Astride and her son Archange have been in South Africa since 2003 when they fled from their home country. As a talented, self-taught seamstress, Astride developed her own business, designing and sewing beautiful clothes from within her flat. Archange is a star high school basketball player on the DHS team, and involved with CAST’s Sport & Youth Development Programme.
Back in 2008, Astride and Archange were displaced by xenophobia violence because they are Congolese refugees, and had to stay at a church for safety. However, the recent xenophobia attacks have been much worse for Astride and Archange, making it unsafe for them to even leave their flat. Archange and his two younger brothers have been unable to travel by taxi to attend school. Astride has been unable to leave the flat to buy fabric because of the violence, and most of the fabric shops in town are shut down because they are owned by non South Africans. As a result, Astride relies on a South African friend to deliver fabric to her.
Astride and her family live in an area with a high concentration of non South Africans. Most people in this area feel trapped, and are stressed by the sound of grenades, police sirens, and guns outside their buildings. Families have been forced to stock up on food because most of the shops are closed. While the families in Astride and Archange’s flat building feel they have safety in numbers, many households are planning how to protect themselves because of the lack of response from the government and police. The building’s sole security guard is South African, and many tenants feel unsure of their safety.
In addition, the long-term implications of xenophobia are massive. Household providers are unable to work and pay rent. Students are unable to attend school and fail to prepare for exams. Those who need medical attention or medicine are forced to wait, as they cannot travel to the hospital. Some immigrants and refugees are also fearful that they may be given tainted medicine or food. Travel by taxi is almost impossible because of the attacks, and if you choose to walk outside as a non South African, you have to constantly watch your back.
Many refugees and immigrants are packing up and going back home to their countries. However, as Astride says, “We are so stressed but our hope is in Jesus Christ. Only God protects.”
Astride and her family are just one of countless families affected by xenophobia. CAST is partnering with other churches and organisations to make sure that those affected by xenophobia violence are cared for through non-perishable food, clothing, blankets, and hygiene products. Thank you to everyone who has already given generously – This very morning, CAST delivered donated items to local churches in Durban central that are caring for those displaced by the violence.
In the words of Archange, “Maybe xenophobia will end, but the pain will last forever. At the end of the day we’re all African. It’s supposed to be one Africa united, one Africa under God.”
Let us live out Archange’s words – one Africa united in peace!
Romans 12:18 “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
If you are interested in donating items, please bring them to Westvile Baptist Church, 2 Church Place, Westville: