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Chaos at Methodist church as refugees attack religious leaders (VIDEO)

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A meeting held at the Central Methodist Church in Cape Town turned violent this morning, as angry and frustrated refugees allegedly turned on religious leaders. Rev Alan Story, Archbishop Thabo Magkoba and officials from the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) had attempted to explain viable solutions to refugees, who are demanding to be resettled in other countries. The refugees had been living inside the church for the past two weeks after they were forcibly removed from the UNHCR offices, where they had staged a sit-in protest for weeks. The Archbishop and SAHRC commissioner Chris Nissen were violently attacked as well as others trying to broker peace.

Nissen said Storey had made an impassioned appeal to the foreign nationals to leave the church, as the living conditions had become untenable. A local pastor from Delft took to the podium and a refugee then ran towards him to grab the microphone. One of the refugee leaders knocked the pastor to the ground and a scuffle broke out.

“Some of them started hitting the Archbishop and they hit me on the head. They pulled us and we fell to the ground. They were throwing bottles and other stuff towards us,” he told VOC News.

“Luckily, there were some women that stood between us and the people. We then ran to the pulpit for safety.”

Nissen said there was no police presence at the time, as they assumed the meeting would be a peaceful one.

“Papi, one of the leaders, and Rev Storey asked for calm. After 30 minutes, were were escorted out of the church.”

WATCH:

WARNING: This video contains some scenes of violenceA meeting held at the Central Methodist Church in Cape Town turned violent this morning, as angry and frustrated refugees turned on religious leaders. Rev Alan Story, Archbishop Thabo Magkoba and the SAHRC had attempted to explain viable solutions to refugees, who are demanding to be resettled in other countries. The Archbishop and commissioner Chris Nissen were violently attacked as well as others trying to broker peace. It's believed they were injured and had to vacate the church. The refugees had been living inside the church for the past two weeks after they were forcibly removed from the UNHCR office, where they had staged a sit-in protest for weeks. Nissen told Mail & Guardian it had become "a hostage situation". Luckily the archbishop and I managed to get out. They hit him and they threw bottles at him,” he said.“They went berserk. We gave them a report back on what we have done. And then another Congolese pastor came up and spoke and then they attacked the pastor. They then rushed the podium and attacked us," he related.

Posted by Voice of the Cape Radio – VOC on Thursday, 14 November 2019

 

In a statement, the SAHRC called on the South African Police Service (SAPS) to arrest the perpetrators of this assault. The Commission, however, cautioned against this act being used as an indictment against a vulnerable group, being non-nationals, in particular, asylum seekers and refugees.

“The Commission calls on all within society not to use this incident or the associated occupation of UNHCR offices in Pretoria and Cape Town, by some refugees and asylum seekers, as an excuse for acts of xenophobia,” said the SAHRC.

The Commission said it will continue in its efforts to resolve the occupation of UNHCR offices by refugees and asylum seekers.

“The Commission reiterates that the occupation of UNHCR offices do not serve the needs of asylum seekers and refugees, as resettlement is entirely based on the willingness of receiving countries of final destination. The Commission, the UNHCR and authorities will continue in their endeavours to address the concerns of the group of asylum seekers and refugees concerned, as well as all other non-nationals in South Africa who are concerned by acts of xenophobia,” it stated.

“The Commission, however, demands that all parties concerned remain committed to non-violent resolution of the situation in an effort to find a sustainable, practical solution to the concerns raised.”

Police could not be reached for comment.


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