At the beginning of the second day of the workshop on Migration on the Diocese of Bethlehem and Cross-Borders, Bishop Joseph Kizito of the SACBC Migrants and Refugees Office thanked the organizers for having invited the brothers and sisters from Lesotho. Speaking in his homily about the imprisonment of Paul and Silas because of a slave girl they liberated he said that liberation was a reason they were put in prison and them too, the representatives of migrants and refugees, might be put in prison one day, “Dealing with migrants and refugees and human trafficking may put you in prison also”.
“You are servants of the Most High, and that is why we are here”, said Bishop Kizito indicating that it is the mission of the participants of the workshop, “to announce how people can be liberated, how people can live a life of dignity”
Noting that it was the singing and preaching of Paul and Silas in prison that was the source of the conversion of the jailor and said the participants too are called to touch the lives of the government officials, “For me one of my aims is to work with the Home Affairs, departments, that the spirit of compassion, kindness, charity may come into them”. The Bishop said there is a need for the spirit of salvation to come into the government officials so that not only the migrants, refugees, and those trafficked may be liberated but also the same government officials. This according to the Bishop will help the officials to seek to know what the constitution of the country says about human rights.
“This is your call, not to be one-sided, but also to support the departments that as they are doing their work they also do it very gently with an open heart”, advised Bishop Kizito.
The hosting bishop, Bishop Jan De Groef, said the importance of this inter-conference workshop is that they are not dealing with an just an issue but dealing with people, making a reference to what Pope Francis said in his World Day of Communication message, “We must listen to people stories, and that changes everything.” “If we look at people just as numbers it doesn’t touch our hearts”, noted Bishop De Groef adding that if people are looked at faces and have their stories listened to it becomes different. The Bishop of Bethlehem, South Africa, cited the April killing of a foreigner Elvis Nyathi in Diepsloot, far north of Johannesburg, noting the solidarity of the SACBC in condemning this brutal killing. Bishop De Groef said the Church needs to go against the tide and look deeper into the causes of this problems and not rely on public opinion. “All people are important to Jesus, he came for all,” said Bishop De Groef in closing.
Speaking about the migration issues the visiting Bishop from the Lesotho Catholic Bishops Conference (LCBC), Bishop Joseph Sephamola of the Diocese of Qacha’s Nek said, “Historically Lesotho and South Africa were interdependent when it came to labour needs. A lot of Basotho worked in the South African mines and their Remittances contributed significantly to Lesotho’s Gross Domestic Product. Bishop Sephamola said in the early 1990’s the professionals who could not find work in Lesotho started migrating to SA for highly skilled jobs such as Health Specialists, Engineers , Lawyers , Business owners , IT specialists , Professors in various fields of Higher Education etc. The Bishop notes that the face of Lesotho Migrants in SA changed from mainly the lower level mine workers to including highly skilled professionals who hold positions of power in SA.
Bishop Sephamola continued saying presently Lesotho citizens in SA comprise of Professional Integrated migrants with citizenship in SA and Lesotho as well as the vulnerable migrants, many who do not have documentation in SA and therefore irregular and stateless. He said these irregular, undocumented migrants do not have the documentation of either Lesotho nor of SA thrusting them and their children into unending cycle of statelessness. “These Lesotho citizens use illegal border crossings surrounding Lesotho so moving between Lesotho and SA is easy,” added Bishop Sephamola.
He went on to talk about issues like dual citizenship, loosing citizenship, challenges facing the irregular undocumented migrants, lack of access to critical services in South Africa, Xenophobia, trafficking in persons, Lesotho Embassy in South Africa and what Lesotho Diaspora has done. “In
view of the aforementioned challenges faced by both the Professional and Integrated
Diaspora and the Vulnerable Diaspora, Basotho in the Diaspora organized themselves
and created the Basotho Diaspora Association (BDA) whose main aim is to address the urgent
matters affecting Basotho Diaspora,” said Bishop Sephamola adding that the BDA includes Lesotho Oblate Missionaries who work in foreign countries making this an inclusive Diaspora organisation of all Basotho who reside and work outside Lesotho.
Lesotho in landlocked in South Africa and is surrounded by four dioceses of the SACBC. The three-day workshop is from 23rd to 25th May 2022. Among things dealt with at the workshop was LCBC perspective on Migration, the Resolution of the SACBC on Migration, Human Trafficking and Smuggling, Basotho Community in South Africa, Testimony from Pastoral Care Agents and Hospitality in the Biblical Tradition. It was attended by Catholics from the dioceses of Bethlehem and Aliwal North in South Africa, and those from Lesotho.