A Coordinated and Sustainable Response to Migrants and Refugees

“I learned that you can be migrant even within your own community, in our parish we are not that concerned about reaching out to migrants and refugees, I will try hard to create a group/ committee to look at working with migrants and refugees in our parish,” said Thulile from St. Jude parish, on the attendees of a workshop on Migration in Eswatini.

It was a meeting of members of the Eswatini Council of Catholic Women (ECCW) from the 17 parishes in Eswatini. Twenty-three women, representing 16 parishes, met in the diocese of Manzini for a three-day workshop, from 29th April to 01 May 2022, on Migration under the theme “Migrants and Refugees: A Coordinated and Sustainable Response.”

The workshop organised by the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference (SACBC), aimed at capacitating migrants and refugees’ coordinators at Diocesan and parish level. It was facilitated by SACBC Migrants and Refugees Office Coordinator Sr. Maria de Lurdes Lodi Rissini MSCS and Social Apostolate and Migration Delegate for Southern African Province of the Society of Jesus Fr. Rampe Hlobo SJ.

The objectives of the workshop, requested by Bishop Jose Louis Ponce de Leon of Manzini Diocese, was to understand the reality of human mobility in Eswatini, to organise pastoral care for migrants and refugees at diocesan and parish level, to support the development of a coordinated network at diocesan, national and international level, and to implement the resolutions of the SACBC 2019 plenary meeting on migration. The Pastoral Care for Migrants and Refugees in Eswatini is being implemented by the Catholic Women as per Bishop’s request.

In her presentation, the Coordinator of the SACBC Migrants and Refugees Office, Sr. Rissini looked at the SACBC 2019 Plenary Session Resolutions for the Migrants and Refugees Office. She underscored advocacy work and pastoral care saying, “Pastoral, social and spiritual care must be provided to migrants and refugees at parish and Diocesan level.”

Referring to the Synodal process Sr. Rissini cited Pope Francis’ call for a Synod on Synodality and encouraged participants to reflect on the Synod’s three key words: communion, participation, and mission in relation to welcoming and integrating migrants and refugees.

Sr. Rissini also recalled the words of the SACBC’s first Liaison Bishop for migrants and refugees Archbishop Buti Tlhagale, when he said, “Enabling people on the move to participate as synodal delegates would help protect their dignity and rights, such a move also would act to ease tensions between migrant and host communities in South Africa.”

The SACBC Migrants and Refugees Coordinator lauded the ECCW members for heeding Bishop Jose’s call to establish structures at diocesan and parish level to assist people on the move. She also encouraged ECCW members to participate in the Synodal process.

In his presentation Social Apostolate and Migration Delegate for Southern African Province of the Society of Jesus, Fr. Hlobo Rampe, addressed the concepts of migration, human rights, protection, and legal frameworks for migrants and refugees. He also looked at the Catholic social teaching on human mobility saying, “The idea of the Catholic Church social teachings is to challenge the structures that cause people to be poor, to be vulnerable.”

Fr Rampe further said, “The Church in its ministry to the migrant community should endeavour to repair and restore human dignity that has been violated by the push and pull factors of forced migration and give them hope.”

During the three-day workshop on migration participants were asked to identify challenges facing migrants and refugees in their communities. According to participants from the four regions of Eswatini, representing 16 parishes,  some of the key challenges facing migrants and refugees in the country are accommodation, employment, and acquiring the necessary documentation.

The delegates were invited by Sr Rissini to take concrete action to structure the Pastoral Care for Migrants and Refugees in the country. It was requested for the delegates to map the existing services provided in each Region,  and a  directory will be combine to facilitate a coordinated work  amongst the Pastoral Care’s Agents in Eswatini.   



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