Adventist Leaders Speak to Violence in South Africa & the Mediterranean
From ANN, April 21, 2015: As many as 900 migrants died when their boat capsized in the Mediterranean on Sunday as migrants from North Africa seek to make it into Europe fleeing violence and poverty. At the same time there has been an increase in attacks on immigrants living in South Africa.
Italian and foreign ships and helicopters worked into the night to find possible survivors. So far this year a total of 1,500 have died attempting to cross the Mediterranean. The numbers hurt or killed in South Africa are less clear.
“We are deeply moved by this latest tragedy in the Mediterranean Sea,” said a statement released by Andreas Mazza, a spokesperson for the Inter-European Division of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination. “It is striking to see the pain and suffering wrought by this disaster, that touches some of the world’s most vulnerable people. People, who are searching for a better life. People, who are claiming back their dignity as human beings.”
“The Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Southern Africa-Indian Ocean region is outraged by the recent, current xenophobic attacks against foreign nationals in South Africa,” stated a release by Pastor Paul Charles, communication director of the denomination’s Southern Africa-Indian Division. ” There is no justifiable reason to warrant the senseless violence and prejudice bringing shame to a new and free democratic South Africa.”
The European statement continued, “There are issues of prevention we cannot walk away from. We cannot ignore the huge humanitarian crisis in northern Africa. The Bible says that we are all of one spirit, and that ‘if one part suffers, every part suffers with it.’ That is the reason why we suffer and mourn all together, today. May the Lord bless all relatives and friends of the victims with comfort and peace.”
The South Africa statement continued, “To embrace true freedom means to renounce a spirit of domination, abuse or violence against people. Without reservation, our leadership and almost 3.5 million Adventists in Southern Africa condemn all these senseless and horrendous acts of violence and hatred which has also affected members of our church.”
The Adventist Development and Relief Agency and Adventist Community Services organization have been mobilized by the denomination in South Africa. “We have identified persons who have been displaced by xenophobic violence,” said Pastor Tankiso Letseli, union conference president in the country. Adventist volunteers are “on the ground providing food supplies and further aid to … 1,500 persons daily in the Durban area. We are currently providing cooked meals in the Chatsworth and Chesterville areas.”
Pastor Mpho Rantsoabe is coordinating a team that has identified “hot spots” in the Johannesburg area for the purpose of responding and intervening. “We are also trying to mobilize the support of ADRA International … so that we can increase our reach.”
The South Africa statement also said, “We all, each one, regardless of our nationality, color or creed are made in the image of God (Colossians 1:15) and take the issue of human dignity very seriously. This constrains us to treat one another as brothers and sisters and an injury to one affects us all. The collective fabric of South Africa is diverse and dynamic and must be preserved at all costs without violence or the shedding of blood. Human dignity elevates every person we meet to the status of one with infinite worth, a person to be respected, loved, and honored.
“The Bible commands … how we should treat one another. ‘If a foreigner lives with you in your land, you are not to mistreat or oppress. Foreigners living among you must be treated like your own people. Love them as you love yourself …’ (Leviticus 19:33-34) May God help us renounce all forms of violence, coercion and violations of people’s consciences and physical and emotional integrity. May He grace us with the strength to embrace peace in all its dimensions. May He give us the determination to uphold every person’s dignity. May He also create in us the will and the passion to work for the freedom of everyone until the One who is coming comes.”
The Adventist News Network (ANN) is the official news service of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination.