The annual conference on immigration under the theme ‘Migration in Africa’ held at St Joseph’s Theological Institute (SJTI) in Cedara, Hilton, KwaZulu Natal, from April 14-15, aimed to address the global phenomenon of migration on the continent to contribute for a better action at the levels of the Church and the society.
Organised by SJTI, in collaboration with the SACBC Migrants and Refugees Office and other religious orders, the annual immigration conference saw the participation of pastoral care agents from the local parishes, seminarians, representatives from the civil society, and the KwaZulu Natal Christian Council, as well as migrants and refugees who gave testimony of their lived experiences in the host country – South Africa.
The first day of the conference saw the participation of representatives from the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference (SACBC), Clergy, and theologians who addressed the phenomenon of migration in Africa.
In his welcoming address, the conference coordinator Tanzanian Theologian Fr. Wilbert Gobo said, “We are all migrants, and we are to be in solidarity with other migrants.” He then went on to quote Pope Francis’s encyclical “Fratelli Tutti” and highlighted Pope Francis’s invitation to “be in solidarity with the migrants.” Fr. Gobo further said that Pope Francis “advocates for the creation of a global governance of the migrants.”
Fr Gobo went on to give a vote of thanks to the keynote speakers and participants saying,” It is the participants who make any conference a success. Without participants, there is no conference. You are the people who are making this conference possible.”
The first day’s morning session included a keynote address by the first SACBC Liaison Bishop for Migrants and Refugees Archbishop Joseph Buti Tlhagale of Johannesburg Archdiocese, who focused on the plight of migrants and xenophobia in South Africa. He also highlighted the Catholic Church’s efforts in assisting undocumented migrants and refugees with online registration.
Meanwhile. the afternoon session began with a keynote address by the SACBC Liaison Bishop for Migrants and Refugees Bishop Joseph Mary Kizito of Aliwal Diocese. In his remarks, Bishop Kizito encouraged participants to revisit the SACBC Pastoral Plan which highlights ministry for migrants, refugees, and trafficked persons.
Other topics addressed during the two days immigration conference were issues related to visa application, the growing number of migrant women and children, as well as faith-based leaders’ collaboration in tackling violence towards migrants in KwaZulu Natal.