The Seventh-day Adventist Church condemned xenophobic attacks in South Africa that have killed at least seven people and started providing hot meals to hundreds of people displaced by the violence.
South African police have detained 300 people in connection with the outbreak of attacks on foreigners in recent days.
The seven dead include a Mozambican national who was stabbed to death in Johannesburg and six people — men from Ethiopia and Mozambique, a man thought to be from Zimbabwe, and three South Africans — killed in Durban.
“There is no justifiable reason to warrant the senseless violence and prejudice, bringing shame to a new and free democratic South Africa,” said Paul Charles, communication director for the Southern Africa-Indian Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
“To embrace true freedom means to renounce a spirit of domination, abuse, or violence against people,” he said in a statement. “Without reservation, our leadership and almost 3.5 million Seventh-day Adventist members in southern Africa condemn all these senseless and horrendous acts of violence and hatred.”
He said the attacks have also affected Adventist believers, but did not elaborate.
The Adventist Church in South Africa has teamed up with the local branch of the Adventist Development and Relief Agency and the Adventist-operated Meals on Wheels Community Service to feed and provide other assistance to more than 1,500 people, said Tankiso Letseli, president of the church’s Southern Africa Union Conference.
“We have identified persons who have been displaced by xenophobic violence,” he said in a statement.
Letseli said church leaders were looking for additional ways to assist people in restive districts of Johannesburg, which has a population of about 4.5 million, and Durban, population 3.5 million.
“We are also trying to mobilize the support of ADRA International … so that we can increase our reach,” he said.
ADRA International said Monday that it would offer assistance.
“The response is going to consist of hygiene kits that include buckets, bathing soaps, laundry soap, and sanitary towels to 312 families,” ADRA spokeswoman Natalia López-Thismón told the Adventist Review.
She said additional information would be released later in the week. “We are just waiting to hear more from ADRA South Africa,” she said.
Letseli appealed to local Adventist believers to work with ADRA and Meals on Wheels in helping people, and he urged any affected by the violence to cooperate with the authorities in order to bring the attackers to justice.
“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,” he said. “This constrains us to treat one another as brothers and sisters and an injury to one affects us all.”
Letseli pointed to Leviticus 19:33, 34 as the Bible’s final word on how to treat foreigners. It says: “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.”
“May God help us renounce all forms of violence,” Letseli said. “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.”