I had, for some reason, been thinking a lot over the last few days about some friends of mine from Africa. They kept coming to mind again and again and I sent some Whatsapp messages asking how they were. Then the news channel on my phone began to spring headlines about African students being beaten up in Noida, a city on the outskirts of Delhi, forming part of the National Capital Region, and today, news of indiscriminate violent outbreaks against Africans in Noida, and the warning bells began to go off in my head.
I quickly messaged friends and students, and read up a little on what had happened. Apparently, the violence was a public reaction to the drug-overdose death of an Indian youth in which apparently, some people from a particular African country were booked. The situation apparently escalated due to ignorance and prejudice. This is the second outbreak of violence in a year against Africans, the last being completely unprovoked.
Messages started to come back. Some had fled into Delhi and were safe, others were still in Noida, unable to venture out as some major connecting roads were blockaded and were under vigilance, making it unsafe for Africans to leave without being spotted and thrashed. Attacks happened in malls. Students young enough to be my children are afraid, some are in hospital, and everyone is shaken. Urgent messages from the Home Minister are receiving platitudes from the State Chief Minister, recently elected, although well known for vitriolic, communal hate speeches.
I’ve been burning with anger and distressed with pain and shame. Anger at the ignorance, discrimination and prejudice, pain at the violence, and shame that we brown-skinned people have a long reputation of colour bias, casteism and discrimination of many forms, not the least being gender. I’ve had a long connect with Africa through music and friends, and I love the people. It pains me immensely to see them face harassment and bad behaviour in a country that many of them look to as a place of opportunity and hope.
I’ve started to pray again for Africans in Delhi and the NCR region, and have asked my church to pray as well. If you are in a habit of praying for people, I would encourage you to remember these precious people before God who loves us all. Many Africans that I know are Christian, but the shock and trauma of dealing with this, forgiving offenders, resisting hatred and cynicism and feeling unsafe is going to be a long and difficult journey. I sincerely hope they will find friends who will help who are Indian, and for sure, I need to step up to the plate.
However, as I was reflecting on these events, it came to me that when fanatics and criminals are at the helm, it’s often a wake-up call for everyone concerned. No one is exempt, because thorns planted will reap thorns, and we are all going to be living in the briars. We shouldn’t be surprised at the stabs and scratches. It’s up to every one of us to consider what we are planting and leaving for others, what we are giving to our children. What we are intentionally doing to make a difference to others around us.
The words of Jesus ring again in my head, ‘You are the earth’s salt. But if the salt should become tasteless, what can make it salt again? It is completely useless and can only be thrown out of doors and stamped under foot. You are the world’s light—it is impossible to hide a town built on the top of a hill. Men do not light a lamp and put it under a bucket. They put it on a lamp-stand and it gives light for everybody in the house. Let your light shine like that in the sight of men. Let them see the good things you do and praise your Father in Heaven.‘ Matthew 5:13-16
We may not be able to change worldviews and systems, but we can make responses, no matter how small and feeble they may seem. They’ve got to start where we’re at, no matter where that may be.
The song below is one of my favourite Bruce Cockburn classics, and I put it up because it helps us feel how others feel, because it reminds us of how we feel. I hope you will be touched by both the song and the post, and that God will be able to use you to make a difference in the life of someone else who is in need nearby.