Original Research

Church and xenophobia: The tension between nationhood and God’s mission in South Africa

Christopher Magezi
Verbum et Ecclesia | Vol 44, No 1 | a2892 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ve.v44i1.2892 | © 2023 Christopher Magezi | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 05 May 2023 | Published: 09 October 2023

About the author(s)

Christopher Magezi, Department of Missiology, Faculty of Theology, North-West University, Mahikeng, South Africa


The perennial scourge of xenophobic violence in South Africa raises some questions about the nation’s hospitality to immigrants. Unexpectedly, Christians are also torn between loyalty to the prevailing anti-immigrant sentiments and the obligation to be hospitable to foreigners. This article, therefore, seeks to explore this tension, and the objective is achieved by surveying pertinent literature.

Having traced the history of xenophobic violence from the dawn of South Africa’s independence in 1994 to the present day, the article discusses the involvement of Christians in xenophobic violence, which can be viewed as a paradox. Thus, the article thoroughly reflects on God’s mission to foreigners and how the Church, a God-ordained community, fulfils that mission, which began in the Old Testament, when God anointed Israel as the vehicle of redemption for the world. Unfortunately, Israel failed to accomplish the mission, which was ultimately fulfilled by Jesus Christ, who ordained the Church as the new covenant community that would fulfil the aforesaid mission. This study reveals that all people, including foreign nationals, bear the image of God, who indiscriminately loves and cares for all of them. God’s legislation in Israel’s history and the New Testament Church attest to that. The article concludes by exposing the tension experienced by South African Christians, as well as proposing a thrust for Christians to participate in God’s mission by practising sacrificial love and hospitality to foreigners.

Intradisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary implications: This is an interdisciplinary article that looks at theological and sociological issues of co-existence.


Xenophobia; Persisting Xenophobic Challenges; Church; Christians; Hospitality; Foreigners; Tension; Nationhood; God’s Mission; Love

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 16: Peace, justice and strong institutions


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