Bishop Anthony Rebello said it was in 1989, when he was in Angola during the peak of the war where he experienced a lot of people migrating from their homes to safe places in other parts of the country. He said they were walking for many kilometers. Making this remark on the very day of the World Refugee Day, he said these days it is observed this movement in Ukraine where people are migrating from one place to the other and many countries accepting Ukraine people as refugees.
The bishop was in Angola where the war was going on for almost for 37 years. There he experienced people flocking to their Parish Churches. They used to assist them; some of them wounded having stepped on a land mines, others with bullet shots. Bishop Rebello said it was really a very terrible and pitiable sight to see. “We used our refectory, allowing mothers to give birth. A lady came to me and gave me a parcel wrapped in a cloth soaked with blood. As I opened the parcel, I noticed that the parcel was a baby just born. Her umbilical cord was cut by the mother with a blade as she had to give birth to the baby by the road side.” The bishop immediately took the Baby to the Sisters of Cluny where one of the sisters was a nurse. The sister immediately dressed the wound and the baby survived.
After these initial remarks the Bishop of Francis town said:
I have been in Angola for 10 years from 1990 to 2000 and have had lots of experiences with the Migrants and Refugees. My heart became very sore. The compassion of Jesus touched me. Only the Lord helped me to try to assist the Migrants and Refugees with the help of the Religious Sisters of Cluny.
Today, I am extremely happy to join you all at this workshop organized by Sr. Maria Rissini of the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference – Migrants and Refugees Office. As the heart of our beloved Pope Francis goes to the Migrants and Refugees, so to my heart. Pope Francis’s message for the 108th World Day of Migrants and Refugees (Anniversary) is really touching and expressing his tremendous love for the Migrants and Refugees.
The message of Pope Francis for the Day of Migrants and Refugees on September 25, 2022 is an eye-opener to each and every one of us. He begins with the powerful Word of God:
“Here we have no lasting city here but we seek the city to come”. (Heb.13:14).
It is really true. Pope Francis “continues saying that the ultimate meaning of our journey is the search of our true homeland which is the kingdom of God inaugurated by Jesus Christ, being fulfilled when Jesus comes in Glory. The city to come has its foundation in Jesus Christ who is the Architect Builder is God.” (Heb.11:10)
This plan of God is a call to intense work of construction in which we are personally involved. It is a call to personal conversion and a transformation of reality. We are experiencing the tragedies of our times, of wars, the present war in Ukraine and Russia, violence, xenophobia, natural disasters and various kinds of viruses. Very often we get discouraged. But our Pope Francis says that we should not lose heart building the future of renewed commitment where every one of us will experience peace and dignity.
Justice is the building block, built with patience, sacrifice and determination. All those hungry and thirsty will be satisfied with the fulfillment of God’s plan. With the suffering, death and Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ all creation is brought to original goodness (Gen.1:1-13).
Let us accept Christ’s Salvation: The Gospel of love so that inequality and discrimination be eliminated and none excluded. God’s plan is inclusive especially with those living in existential peripheries namely the migrants, refugees, displaced persons and victims of trafficking. We ought to build the Kingdom of God with them. For without them there is no kingdom of God. For Jesus says: “Come you blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom of God prepared before the foundations of the World. For I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you quenched my thirst, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and your visited me, I was in prison and you came to see me.”(Mt.25:31Ff)
Building the future with migrants and refugees calls for:
- We ought to recognize and value each of our migrants and refugees. Believing that they can help out in constructing a New world. My experience is that we have very talented and experienced peoples, like doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers, professors, farmers, business personal, home crafts, wood crafts and waste paper usage crafts personal. All these personal are very valuable to the growth and enrichment of our communities.
- Prophet Isaiah: The Vision of Isaiah, who call all foreigners not invaders or destroyers, but willing laborers who rebuild will of New Jerusalem whose gates are open to all (Is.60:11).
Each one of us is called in our communities, both lay and religious to reflect on the Word of God which is challenging us all. Very often we consider those who do not belong to our tribe, nationality as outsiders, who have come to our country to rob our jobs, come to oppress us come to destroy our culture and our land. We must remember that we are all made in the image of God. (Gen.1:26) We are all children of God. Varieties of culture only enrich us and enhance our growth as a nation. History of migrants and refugees are fundamental for the social and economic growth in societies.
The temple is made more beautiful with offering of the foreigners (Is.60:7). The migrants and refugees bring enthusiasm and revitalize the people of God. Young people are to be open to building the nations with migrants and refugees and consider them as brothers and sisters in building the future.
Archbishop Buti Tlhagale, of Johannesburg on behalf of SACBC in a meeting with the Multi-Religious Council of Leaders in May 2022, said that it is good to have good relations with the Home Affairs so that we can help with the legal status regarding migrants and refugees. We, as the Church are able to give honest information about the Migrants and refugees we meet. This will help us to register our brothers and sisters, who are not documented. He also proposed that each Parish has a person in charge of Migrants and Refugees to help the plight of the same in the countries.
My dear brothers and sisters, our Pope Francis and Archbishop Buti Tlhagale, give us ample food for thought as we work hand and hand with our sisters and brothers, Migrants and Refugees. May we be guided and enlightened by the Holy Spirit to show our special concern and love for the Migrants and Refugees, spread in our Southern African Region.
We thank and praise God for this Workshop conducted by Sr. Maria Rissini that has given us new vigor and encouragement to care tenderly for our Migrants and Refugees.
The workshop took place from the 20th to 22nd June 2022 in Francistown, Botswana.