Besides praying that the violence would end, what would be good to pray to the God who is both Sovereign and good in this latest outbreak of xenophobic violence in South Africa?
As a starter for further reflection (and actual prayerful action) here are some general categories and ideas for prayer (I’m sure you can think of more). Perhaps you could use them to direct both your own prayer but also prayer in your local church. They’re not intended to elicit the response of ‘Wow, what incredible prayer points!’ Rather they’re given to try help encourage prayer by having some points and categories in one easy place, so that we may pray.
* Comfort and support for grieving and struggling foreigners
* Leaders of the country and of local communities
* The police as they curb the violence
* The perpetrators of violence and hatred
Comfort and support for grieving and struggling foreigners
Scripture for reflection:
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.
(2 Cor 1:3-4 NIV)
- With the loss of life and livelihood and location, pray that the Father of compassion may comfort the hearts of these poor foreign friends residing within our borders and provide for their needs.
- Pray that especially those who already know the comfort of God (i.e. his people, the church of God) may be quick to reach out in comfort and compassion in these dark moments as they remind people of the One who knows pain and suffering and who actually suffered in our place.
- Pray that South Africans in general might provide the things needed for these people to survive and get back on to their feet.
- Organise a prayer meeting at your church to pray about these matters
- Gather items (food, clothing etc) and get them to a local group asking for donations for foreigners (eg. As far as I know, The Red Cross office at the corner of Northway and Umhlanga Rocks drive is taking collections. )
- Make sure that the foreigners in your congregation have what they need. Offer to go and buy their weekly groceries for them (remembering that many of them feel unsafe going into the CBD for doing their shopping).
Leaders of the country and of local communities
Scripture for reflection:
1 I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone– 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all men–the testimony given in its proper time.
(1Tim 2:1-6 NIV)
- Pray for the leaders of the South African government, from the President down to municipal leaders. What to pray?
- Pray that they may have wisdom in these matters, knowing how to govern well for the good of all people and how to make well informed decisions in these tricky and dangerous situations.
- Pray for genuine love and care for those under their care (including the foreigners staying here)
- Pray for leaders who lead because they want to help the marginalised and the poor, not to get a fat salary and status.
- Pray for the leaders of the local foreign communities, that they may have calm and wise heads in these situations and that they may influence their communities in a way that encourages peace.
- Pray that in these matters we would be pointed to the mighty good leader Jesus who is the one we should want to be leading us.
- Google or scan through news reports for the names of the local government leaders and pray for them specifically.
- Write a letter/email to your local government leader expressing your views.
- Join a well organised and totally legal peace march to show your support? (exercise caution and wisdom in making that decision)
The police as they curb the violence
Scripture for reflection:
1 Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. 4 For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience
(Rom 13:1-5 NIV)
- Pray for these servants of society that they may have the stamina and energy as they’re stretched to breaking point
- Pray for them to be just and fair in their actions
- As they are surrounded by so much brokenness, pray against bitterness and a hardening of themselves against victims. Instead pray that they would have compassion.
- Pray that they may have opportunity to talk about the things they see and even have to do with trained counsellors.
- Pray against, especially in their tiredness, rash and violent decisions and actions which may make situations even worse
- Pray that they may be useful in curbing the activities of trouble makers and that they may have success in apprehending those who have committed crimes
- After you have prayer, why not visit the SAPS facebook pageand drop them a message telling them that you are praying for them and what you have been praying for them.
- When you see a cop, why don’t you thank them for their service? Surely that would both encourage them in their work and perhaps even encourage them to live and act in line with the expectations of the people who value them.
The perpetrators of violence and hatred.
Scripture for reflection:
Paul writes, himself a man with a checkered past…
14 The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. 17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
(1Tim 1:14-17 NIV)
- Pray that these people may stop and/or be caught
- Pray that operating within mobs will not mean that the can carry out crimes without responsibility for their actions.
- Pray that they may realise that they will one day come under God’s judgment and let that lessen or even stop what they intend to do.
- Pray for these people to find life in Jesus. After all he came to save sinners, you and I, and these people.
- I’d imagine that it would be tempting to look down on these ‘wretched sinners’ who are killing and looting, and forget a number of things: one that at the root of these issues is sin (even if there are other factors like a lack of education or poverty), and two, we personally don’t escape from knowing sin and our own accountability. So perhaps one good action as we pray would be to also confess our own sinfulness.
We had a prayer meeting of Christian groups on the Howard College Campus yesterday and this is the prayer I prayed as we started the meeting:
“Father we come before you saddened by the recent outbreaks of xenophobia in our country. And yet as sad and horrified as we are, we remember that this grieves you too – that all of this goes against your desire for people to live with you as their God. We know that at the root of this xenophobic violence is sin – Our expression of living against you and your good ways. Yes, these last two weeks we have seen sin on display but it has simply made obvious something which is always there. If it’s not xenophobia then it’s racism or sexism. Or pride, or self-reliance on ourselves instead of trust in you. Or the cutting words we say to the people around us. A lack of generosity, a lack of compassion. Bitterness, anger, sexual immorality. We don’t love you or others as we should. So as we gather together to rightfully pray against xenophobia, to bring these terrible events to you in prayer… Well, we don’t do it forgetting that at the heart of the issue and that in this matter of sin, we ourselves, even if we haven’t taken part in this xenophobia, well… we don’t stand uncontaminated. Many of us here are people trusting in your Son Jesus: We thank you Father for sending your Son – that the judgment our sin deserves has been paid by him. We are grateful that our sin no longer stands against us to condemn us. And yet even as we live as your people we know we continue to struggle with sin. And so part of that means again that as we gather now to pray against xenophobia we don’t do it as the high and mighty looking down on all those so called terrible sinners. But no, in our hearts we do it down on our knees knowing that ‘But for the grace of God, that could be me.’ Help us as we pray now. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen”
Some odds and ends
- Pray that people would be discerning in what information they pass on. There have been multiple smses doing the rounds which are false and merely add to the tension. So too are the various videos, often related to non-2015 xenophobia, but are then brought up as examples of what is currently going on.
Read more at: http://www.timeslive.co.za/local/2015/04/16/social-media-abuzz-with-false-rumours-over-xenophobic-attacks (16 April) http://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/Police-concerned-about-xenophobia-hoaxes-on-social-media-20150417 (18 April) http://mg.co.za/article/2015-04-20-security-cluster-probing-circulation-of-xenophobic-messages (20 April)
Lastly, I want to post something soon in regards to wider South African society ,namely that these xenophobic attacks should cause us to consider the everyday plight of the poor and marginalised South Africans who receive no news coverage of their daily struggles. I will try do that soon and to include some prayer points there too. (Post here)
PS: do you have any more ideas for what to pray about?
Image credit: http://www.gratisography.com/