Dion's random ramblings

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Refugees arrested at the Central Methodist Church - shame on the South African Police!

I have not yet been able to establish all of the details of this story. However, I have heard that last night police raided the Central Methodist Church in Johannesburg and arrested 'illegal aliens' from Zimbabwe who were staying in the Church. Bishop Paul Verryn confirmed that the police raids were conducted without a warrant and that their raids caused damage to Church property and chaos among the refugees.

I have three personal problems:
1. I have been to Central Methodist Church numerous times. The Refugees that are housed there include children. To hear of a chaotic and violent police raid scares me! I cannot imagine what the children must have experienced.
2. The South African government has proven itself to be helpless and inept in dealing with the Zimbabwean crisis (both in its foreign policy, and in its care for those who have been displaced!) To conduct such a ham-fisted raid is just ridiculous! Why don't they reward a Church that is doing something about those who are in need. No, instead they break down doors and arrest people!
Forgive me if this is a rant.... But, this current dispensation is reminding me more and more of the atrocious human rights abuses of the apartheid regime.
Lord help us!


  • I am a Zimbabwean legally in South Africa and it breaks my heart. We have been reduced to beggars. We are constantly referred to as "aliens". In that church there were fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, children who have done nothing wrong but to seek refuge in the house of the Lord. Nothing was being done in secret everyone knew of the existence of Zimbabwean refuges at the Methodist Church. By taking this action the South African Police have shown the stand of the government on the mess that Zimbabwe has been reduced to. They are in denial of the suffering of the people. The church is under a biblical mandate to feed the hungry and shelter the homeless. It is a mandate from God and I don't care that the government may not subscribe to the authority of God but I and a whole lot of other people do. What has been done is to stomp upon holy ground rip people out of their place of safety and throw them right back into danger of starvation and potential violence. The state has trespassed big time. Let me address the issue from a language that the state understands. We speak of the Bible they speak of the Constitution as the supreme law of the land. Their supreme document states that Citizens have the right to religion. Christian religion demands shelter and food for those in need. The church was exercising its right under the Constitution, its mandate from God and the urge of any sound human heart to help and the response of the state is to damage property and sanctity. It is a disgrace.

    By Blogger Pamela, at 8:14 AM  

  • Thanks Dion. Please keep us informed? Our own Methodist News Agency!
    I appreciate it.

    By Blogger Jenny Hillebrand, at 8:47 AM  

  • A very sad state of affairs. Where can a person go for help but the Church! Ordinary people! - another scapegoat for political despots to use and abuse. I read a saying the other day, not sure where, but it said "When the bulls fight, it is the grass that gets trampled."

    By Blogger David Barbour - Methodist Minister, at 9:04 AM  

  • Hi Dion - I too was shocked when I heard the news on the radio this morning. This is time for the Church to rise up and act! Here are some suggetions (posted on my blog earlier):

    1. We can start off with fervent prayer. Bishop Verryn and his staff need all the prayer support they can get right now.

    2. We need to lift our backsides off our cozy, well-padded pews and look at ways in which the wider church can be of assistance. This is not merely a Central Methodist Mission issue. This is an issue that affects the whole Church. We need to find out what Central's most pressing needs, are, and have a look at where we can assist in tangible ways. Food, clothing, skills development, financial assistance with utility bills, sponsors for applications to bodies such as SAQA and Home affairs - the list is probably longer, but this would be a good place to start. Central Methodist can be contacted directly via e-mail at pverryn@methodist.org.za.

    3. We need to mobilise the Church in protest against Government's shameful handling of this whole issue - not only last night's arrests, but also the way in which bureacracy and red tape at Home Affairs prevents the timeous processing of applications, the ongoing harrasment by police even of those whose paperwork is in order, and the generally shameful way in which people are simply tossed out of the country like unwanted garbage.

    I don't have the answers as to how all this can be channeled, but we surely need to start somewhere? Perhaps by engaging within our own Church structures - via Circuit Quarterly Meetings or individual Societies to the Presiding Bishop's office - may be a good starting point?

    By Blogger Steven Jones, at 10:03 AM  

  • I'm just playing Devil's Advocate here, and I do have enormous sympathy for these people, but wouldn't they be better off fighting for change in their own country and trying to overthrow Mugabe?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:04 AM  

  • You mean like many of us did here in SA? Lofty ideal, but let's be realistic - there are very few "freedom fighters" in the world. The vast majority of us just want to have a decent life for ourselves and our families. It wouldn't be very Christian of us to say "why not go and fight Mugabe, don't come here", when they have nothing but the clothes on their backs. Jesus never told the Jews that they should arise and fight the Romans - He ministered to the needs as they were presented to Him.

    By Blogger Steven Jones, at 10:29 AM  

  • Steven, I'm looking at this from my standpoint as a non-believer, and that is not meant in any way to offend you nor to belittle your faith. It's just something I don't share.

    Many South Africans fought for the abolition of apartheid and a new regime, 'for 'freedom'. I'm not convinced that what we got left the majority better off. Is freedom worthwhile if it brings corruption, crime, poverty, and a breakdown in the infrastructure?

