Archbishop Buti Tlhagale: ‘Don’t blame migrants for govt failures’
By Sheila Pires – Attacks on migrant communities and their businesses are likely to continue because they “are now inextricably linked to service delivery protests”, according to the archbishop of Johannesburg.
“To disentangle the two will be a massive challenge. Service delivery protests and the anti-foreign sentiment do not belong together,” Archbishop Buti Tlhagale told a workshop on migration at Lumko in Benoni.
Migrants should not be scapegoated for “the deep dissatisfaction of South Africans with the corruption and inefficiency of their own municipalities and their national government”, he said.
While criminal activity played a part in the xenophobic violence, the archbishop said, it would be naive to underestimate the deep tensions between migrants and local people who falsely accuse foreigners of taking their jobs.
“The truth of the matter is that the South African economy has virtually ground to a halt. A far more convincing intervention by the state is desirable in order to quell the violence and deal decisively with those who commit crimes with impunity,” Archbishop Tlhagale said.
However, he added, it is also necessary that migrants integrate into South African society. “It takes two to tango. Both migrants and local people have to willingly find each other. Prejudice is overcome when both parties become involved in the same projects.”
Over 45 diocesan coordinators met for the three-day workshop on migration, organised by the Migrants and Refugees Office of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference in partnership with the Society of Jesus South Africa, the Catholic Parliamentary Liaison Office, the Scalabrini Institute for Human Mobility, and Lawyers for Human Rights.
The workshop aimed at establishing a coordinated, sustainable response with regard to the welcoming and integration of migrants and refugees, and at dealing with xenophobia in local communities, in line with the bishops’ resolution at their February plenary session.
Also present were Fr Lambert Tonamou and Mario Almeida from the Migrants and Refugees section of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.
Archbishop Tlhagale, as liaison bishop of the Migrants and Refugees Office, offered a pastoral vision, calling for each PPC to appoint a member whose functions would be to:
- Coordinate migrants’ and refugees’ affairs within the parish community.
- With the assistance of the PPC, facilitate, create and promote a welcoming and hospitable parish community.
- Create a discussion forum on issues of concern to both migrants and local communities.
- Liaise with religious and NGO groups involved in migrant issues at parish level.
- Plan and adopt best practices concerning assistance given to migrants and refugees. For example, Holy Trinity church in Braamfontein cooperates with faculty members of the medical and dentistry schools to assist migrants.
- Cooperate with the St Vincent de Paul Society, the Catholic Women’s League and the Knights of Da Gama to collect second-hand clothing and shoes for the needy.
- Facilitate the provision of English lessons, if needed.
- Pay special attention to the needs of migrant children, and facilitate the integration of migrants into the local community.
- Find ways and means of dissuading local communities from taking out their dissatisfactions on migrants.
- Hold rituals of reconciliation.
- Appoint a sub-committee with the help of the PPC.