Who is My Neighbour? In Luke 10, a lawyer asks Jesus how to inherit eternal life. Jesus replied: “What is written in the law. How do you read it?” The lawyer replied by reciting the commandment: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and love your neighbour as yourself.”
Then Jesus said: “You have answered correctly, do this and you shall live.”
Then the young man wanting to justify himself asked Jesus: “And who is my neighbour?” Jesus recounts the parable: A man is attacked and left for dead on the side of the road. A Priest and a Levite (both considered honourable and holy men) pass him by. Then a Samaritan, a person belonging to a culture at odds with the Jewish people, took pity on the man by caring for him.
Jesus then asks the lawyer, who of these three acted as a neighbour to the robbed man? The lawyer answered: “The one who showed him mercy.”
This timeless parable, taught to children in Sunday school, is one of the cornerstones of our Christian faith and repeatedly manifests in our scriptures, sermons and commandments.
Operation Dudula has advised the Diakonia Council of Churches in advance of their plan to march to the Diakonia Centre today, Thursday 7 July to hand over a petition.
The Metro Police have confirmed that permission has been granted. While we are unaware of the content of the petition, we surmise that, given the widely acknowledged stance of Operation Dudula against illegal foreigners in South Africa, they are targeting the Diakonia Centre because there are tenant organisations that work with fellow Africans.
The work of these organisations is very much in line with the Biblical mandate given to the Churches to embrace the stranger in our midst. We look to ourselves as mirroring the Biblical role of the Good Samaritan.
Leviticus 19 verses 33 & 34 read: “When an alien lives with you in your land, do not ill-treat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.”
This could be paraphrased for modern South Africans to say: “When a foreigner from an African country lives with you in your land, do not ill-treat him or her. The African foreigner living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him/her as yourself, for you were foreigners in Africa during apartheid. I am the Lord your God.”
Our stance at the Diakonia Council of Churches and that of the tenant organisations is clear. We are about social justice for all, and will continue to provide services to all who require them. We are cognizant of the fact that some foreigners have gained entry into our country illegally, which is an issue for the government to address. When a person presents themselves to any of the organisations in the Diakonia Centre they will continue to be treated with dignity and grace, and provided protection from forces that wish to harm or destroy — just as the protection that was provided to those who presented themselves at the Centre during the apartheid era, when the then government sought to harm or destroy them.
The theme chosen for the Diakonia annual Good Friday Service this year was “Living together with the alien in our midst”. This theme was, however, disrupted by the April floods that took place on the Monday of Holy Week, which altered the theme of the sermon that day to talk about flood relief, which was more topical and urgent in eThekwini at that time.
We do recognise that the Constitution confers the rights to freedom of speech and the right to assemble, demonstrate, picket and petition, and as social justice organisations, we would not want to deny that right to any in our country. Operation Dudula are exercising that right, and have done so lawfully. We look forward to receiving their petition, which we will then peruse and determine an appropriate response that fits in with our mandate as a Council and as tenant organisations. They have indicated a willingness to engage in discussion, which we will schedule with them on the day we meet to receive the petition.
We hope that they recognise the same right to freedom of speech, and the freedom of association, that are conferred on us as organisations by the Constitution, and that we can meet together and attempt to find common ground in the interests of South Africa and all who live in it. DM/MC