Archbishop Buti Tlhagale on behalf of the The SACBC Migrants and Refugees Office made a presentation to the Multi-Religious Council of Leaders on the 09 May 2022. The online meeting was attended by various leaders of various religious from different parts of the world. The meeting was about multi-religious efforts to address the root causes of forced displacement and to assist refugees, stateless and internally displaced people.
The presentation from Archbishop Tlhagale, who is a UNHCR high-level supporter, was based on Some data on forced displacement at global level, causes of forced migration, challenges posed by forced migration, the way out, and the pastoral vision. On his later intervention in the meeting the Archbishop of Johannesburg said It would be nice if the Multi-Religious Council of Leaders had a statement of campaign encouraging all governments to promote, allow if you wish, women to have the ability to confer nationality on their children. In this view this should become part of the overall international campaign.
Archbishop Tlhagale also said at a more practical level, again with statelessness, to say to religious leaders that it is important to create good relationships with the department of internal affairs or home affairs, the department that deal directly with the legal status of migrants and refugees. Tlhagale is of the view that the importance of that is that once a personal relationships is created with the officials that deal with statelessness the department will be able to consider the religious organisations or NGO as entities that provides them with honest information with regard to applicants, refugees and migrants. The Archbishop said an honest information is important because the departments can then offer the applicants registration.
Mentioning one of the challenges he said, “one of the hurdles we know from our experience is that the information given to home affairs is not always considered reliable. Whereas if religious leaders and NGO that work with migrants and refugees assisted in providing genuine information it facilitates the registration of migrants and refugees.”
He added by saying, “also at a practical level, we could assist the many migrants and refugees in different countries with actually making applications for them online for registration, so that they are people who are documented and do not remain people who are undocumented.” Giving an example of what is happening in South Africa currently Archbishop Tlhagale said, “There is an organisation called Dudula, which means pushing things around. That organization is increasingly assuming the role of police by asking people in public for their ID documents.” He pointed out that members of this organization do not have a right as ordinary citizens to ask ID documents of other citizens even if they claim to be working with the police.
“In order to save migrants and refugees from such embarrassment and ill-treatment, churches, religious communities, can actually help apply for registration online to government. In a long run what is important is for people to have documents,” said the Archbishop adding that the documents will help overcome the issue of statelessness and lack of identity anywhere in the world.
In his presentation he had highlighted the pastoral role saying it would be desirable that each Pastoral Parish Council identify, elect or co-opt a member on the Parish Pastoral Council whose functions will be among other things to coordinate migrants and refugees affairs within the parish community.
The UNHCR says a build-up to the Global Refugee Forum in 2023, UNHCR and Religions for Peace formed a multi-religious council of leaders to strengthen collective efforts from religious leaders across regions and faiths to address root causes by supporting global advocacy, conflict prevention, reconciliation, peace-building and social cohesion initiatives.