April 27, 2015

Cry, the Beloved Country. Again.

by Clint Archer

The news in South Africa last week has read like a macabre sequel to Alan Paton’s haunting novel Cry, the Beloved xenophobia graphicCountry. Paton, in 1948, portrayed a disturbing dystopia of incipient segregation between Whites and Blacks in South Africa that would burgeon into the institutionalised racism of Apartheid.

What is unfolding today is the beating, robbing, and execution of immigrants from other African countries.

The news headlines call it xenophobia. That is a misnomer. Xenopobia, which connotes a benign fear of diversity, is defined as “the dislike of, or prejudice against, foreigners.” It’s a sub-category of racism because it is hatred by some (albeit a minority) of Black South African citizens of Black foreigners.

But what is happening in Johannesburg and Durban should more accurately be called xenocide.

The terror began when the Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini (don’t you love eponymous irony?) shifted the blame for South Africa’s unemployment epidemic squarely onto the vulnerable shoulders of immigrants from Ethiopia, Malawi, Zimbabwe, and other African neighbors, whose fruit stands and barber shops supposedly keep citizens out of work. Some of the most economically desperate of his subjects responded with primeval gusto by ransacking, burning, and looting foreign-owned stores and homes…again. Yes, this obloquy of foreigners is an echo of 2008. Last time things fell apart badly, spawning heinous persecution like the burning of Ernesto Alfabeto Nhamuave (pictured below).

xenophobic attack 2008

This time riot police managed to evacuate thousands of people into makeshift refugee camps in sports stadiums. There have been several fatalities, but King Goodwill has backpedalled enough to curb the enthusiasm of his constituency. (One spokesman clarified that the king had meant to say “illegal immigrants”).

I don’t really have anything to say to you about this without risking a lapse into the vacuous opining of Job’s counselors. But I felt I wanted my Christian brothers and sisters around the world who read this blog to know about, and pray for, what’s happening 25 minutes from my doorstep.

xenophobia protestI have lived in Argentina, Israel, and America, and have always been treated with respect and dignity and protection. I am ashamed that after the idol of Apartheid was toppled in the 1990s, our nation has found a new group of victims to label as “different from us.”

We cry with shame for our beloved country, which has so recently squirmed out of the shackles of institutionalized racism, for our inability to show compassion towards desperately poor and vulnerable foreigners. I’m not suggesting we hand out driver’s licenses in a welcome pack at the border to illegals, just that we protest the government lawfully, instead of through an unrestrained oligarchy of brutality.

Here are some verses that I have meditated on the past few weeks to remind me of what Jesus’ love looks like for nations…

Leviticus 19:33-34  When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.

Hebrews 13:1-2 Let brotherly love [philadephia] continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers [philoxenias], for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

Revelation 7:9-10 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

Revelation 20:20 He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!

Clint Archer

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Clint has been the pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church since 2005. He lives in Durban, South Africa with his wife and four kids.
  • tovlogos

    Food for thought, Clint.

    With each day that passes I gain the discipline to see the spiritual component behind all physical action. Daniel 10 had me on the edge of my seat. The war beyond the realm of time is so evident throughout the Scriptures. There si a war within man, each one like a microcosm of the war beyond. I repeatedly see Romans 7:14-25, in the lives of people, who have been sold into bondage to sin (14). So believing in Jesus has to be a proactive endeavor — a taking up the cross. Believers have a hard enough time. What of the unsaved world!? The saved can at least say: Thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

    “Leviticus 19:33-34 When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”

    Yes, that’s the way it should be; and that’s the way it is for the true children of God. However, Irony is one thing; but the paradox stemming from the conflict between the flesh and the Spirit (Romans 7) is a cause for frustration even to believers. The world, on the other hand, has no recourse it seems, but to act out in progressive rebellion.

    The rules never change. I am constantly grateful for biblical bridles that allow me the opportunity to stay above the control of the devil’s chess game.
    Psalm 119:11, first and foremost has been my bridle, and has save me from a multitude of stupid actions.
    It’s not only South Africa that demonstrates the futility of being without God — it’s everywhere. And it is not the only sin bringing this world closer to its abysmal destiny. I don’t see any nation, in and of itself, being saved, per se. I see individuals being saved one by one, as the Spirit sees fit, which is why the elect will be collected from the four winds of the earth. If a nation could be saved, that would mean that every person in that nation in unity, sincerely, proclaimed the mandate in Romans 10:9-10. That nation would be saved. Apparently, half way through the Tribulation, what’s left of Israel will receive Jesus in total. (Daniel 9:27; Revelation 12:7; Zechariah 13:9, for example)

    When people clamour for a Revival, I don’t understand what aspect of the Bible gives them that motivation. The Great Commission is what makes sense to me. There’s a ministry for the unsaved and as well as reinforcing the saved.

    • Thanks for this thoughtful and thorough contribution.

      • tovlogos

        Thanks, brother.

  • Helk

    Carefully worded article. I’m saddened by these events. I like you, have lived in different countries and have received hospitality at the hands of heathens but especially Christians. I pray the light of the gospel may dispel the xenocide, xenophobia and other sins. Governance and rule of law are good, but the gospel is the cure

  • Still Waters

    Amen. Sadly, it is the natural tendency of human groups facing crisis to turn upon the stranger in their midst. Christians must do the opposite – we should love the stranger, for we are also strangers and pilgrims (I Peter 2:11). While reading Deuteronomy recently, this passage jumped out at me (10:17-19):
    “For the Lord your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward:
    He doth execute the judgment of the fatherless and widow, and loveth the stranger, in giving him food and raiment. Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.”

    • Thanks for sharing this.

  • calebkolstad

    Thanks for this helpful perspective!

  • Robert Sakovich

    My heart breaks for the people undergoing such treatment there. And I am sure it must be devastating for you to live through this personally. I pray that God will offer encouragement to you and others there and that He will bring fruit from the light that you are shining there in this dark and dreary world.