Danger and Opportunity in Zimbabwe and South Africa

By Nontando Hadebe 5-29-2008

I have heard that the Chinese symbol for crisis means both danger and opportunity. The political and economic crisis in Zimbabwe and the crisis brought by xenophobic violence in South Africa present both danger and opportunity. 

For many citizens from both countries, the crisis has become an opportunity to express their values of compassion and generosity.  In the past week, there has been an outpouring of aid from many local citizens in the form of provision of clothing, food, and shelter for people displaced by the recent spate of xenophobic violence. Faith-based organisations, communities, and individuals have joined forces to give a different message to victims of violence. There are reports of some communities making a stand against xenophobic violence.  The crisis has created opportunities to express one's values.

In Zimbabwe, individuals, communities, and faith-based organisations continue their efforts at addressing practical needs and struggling for justice. Further, there are cross-border support groups. So opportunities exist and are being taken up by many. 

However, real danger exists. If the root causes of xenophobic violence are not addressed, the danger of more violence is real. The humanitarian crisis created by the violence continues and requires immediate and long-term solutions. There is already a health crisis in the temporary shelters.  Similarly, if violence continues in Zimbabwe and elections are not free and fair, the danger of a political collapse and escalating violence is real.

The prominence of violence in these interrelated crises is disturbing. The "weapons" that are needed to counter violence are unlike military weapons. These "weapons" of wisdom, knowledge, justice, and visionary leadership translate into practical strategies that address short- and long-term political, economic, and social needs -- particularly those of the poor.

Prayer is one of the primary sources for these "weapons," and the starting point that will inevitably lead to creative action, support, and partnerships, etc. Thank you, too, for your prayers

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