Over the weekend almost every shop on our street was closed- all run by foreigners. The nights were quiet, too quite for what is normal. There are helicopters that are circling the city almost couple hours, which makes us wonder what they are doing, what they are seeing. Occasionally we would hear a gunshot, but they were random and nothing compared to Thursday night. Attacks have continued and spread to other regions of Johannesburg. A man from Mozambique was murdered over the weekend, and is said to be the 6th person killed in these attacks, however, many deaths and xenophobic activity are not being reported in the news. I’m shocked every time I open the news here and see that other stories are making the headline news, and not the reality of what this country is going through.
People are on edge, myself included. Kids are not going to school. I asked a group of kids playing in my apartment building if they went to school on Monday. One boy spoke for the group, “We went to school, but he couldn’t go.” “Why couldn’t you go?” I asked the boy who had been pointed to. “I can’t go because of xenophobia. I’m from Angola.” The numbers are down at our center for children. One 7 year old girl didn’t go to school, but came to our programs because she feels safe with us. “Why didn’t you go to school,” I asked her. “Because of Xenophobia,” she replied. “What is xenophobia?” I asked her. “It means they are killing all the children,” she told me. It’s so sad to hear how the kids are living in fear of even going to school.
Although the physical violence in my immediate community has slowed way down, the emotional terror these attacks are having on people are very real, and very alive. Shops are closed, money is not made, families are not eating, kids are not going to school, people are hiding in fear, etc.
The thing with these attacks, is that they can start anywhere at any moment. My friend’s sister was in the downtown area catching a bus home and 2 guys asked to carry her bags for her. She politely said no she could carry them herself, and then they started shouting at her, “Why are you speaking to us in English? Speak to us in Zulu!” Very quickly a crowd formed, and they were all shouting at her for speaking English and not the other language. She started running and jumped into a bus that was coming. But it was a matter of seconds that the crowd formed, and guys who were trying to rob her bags created an issue about her not being a native South African to incite others who were listening.
We are still in our apartment, serving with the Joseph Project daily, listening to stories from others, and assessing the situation. A peace march in Johannesburg will happen on Thursday. We will not participate, but several of our friends are planning on going. Please continue to pray for peace in our city- for emotional peace as well as physical peace.