“It’s not just about the migrants” – Pope Francis
The Southern Africa Catholic Bishops Conference – SACBC Migrants and Refugees Office in collaboration with the CPLO- Parliamentary Liaison Office, SJ Society of Jesus, SIHMA – Scalabrini Institute for Human Mobility in Africa and LHR – Lawyers for Human Rights held a three day training workshop on migration for pastoral care agents’ and volunteers in Hazyview – Witbank Diocese.
The three day workshop held at the Marian House, St Joseph’s Catholic Mission – Hazyview, from the 22nd to the 24th of July is part of the Bishops resolution at the end of the February plenary session to prioritize ‘Migration’ in every diocese, by training pastoral care agents and volunteers.
Over forty pastoral agents, volunteers and religious from Witbank Diocese, Mpumalanga, Limpopo, Eswatini and Ressano Garcia – Mozambique attended the workshop.
In his homily at the opening Mass on Monday 22nd July, SACBC Associate Secretary General Fr Patrick Rakeketsi reiterated Pope Francis plea of welcoming the stranger in our midst. Fr Rakeketsi also referred to migration in the bible, of how Jesus was also a migrant.
Following Mass, Fr Sylvester Namale opened the session with a presentation entitled ‘Understanding International Migration in South Africa’ – an eye opener concerning ones roots/origins. Sr Melanie O’Conner spoke about ‘Human Trafficking and Smuggling’ – a sad reality in the area, as the Mpumalanga corridor is most prevalent with regards to human trafficking and smuggling.
Other speakers included Frs Rampe Hlobo SJ, CPLO director Peter-John Pearson, SIHMA director Filippo Ferraro, LHR Lusungu Kanyama Phiri and Caritas/Migrants and Refugees national coordinator Sr Maria Rissini.
Participants learned of migration in the Bible, how Mary and Joseph migrated to Bethlem, the migration from Egypt to the Promised Land, how Jesus himself was also a migrant – the Theology of Migration dating back to the third century, and the teaching of the Church on Migration. The importance of access to social services for migrants and refugees and the Human Rights of Migrants, undocumented migrants, and statelessness.
Participants also had an opportunity to talk about their respective parishes activities concerning the welcoming of migrants and pastoral care services. José Muianga from CEMIRDE spoke about ‘Trafficking in Human Organs and Body Parts in the Southern Region – Mozambique/South Africa. The Scalabrini Sisters from Ressano Garcia – border of Mozambique/South Africa presented a video about their work with young migrants who were either deported or escaped from child labor.
Also present at the workshop was Hazyview SAPS Station Commander Colonel Sabelo Mlangeni who hailed the Bishops initiative and asked that it be rolled out throughout communities, as a means to end xenophobic sentiments and instill social cohesion.
The training workshop in Witbank Diocese was especial, as it was the dream and desire of the late Bishop Giuseppe Sandri who passed away at the age of 72 on Ascension Thursday, May 30 2019. In a meeting with the SACBC Migrants and Refugees office last year, the late Bishop Sandri expressed his desire to have the workshop in his Diocese to not only address migration, but human trafficking and smuggling.
The next workshop on migration is scheduled will take place in Lumko Retreat and Conference Centre – Benoni from the 21st to the 23rd of October 2019.
by Sheila Pires – Johannesburg, South Africa – July 30th, 2019