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South Africans begin to rebuild after violent riots

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Catherine Smith joined other members of her residential community in the southeastern province of KwaZulu-Natal last Thursday to begin four days of cleanup. They pushed back carts abandoned by looters and swept up broken items after a week of violence.

Other teams from City Hope Disaster Relief, a Christian nonprofit organization of which Smith works as chief executive, carried out similar cleanup efforts on Saturday in the eastern port city of Durban, where rioters targeted people. warehouses and factories.

“There is not one person in our region who has not been directly affected,” she said.

The week of protests following the arrest of former President Jacob Zuma quickly spiraled out of control, killing more than 330. Authorities arrested more than 2,500 people, many of them for theft and vandalism. Mass looting and insecurity directly affected many communities like Smith’s. Some calm has returned to the affected provinces, but the economic situation that sparked the protests remains.

Zuma visited this month to begin a 15-month Supreme Court sentence after he failed to appear for an investigation into corruption allegations during his nine-year tenure. Zuma criticized the process as being biased and appealed his sentence. The protests that followed focused mainly in Gauteng province, which encompasses the capital Johannesburg, and Zuma’s home province, KwaZulu-Natal.

Authorities said the majority of the deaths occurred in scuffles when looters targeted shops and took TVs, clothes and food. Others have targeted and barricaded major highways, disrupting the transport of food, fuel and other supplies. According to the South African Property Owners Association, looters attacked around 3,000 stores, damaged at least 113 communication structures and destroyed 1,400 ATMs.

Last Monday, Smith woke up to learn that City Hope’s unit at a storage facility had been set on fire by looters. The ministry lost about 200 food packages, among others. “Everything had been taken, broken or burned in some way or another,” she said.

Violence and looting cut off access to local food suppliers and disrupted the local supply chain. Smith said they have to scramble to keep new suppliers supplied. Police and army troops this week escorted aid convoys and delivery vehicles from supermarkets to affected areas.

“From Monday to Wednesday, the noises were gunshots in the air, dogs barking and people screaming,” she said. “On Thursday, we heard planes flying overhead bringing food, aid and support to the province.”

In the Smith neighborhood, several men compiled a list and carried out two to three hour night patrols last week. The government has deployed more than 25,000 troops to help police restore order, but the community remains vigilant.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa called the riots “economic sabotage” and promised to bring the perpetrators to justice. “Worst of all, these instigators sought to manipulate the poor and vulnerable for their own benefit,” he said. “This attempted insurrection failed.

Some communities have banded together to respond to the destruction. Over 58,000 people have joined Rebuild SA, a Facebook group of volunteers set up to support people in need. Smith said the neighbors are making bread and yogurt to share. Others who could enter some of the few stores open bought dozens of eggs and other food items to deliver to community members.

But people are worried about the economic roots of the problem. South Africa has imposed more lockdowns and business closures in the face of a third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unemployment hit a record high of 32.6% in the first quarter of this year. More than half of the population lives in poverty in the country with one of the highest levels of inequality.

“It’s been simmering for a long time… and it just needed a trigger,” said Marcus Van Wyk, member of the More Than Peace Coalition, which includes Christian leaders.

The latest unrest has put around 150,000 jobs at risk and is expected to have a significant impact on national GDP, according to the South African Property Owners Association. Van Wyk said Christians need to think about how to respond with peacebuilding and conflict resolution efforts. The coalition hosted a webinar with more than 300 Christian leaders last week on how to work on what it called the “three fault lines”: poverty, inequality and unemployment.

“We frame the narrative that as darkness increases, our light should shine even brighter,” he said. “As the body of Christ, we respond collectively, and all of our little responses add up to one larger response at the end of the day.”

A Red Cross health worker assists a man on hunger strike at Saint-Jean-Baptiste-au-Béguinage church in Brussels in June.
Associated Press / Photo by Francisco Seco (file)

Migrants go on hunger strike in Belgium

Belgium has announced a breakthrough on an agreement with several hundred migrants on hunger strike to obtain residence permits.

In order to put pressure on the government, more than 400 migrants started the strike on May 23 inside a church and two universities in the Brussels capital. Many migrants from South Asia and North Africa have reported living in Belgium for more than a decade. The country hosts around 150,000 undocumented migrants. Some of those on hunger strike have stopped drinking water while at least four have sewn their lips to demand legal access to jobs and social services.

“In this city we live like rats,” Nepalese Kiran Adhikeri, 37, who has lived in Belgium for 16 years, told Reuters. “I beg them (the Belgian authorities), please give us access to work, like the others. I want to pay taxes, I want to raise my child here.

Belgian Asylum and Migration Secretary Sammy Mahdi has repeatedly refused to grant general amnesty to striking migrants, instead encouraging them to file individual residency applications. In the agreement presented on Wednesday, the government would individually examine cases of migrants in a neutral zone, according to Egbert Lachaert, chairman of the Prime Minister’s Liberal Party.

The UN special rapporteurs had expressed concern that some of the migrants were between “life and death” after choosing to refuse water as well as food. Some of the protesters ended their strike on the basis of unspecified assurances from the government. –OO

The Embassy of Canada in Beijing

The Embassy of Canada in Beijing
Associated Press / Photo by Mark Schiefelbein (file)

Canada opens the door for human rights defenders

Canada will resettle up to 250 global human rights defenders and their families each year under the government’s Refugee Assistance Program, Canada’s Immigration Minister announced last week.

Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino said the new route to permanent residence would focus on high-risk people like women, journalists and people who identify as LGBT. The government will partner with groups such as Front Line Defenders and the United Nations Refugee Agency to identify and assist those in need of protection.

This decision makes Canada one of the first countries to chart a course dedicated to human rights defenders. “We not only hope that this initiative will be successful and provide much needed support to human rights defenders who need it, but that it will also be an example that other governments will follow in order to ensure enhanced international protection for human rights defenders. human rights defenders at risk. “said Andrew Anderson, Executive Director of Front Line Defenders. –OO

COVID-19 hits Nepalese churches

At least 130 pastors have died since a second wave of the pandemic hit Nepal from April, leaving many Christian communities without leaders.

Among them is Pastor Amber Thapa, who founded the Stuti Prashansa Church in the capital Kathmandu. “The body of my dear friend Pastor Thapa was bagged, tied with rope and cremated by the military,” said Rev. Brian Winslade, deputy secretary general of the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA).

BP Khanal, pastor and leader of the Janajagaran Party of Nepal, said Christianity today that more than 500 pastoralists and their families contracted the virus between February and June. “In May, pastors were dying almost every day,” he said. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Nepal has recorded more than 672,000 infections and more than 9,600 deaths since the start of the pandemic. Winslade said the AEM has partnered with the National Churches Fellowship of Nepal and the Nepal Christian Society to support families affected by the pandemic and provide medical assistance. –OO


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