The country of South Africa has recently experienced a variety of attacks on foreigners living within its borders. Termed as “xenophobia”, the violence escalated in KwaZulu-Natal, which quickly spread to the Johannesburg area of Gauteng and the East Rand suburb of Primrose, amongst others.
In response to news reports, Bishop Clive Reid and Counsellor Alex Angus of the Edenvale Ward visited the site to assess the needs of those seeking shelter in various tent-camps. Contact was established with Reverend Jones and other members of the Primrose Methodist Church. Working together, the LDS Church offered to feed 300 and provide hands to assist in other areas.
Messages started going out via the ward’s “WhatsApp” Group and Facebook page. Relief Society President, Dianne Hasapis, arranged for bread, vegetables and soya for soup, pots and gas stoves. Appeals for volunteers were sent out. By that afternoon, a team arrived at the Methodist Church with car loads of supplies. Volunteers jumped into action, assembling over 1500 sandwiches, drinks, etc. for the weary refugees.
An additional need was assessed at two other camps, where another 1000 people were seeking shelter. Messages were sent out to rally Latter-day Saints to again assemble. Conveniently, a Friday night youth activity had already been planned for that evening, including a blanket collection drive. Suddenly, it became a practical application of a disaster response situation.
Just as donations had arrived at the Church site, electricity was lost, due to scheduled load-shedding. This did not stop the relief effort. Using car lights, tables were set up and food started to be handed out. With the word of 3 busses and 2 truckloads of people on the way from Germiston, teams sprang into action again. Using candlelight, lanterns and headlamps, volunteers assembled 4000 sandwiches and fed 2000 people in three locations.
Other religious organizations, including the Islamic community, have joined the relief effort. Working together with The Red Cross, Methodist & LDS Church groups, they are providing 3 meals a day for the camps around the Germiston area.
On Saturday, Gauteng Premier, David Makhura, and a group of senior officials visited the camps and the Methodist Church hall in Germiston to assess needs and give support.
Also on Saturday, South African President, Jacob Zuma, called on religious leaders to pray for peace and friendship following the recent attacks against foreign nationals. In a prepared statement, President Zuma was quoted as saying, “We humbly request our religious leaders nationwide to send out a message of peace and friendship to all our people.” The President cancelled a visit to Indonesia on Saturday in order to visit displaced foreign nationals in Chatsworth, as well as the community of Umlazi, both in Durban.
The LDS Church teaches its members to sacrifice their time and resources in helping those in need. In a recent address, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, a member of the Church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, stated, “Rich or poor, we are to do what we can when others are in need.” In the LDS book of scripture, the Book of Mormon, it reads, “And they shall look to the poor and the needy and administer to their relief that they shall not suffer…” Elder Holland went on to say, “Although I may not be my brother’s keeper, I am my brother’s brother, and ‘because I have been given much, I too must give’.”
The Africa Southeast Area Presidency confirmed to SA Mormon Newsroom that all missionaries and members throughout the Area are safe and secure. All church property is intact and the communities affected are being taken care of through interfaith efforts of service. The Church will continue to evaluate and work in partnership with The Red Cross and other religious organizations to provide assistance as needed.
Please visit this news site, as well as South Africa Mormon Newsroom’s Facebook page for daily updates on the situation in Johannesburg, as well as in Durban-KZN