Friday, 8 May 2015

I Couldn't Open My Door When You Knocked Because I Thought It Was Xenophobia



                          By Fr. Pat Amobi Chukwuma

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After consuming a plate of sumptuous rice and beans, punctuated with one third of roasted Igbo chicken, I transported the meal down the intestine with a cold bottle of beer. Then I undertook a brief walk before relaxing on my executive seat in my room. As the meal was digesting gradually in my body system, I grasped my mobile radio to hear the latest news. I heard breaking news that there was Xenophobia outbreak in South Africa. My stomach sounded like thunder as fear shook my entire body. I shouted, “What? Another outbreak of a deadly disease in Africa again! Ebola must have come back in another form. God forbid!”

As I was shivering, I heard a knock at my door. I didn’t answer incase it was Xenophobia knocking. The knock became more forceful. A voice shouted, “Father, open the door! There is an emergency. Someone is dying. It is a sick-call.” I knelt down and prayed briefly. Then I sprinkled myself with Holy Water before opening the door. Behold, it was one of our houseboys knocking. He told me that a sick person needed to be anointed urgently and the caller was waiting outside to collect me. But before going for the sick-call, I first anointed myself in case the sick person was suffering from the strange Xenophobia outbreak.
At my arrival at the sick man’s house, I enquired from a member of the family what the young man was suffering from. I nearly slumped when I heard that the sick man just came back from South Africa. This recalled my mind on what happened during the Ebola outbreak. In a certain hospital, a patient came for medical attention. She went to the Registration Apartment to obtain her card. The registrar asked her from where she came from. In her honesty she said that she has just returned from Sierra Leon and suddenly fell sick. We are aware that Ebola virus disease has its tap-root in that country. Immediately the hospital registrar heard the name Sierra Leon, she abandoned everything and jumped out of the window. As the information spread within the hospital, the doctor scaled over the hospital high wall and ran away. All the patients admitted in the wards also took to their heels. One of the patients was seen running with a bag of drip being infused into her body. The most surprising thing was that the corpses lying in the hospital’s mortuary also ran away because of the Ebola scare. Till today, the corpses’ where about is not known. May be they ran into world beyond to rest eternally without burial. The hospital became deserted. The sick lady who returned from Sierra Leon stood alone wondering what was amiss. Out of confusion, she walked sickly out of the hospital. Her sickness worsened.
Now let me go back to the sick-call story. I was strengthened to hear that the doctor confirmed that the sick man I came to anoint was suffering from acute malaria and shortage of blood. With faith in God, I did the prayer and anointing charismatically. I asked for soap and water to wash my hands before leaving. At home I took a hot bathe with highly concentrated anti-bacteria soap. Prevention is better than cure.
The next moment, I saw myself sitting comfortably at my study table. Within some seconds my cellular phone rang. It was my friend living in South Africa calling. Because of the fear of contracting Xenophobia through the phone, I rejected the call. However, to avoid culpable ignorance, I brought out my English Language Encyclopedia and all the dictionaries I have. I began to search for the meaning of Xenophobia. I was shivering as I was turning the pages of the dictionary for fear of the unknown. The Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines Xenophobia as “fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign.” I nodded and exclaimed, “So, I have been wallowing in chronic ignorance! Oh, Xenophobia is not a disease. Thank you my God!” Instantly, I called my friend in South Africa and apologized for rejecting his call out of ignorance. I enquired if he was safe from the Xenophobia outbreak there. He answered positively.
Having found out the meaning of Xenophobia, my mind rushed back to my sad experience in Germany when I was learning German language in Bonn. I lived in a nearby small city. I shuttled by train everyday to the language school. In the house where I resided, I lived with a group of German men whose Fraternity sponsored my studies. I was the only black man in the house and language was still a barrier to me. It happened that one of my hosts was xenophobic. Others were friendly to me. But that man was so hostile to me. There was a day we were going for site seeing. By then I have started speaking little German. Innocently, I approached the xenophobic man and asked him the direction we were going. He looked violently at me and wanted to skin me alive. I took to my heels. From that day on, I became fearful of him and avoided him as a lamb avoids a leopard.
I stayed with the white men for five months during my learning of German. At last, it was time for me to leave for the University to begin my formal theological studies. Two days to my departure, I informed them at table that I was through with my stay there. Therefore I shall be leaving in two day’s time. For the first time, the xenophobic man unconsciously or consciously shouted, “In two days’ time?” Do you know that I saw happiness radiating from his face for the first time since my stay there?  Xenophobic men are sadists.
In German expression, being hostile to foreigners is known as “Auslaenderfeindlichkeit” while being friendly to them is referred to as “Auslaenderfreundlichkeit.” What of you and I? Are we friendly or hostile to foreigners or strangers living among us? Shall we be surprised to hear of xenophobic priests or pastors? What of xenophobic landlords and tenants? Remember that no condition is permanent. We should all be friendly to one another wherever we find ourselves. Your enemy can be your savior tomorrow. We can also be xenophobic to animals and plants around us. Let us not be hostile to animals which are harmless. Trees also should not be cut indiscriminately because we shall need shade some day.
Very recently, Xenophobia broke out in South Africa. As I was growing up I heard of Apartheid Regime in South Africa. The Great late Nelson Mandela was a victim of the monster for so many years. The White minority lodged it over the Black majority in which blood flowed like water. Evil can reign for some time but not forever. Democracy has conquered Apartheid in South Africa. Thanks to God and the efforts of anti-apartheid men and women in Africa in particular, and all over the Globe in general. Nelson Mandela rose from Prisoner to President. He is now reaping in Paradise the fruits of his labour and sacrifice for the people of South Africa.
Yes, South Africa is in the news again. They said it is Xenophobia. This barbaric act was said to be instigated by the King of Zulu, by name Goodwill Zwelithili. Hear his words: “We urge all foreigners to pack their bags and leave…They dirty our streets. We cannot even recognize which shop is which. They are all blocked by foreigners.” A hungry man is an angry man. The black men of South Africa, especially the youths, took laws into their hands. A bloody attack against foreigners especially Nigerians and blacks of other Nationals broke out. The armed South African youths stormed the streets with arms and stones. They killed, maimed and destroyed. They broke into shops belonging to foreigners, routed and destroyed all their goods. The victims were mostly black African immigrants. Nigerians have been counting their losses. The Igbo would lose most. Nigerians, especially the Igbo, are very industrious. Any part of the world that you do not find them, then know that there is no life there. Fellow Nigerians living abroad, as you look for greener pastures abroad, remember that home is home. Therefore embrace the Think-Home philosophy.
My dear South African brothers, remember your agony in the days of Apartheid. Why are you jealous of immigrants? You should be happy that your black brethren and others came to develop your country and enrich your economy. Why not imitate their hardworking spirit? King Goodwill Zwelithili of Zulu, remember what happened to King Herod who killed innocent infants. He decayed alive covered with worms. King Pilate who condemned Jesus Christ to death is still languishing whenever it is said or sung: “Suffered under Pontus Pilate.” Now it is “suffered under King Goodwill Zwelithili of Zulu.” You should rather change your name to King Badwill Zwelithili. Do not forget that you can be a stranger somewhere, some day.


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