AFRICA/SOUTH AFRICA - Lockdown for Covid-19, the Scalabrinians: "Poor and immigrants without livelihood"

Wednesday, 22 April 2020 coronavirus   poverty   solidarity   missionaries   slums   orders  

Johannesburg (Agenzia Fides) - In South Africa the situation is becoming increasingly tense. Government measures that require the lockdown due to Covid-19 prevent those who live for today from getting food. The poorest people are exhausted. "The situation is dramatic for both immigrants and South Africans living in townships", explains Scalabrinian missionary Pablo Velasquez to Agenzia Fides in Johannesburg. "For several weeks - he reports - the government has imposed a quarantine and people used to going out to get food every day have found themselves without any livelihood for themselves and their families. Here despair is touched by hand. I receive messages almost every day from desperate immigrant workers, with nothing to eat. Among them, there are many Mozambicans who are victims of exploitation here in South Africa".
Hundreds of people came to the gates of the parish of Saint Patrick, south of Johannesburg, which Father Pablo runs with his confreres, to get "a food parcel", that is, a bag with basic food products for a family. On Monday alone more than 200 men and women, mostly African immigrants, turned to the religious. The tension is palpable. "The South African government excludes foreigners from aid", continues Father Pablo. "In our parish we are doing all we can to meet the needs of these brothers who break the restrictive measures imposed by the authorities to go in search of food", he adds.
The Scalabrinians, however, struggle to find the necessary food. "It is sad to say - observes the missionary - but if things continue like this, we will never make it with our resources. So far no one has come to offer us help. So far the food that has been distributed in our Church arrived thanks to the donations of our parishioners during Lent".
Among the people queuing in front of the parish, many say "it is better to die of coronavirus than starvation". "We have often heard this sentence pronounced - he observes -. The other day some of them pronounced it also in front of the police officers who had come to disperse the line in front of our church. At the beginning we religious also feared that we could get infected Faced with the desperation of these people, we thought back to Jesus' words: "Don't be afraid, it's me ..." Therefore, while respecting the measures imposed by the government, we extend a hand to anyone who asks us for help". (ES-PA) (Agenzia Fides, 22/4/2020)