Statement by Bishop May on Arrests at
Central Methodist Church, Johannesburg
I am shocked and indignant at the action of the South African police in the arrests (on January 30) of some 1,500 homeless refugees, many from Zimbabwe, who had taken refuge at Central Methodist Church in Johannesburg.
I cannot believe that such a raid could take place -- a raid without a warrant of a house of God, arresting people who have been driven from their homelands by hunger and repression. Unbelievable!
The General Board of Global Ministries and the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) are thankful that we are partners with Central Church and its leader, Bishop Paul Verryn, in the homeless ministry now so dishonorably interrupted. We intend to continue in this partnership in all possible ways despite the horrifying action of the South African police.
Central Church has a long history of serving as a refuge, a center of hope, for the homeless; the church's program helps displaced people obtain food, shelter, child care, and jobs. These ministries of love are well known to both the city and national authorities. Why is there now hostility to humanitarian service?
The police's pretense of looking for "drugs, guns, and illegal immigrants" must mask some sinister political agenda that deserves careful investigation.
I call upon the police and the national government of South Africa to do whatever they can to made amends for their action at Central Methodist Church. This could begin by releasing the people arrested and apologizing to them and to the church and its leaders. The government can then go forward with a program to assist immigrants from Zimbabwe and other areas who enter South Africa believing they are going into a country of care and compassion.
Further, I urge former South African President Nelson Mandela and Anglican Bishop Desmond Tutu, both South Africans known for commitments to justice and fairness, to look into the Central Church raid and use their influence so that such a thing will not happen again.
Bishop Felton E. May
Date posted: Jan 31, 2008