'Politicians must not wait until situations get out of hand,' say bishops in statement

Southern Africa’s bishops have urged governments in the region to take action in countries with armed conflict and failed economies.

“African leaders must not wait until the situation gets out of hand, when foreign powers will come and act as policemen, (which is) so humiliating for Africa,” said a statement from the Inter-Regional Meeting of the Bishops of Southern Africa (IMBISA) that was released earlier this week.

“Why wait for disturbances such as in Central African Republic, Nigeria and South Sudan?” it said, noting that “prevention is better than cure.”

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“The people of Africa are on the move,” said the statement signed by IMBISA’s general secretary, Archbishop Robert Ndlovu of Harare, Zimbabwe, noting that while some are making progress by moving, others are “fleeing hunger, poverty, war and armed conflict.”

IMBISA represents the bishops’ conferences of Angola, Sao Tome and Principe, Botswana, Mozambique, Swaziland, Namibia, Lesotho, Zimbabwe and South Africa.

IMBISA said the bishops regard as alarming “the misery of our people crossing the border into Malawi because of military operations in northern Mozambique, or Zimbabweans crossing the Limpopo (river) into South Africa or entering Botswana as economic refugees.”

The “enormous human problem” of migration must be addressed by the region as a whole, they said, noting that “there are no national solutions” and migrant-sending and migrant-receiving countries “must talk to each other”.

The protection of human life is the “first duty of any government that respects people and their families,” they said.

“Impoverished refugees can only be stopped if they are given a chance in a restored economy to rebuild their lives at home,” the bishops said, noting their readiness to enter into dialogue with all parties.

“We appeal to our leaders to give work to all our people so they need not go into exile. That is our agenda for dialogue,” they said.

The bishops added that xenophobia threatens Africans, noting that “ethnic hostility as a result of migration is not worthy of the people of Africa and their great Pan-African dream of a united continent.”

Welcoming migrants is a Christian duty and “the Church will not tire of being at the service of homeless people on the move,” they said.

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