23 women of the eSwatini Council of Catholic Women (ECCW), representing 16 parishes from the 17 parishes in Eswatini, met in Manzini for a three-day workshop under the theme “Migrants and Refugees: A Coordinated and Sustainable Response”.
The workshop aimed at capacitating migrants and refugees’ coordinators at diocesan and parish level, and was facilitated by SACBC Migrants and Refugees Office Coordinator Sr. Maria de Lurdes 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 José Luís Ponce de León of Manzini Diocese, were 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 ECCW as per the Bishop’s request.
In her presentation, Sr Maria de Lurdes looked at the SACBC 2019 Plenary Meeting 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. Maria 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. She 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.”
In his presentation, Fr. Hlobo 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 Hlobo 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, participants were asked to identify challenges facing migrants and refugees in their communities: language barriers, accommodation, employment, acquiring the necessary documentation, physical and psychological challenges due to trauma experienced, stereotypes from the local communities, among others.
As for possible advocacy and raising awareness actions, the following were mentioned:
- Establish Migrants and Refugees offices at every parish to provide pastoral care
- Integration at every level
- We must welcome them, listen to them
- Liaise with the chiefs to know the migrants and refugees
- Sensitize community at parish level
- Fundraising to assist migrants and refugees financially
- When priests are changed sometimes the new priest may not have the same vision, hence the need to have a strong committee in place
- The Church should have a database of professionals that can assist people on the move, teachers, psychologists, government officials who can help with documentation
The delegates were invited by Sr. Maria de Lurdes 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 combined to facilitate a coordinated work amongst the Pastoral Care’s Agents in eSwatini.
Finally, the participants received copies of the documents recently published by the SACBC Migrants and Refugees Office:
- FORMATION AND TRAINING MANUAL – Pastoral Care for Migrants and Refugees
- INTERNATIONAL MIGRATION IN SOUTHERN AFRICA
- DIRECTORY OF SERVICES FOR REFUGEES AND MIGRANTS IN SOUTH AFRICA
Sr. Maria de Lurdes Rissini MSCS