Over forty-five Diocesan coordinators met in Lumko Conference centre in Benoni, South Africa for a three-day workshop on Migration.
The workshop organized by the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) Migrants and Refugees Office, in partnership with the Society of Jesus South Africa, the Parliamentary Liaison Office, SIHMA – Scalabrini Institute for Human Mobility and Lawyers for Human Rights, aimed at establishing coordinated sustainable response with regards to the welcoming and integration of migrants and refugees in Southern Africa.
Present at the workshop were the SACBC Liaison Bishop for Migrants and Refugees Archbishop Buti Tlhagale OMI, SACBC Secretary General Sr Hermenegild Makoro CPS. Also present at the workshop were Fr Lambert Tonamou and Mr Mario Almeida from the Migrants and Refugees section of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.
From the 21st to 23rd October coordinators were asked to share their experiences on migration in their respective dioceses. The workshop aimed at strengthening the SACBC National Migrants and Refugees Office in implementing the Bishops plenary February 2019 resolutions, to support the development of a network at diocesan, metropolitan, national and with the Dicastery level in a coordinated manner, to Organise Pastoral Care for Migrants and Refugees in each Diocese, and to deal with xenophobia in the local communities.
In his welcoming address Liaison Bishop for SACBC Migrants and Refugees Office Archbishop Tlhagale highlighted the recent xenophobic violence experienced in South Africa “One way of combatting xenophobia is to treat other people the same way as we would like them to treat us. But this is a theoretical statement. It expresses a wish. It may however find meaning within the efforts of groups or communities faced with the predicament of labelling people and then turning against them. Our aspiration should be to create welcoming communities” said Archbishop Tlhagale.
The Archbishop also looked at hospitality in the Bible, Jewish hospitality and integration of communities. In his closing remarks Archbishop Tlhagale said as long as protests against poor service delivery continues – attacks on foreign nationals will not end “Attacks on migrant communities and their businesses are likely to continue into the future because such attacks are now inextricably linked to service delivery protests. To disentangle the two will be a massive challenge. Service delivery protests and the anti-foreign sentiment do not belong together. The deep dissatisfaction of South Africans with the corruption and inefficiency of their own municipalities and their national government should not be blamed on migrants. It is grossly unethical to drag the migrants into the quarrels of South Africans. Migrants ought not to be the scapegoats for the serious failures of South Africans. South Africans ought not to harden their hearts and take out their pain on innocent migrants. Migrants have their own burden to carry. South Africans ought to carry their own burden” concluded Archbishop Tlhagale.
Other attendees at the workshop were SACBC Associate Secretary General Fr Patrick Rakeketsi CSS, SACBC National Coordinator for Caritas South Africa/Migrants & Refugee Office Sr Maria de Lurdes Lodi Rissini mscs, SACBC – Counter Trafficking in Person Office Sr Melanie O’Conner, as well as Migrant & Refugees Chaplains from the SACBC region.
By Sheila Pires – Benoni, South Africa