the church and zimbabwean refugees

May 14, 2008

Last night I visited Arthur and some of the Pangani people. They have been starting to feel a call to get involved with the Zimbabwean situation. Since Friday I’ve bee feeling the same calling, although with no idea how to actually get involved, so I do what I do: I blog, I tell the stories as I hear them, and I hope to get as many people as possible to think and talk and hopefully get actively involved with Zimbabwe.

But we talked, Andrew was there, who wrote the article I referred to on Saturday, and Jody the Canadian, who is currently working with Zimbabwean refugees, and Arthur, and Mariah, who has spent some time in the past working with refugees (in Canada I think). We talked about the big picture, but also about the small. And this is where our attention got fixed. The small problem (or rather, one of the symptoms) is the millions of refugees currently in South Africa, and on this level it seems possible to get involved.

Obviously, no one will be housing millions of refugees, but it is possible to help a few. These people face enormous problems in Zimbabwe, except for the lack of food and basic medicine, many of them now fear for violence and their lives. In South Africa they now experience some of the worst forms of xenophobia in the squatter camps where they found safety up to now, and this also result in a fear of bodily harm or death.

South Africa don’t do refugee camps, but at places people are trying to help refugees. Central Methodist in Johannesburg is the one example we talked about. There is differing of opinion on what is happening there, but you can read some of it (Ekklesia Article, News report on refugee camp linked with crime), but in spite of the troubles, I hear very positive things about this move. A few other examples were also mentioned, people housing Zimbabweans in their homes, other smaller shelters. The conversation turned so that the other members, who are working together, are now talking about doing something similar, Arthur have a short post on this. My one recommendation is that when this is done, care should be taken that we are not taking away jobs from South Africans when trying to help Zimbabweans. However, if this article is right, there seem to be some space for skilled workers. 

Anyone out there also doing this? Anyone know of anyone that is involved in helping Zimbabwe? Helping refugees? Anyone that would want to get involved but don’t know what to do?

I found a copy of Where We Have Hope last night on my shelf. Bought it at a second hand book stall last years somewhere. It was written by a journalist who worked in Zimbabwe, Andre Meldrum (google this name and you’ll find a lot of info). The end of the first chapter really caught me. It gave words for what I’m more and more realizing my own feelings towards South Africa and Africa is…

“I am seated in the middle aisle and cannot see Harare’s twinkling lights dwindle as we fly up and away. But I do not need to. Zimbabwe is indelibly etched in my memory. I am steeped in this country, it is in my pores. More than just the physical look and feel and smell of the land, I have a deep sense of what the country stands for: liberation, majority rule, democracy and human rights. This is what Zimbabwe meant when it won independence in 1980 and it is what so many are valiantly fighting to regain. This conviction of what Zimbabwe stands for cannot be erased simply by forcing me out of the country.”

Update: I’ve been thinking since Saturday, but forgetting to say this: This might be a good time to again watch Schindler’s list, or using it in church.

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