run tuck shops, where those items could be bought easily. Now they have to travel long distances to buy everyday items.

Father Frumentius said that the people who drove them out said that the foreigners took their work, their houses and their women. But that was not true. The South Africans didn’t know how to work and were lazy. Foreigners used to repair shoes, but now no one does that. When shoes need repairing, the people who chased out the foreigners are nowhere to be found. Father Frumentius’s exoriassa was made by a Nigerian tailor, but now the tailor is gone, and the dressmakers, who were all foreign.

A few years ago some children were killed in the area, and the local people began spreading the rumour that it was Somalis who were killing the children. Then the police caught the serial child killer, who was tried and convicted — and turned out to be a South African from Venda. Foreigners were blamed.

Some of the foreigners were builders, and perhaps they could be blamed for taking work from locals. But if you hired a South African builder you would buy ten bags of cement and two would disappear during the night. You would buy 1000 bricks, and 200 would disappear. The foreigners were more reliable.

The xenophobes propagate the story that the foreigners are leeches and parasites, taking jobs from South Africans, but actually they contribute a great deal to the economy. Sure, some are criminals. Perhaps the problem is that the local criminals find that foreigners are better criminals too, and are putting local crooks out of business.

At the Catechetical School in Yeoville, Pope Theodoros II arrived and spoke to the students, who represent a real United Nations. He said to an Angolan student that he would be sent as a missionary to Angola. The Deputy Dean, Father Athanasius Akunda, is a Kenyan, and there have been students from Congo and Zimbabwe as well as South Africans. Its variety shows that God is no respecter of persons, and that people of different nationalitis and ethnic groups can live and study and worship together

Patriarch Theodoros II at Catechetical School, Yeoville

The picture show His Eminence Metropolitan Seraphim, Archbishop of Johannesburg and Pretoria, with His Beatitide Theodoros II, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa, and Father Athanasius Akunda, Deputy Dean of the Catechetical School, with students, teachers and visitors at the school.

Yeoville, the Johannesburg suburb where the Catechetical School is situated, is a pretty cosmopolitan area and there are lots of foreigners living there. Some have said that it will be the next place to be attacked.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Zacharias permalink
    20 May 2008 9:11 pm

    You know, there’s almost the same xenophobic atmosphere in the US with the Mexican immigrants. Makes me wonder what all would dissappear if suddenly the immigrants did too.

  2. 23 May 2008 7:00 pm

    The xenophobia in South Africa seems far more intense than anything in the United States. It is rising, to be sure, but from my day-to-day contact with documented and undocumented immigrants in the United States it seems that most people only fear the government officials, not their neighbors.

    Yes, the United States would be in a pinch if it lost its immigrants, Mexicans, Brazilians and others. It’s heading that way right now.

  3. zeynepankara permalink
    24 May 2008 3:38 pm

    Have a good weekend. I am new here and trying to discover the site. Cheers, Zeynep.


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