    I was in Rhodesia during the guerilla war, during the fight to overthrow Ian Smith's regime. Very few fair minded people can say that Mugabe's 'democratic' regime is better for anyone, apart from the ZANU-PF elite and their cronies, than Ian Smith's non-democratic one.

    As people who are able to fight leave Zimbabwe, the strength of the opposition is increased, entrenching the Mugabe regime.

    I do have enormous sympathy, as I said, and I also think that the action of the police in desecrating consecrated territory is unforgivable. Please don't think for one moment I'm trying to defend it.

    By Anonymous Devil's Advocate, at 11:02 AM  

  • No offence taken, and I didn't take your post as being an attack on my beliefs nor in any way condoning what happened on Church property last night.

    My response to your post was based on the plight of the individuals involved. While many South Africans DID fight for the abolition of apartheid, many, many more felt that the sacrifice simply wasn't worth it, and decided instead to go elsewhere to seek a better life. I'm neither condemning nor condoning their decision - my own parents came over to South Africa in 1974 from England wnen I was barely five years old precisely because of the widespread unemployment and depressed economic conditions in the UK at the time (although nowhere near as bad as what Zimbabwe is currently experiencing), so I'm really in no position to criticise those who choose to leave SA to go elsewhere, or those who leave other countries to come here.

    All that I am saying is that upon arrival in a new country, from a purely humanitarian point of view you don't expect a supposedly civilised country to harass you, shepherd you into police vans like common criminals, and shunt you off back to a country where you have little realistic prospect of making any sort of decent living.

    I cannot find much to disagree with at all concerning your points on SA's hard-fought "freedom", Ian Smith's regime, and Mugabe's so-called "democratic" replacement. However, the point I was trying to make concerns South Africa's human rights responsibility as the "host" country - regardless of whether you look at it from a Christian standpoint or otherwise.

    Central Methodist Church has opened its doors to all in need of shelter, irrespective of where they come from and regardless of what they believe. I'm sure that likewise, they will accept assistance from whatever quarter it may come, if it will enable them to do what they believe to be Christ's mission on this earth.

    Surely "do unto others, as you would have others do unto you" must apply to all people, in all circumstances, irrespective of what they may or may not believe?

    By Blogger Steven Jones, at 11:34 AM  

  • I put it on Muti. Get all your readers to go and vote for it so the story becomes more visible

    By Blogger Steve Hayes, at 2:14 PM  

  • I couldn't disagree with you all any more than I can stake right now.

    I do feel pity for these people. But let's look at the facts: They are ILLEGAL immigrants. Not Legal. They are SAPPING the lifeblood from our country. You want to be righteous? Well charity starts at home, is that from the bible?

    Why not fill that church with South Africans in need. In case you haven't notices there are a fair amount of those around.

    Then, I am pretty sure that the same people who belittle the police for attempting to do their jobs are the same people who berate them for not doing their jobs when an illegal immigrant kills someone in SA.

    It's a lose, lose here and you all make it more difficult in every situation. Have a little perspective.

    I heard this story on the radio this morning and one of the illegal aliens (that is the correct term by the way) was disgusted that he was being extricated. PLEASE, are you kidding me, what are we? The red cross nation? No, we are a nation that needs to start protecting itself before it protects others or at the very least simultaneously protects. Preferance CANNOT and should not be given to those who do not belong here.

    SA has suffered long enough thanks to the incredibly disgraceful state of its neighbours.

    We do not take a stand and that stand needs to be for the rights of the citizens of our country.

    By Anonymous Nic, at 3:42 PM  

  • Nic, it's good to have an opposing point of view. I can see your points and their validity. The people are illegal aliens and they should not be in the country but then whose fault is that?

    Thabo Mbeki has much to answer for in tacitly condoning the state of affairs in Zimbabwe and for not sealing the borders.

    Most of those people are not criminals (compared with, for example, the hundreds of thousands of Nigerians in SA who by and large are an evil lot) and they do deserve some sympathy.

    It's not about giving preference, its about treating people as human beings, and by all accounts this raid was inhumane. Believe me I am no bleeding heart liberal lefty, nor do I practise any formal religion. I believe in capital punishment and zero tolerance for crime, but this raid is unacceptable.

    By Anonymous Devil's advocate, at 4:44 PM  

  • Can anyone give me the address of the church? Eventhough I'm not from SA and I live on the other side of the world I would like to help where I can.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:26 PM  

  • I think the cops should be more professional about their work. In recent times they have be proven to be very violent when conducting raids. whether it be on Zimbabweans or students the police are simply acting above the law. This cannot be tolerated as they destroy the ends of justice by acting unlawfully! In the passed weeks Zimbabwean Refugees have been persecuted for living in SA. Many have died in Pretoria and many will still suffer in the winter to come. I don't really foresee any peaceful solution to the problem in Zim. Mugabe will probably rig the election on Saturday which will bring further turmoil to the people in his country.

    By Blogger Marc Morris, at 4:40 PM  

  • I would like to contribute to helping these people. If anyone has more information as to how i can come in contact with anyone at the church. Please email me at nerissa.kruger@gmail.com... Thank you

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:00 PM  

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