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South Africans, refugees and migrants use judo to fight xenophobia

A "dojo" in South Africa's Alexandra township   -  
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MARCO LONGARI/AFP or licensors

South Africa

In Johannesburg's Alexandra township, a recently renovated building serves has the first "dojo" of this deprived neighbourhood.

Around 20 schoolchildren are here to "learn to live together", according to the coordinator of the "Judo for Peace" organisation.

"Friendship, respect they are all things that are taught on the mat, on the tatami, as we call it. So these are things that children learn day by day, by participating together in activities, by working together they learn to live together as well", said Roberto Orlando, the programme coordinator in South Africa.

The aim of the programme is to use judo as a way for refugees, migrants and South Africans to meet, get to know each other, and learn the "moral code of this martial art".

"I think it is very meaningful to have like a migrant coach here, a Congolese coach in a place like Alexandra. It is a place where people can get used to see refugees as someone who brings skills to the country", added the Italian coach.

Recently, xenophobic attacks have returned to this deprived neighbourhood.
An anti-migrant group is behind demonstrations and hit-and-run operations to chase away illegal migrants.

Having a Congolese refugee as a coach is also very symbolic.

"For me, in Alexandra everybody who lives here is like my family. I am Congolese, I am black, I am African, we are all African. For me it is important to help the children here because it helps everybody. So when we learn, what used to be difficult, becomes easy", concludes judo instructor Rudolph Ngala.

World Refugee Day is marked this Monday.

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