South Africa: Pastoral care and training for those who work with migrants.

South Africa’s Archbishop of Johannesburg, Buti Tlhagale, has told the country’s diocesan coordinators at a workshop to pray that God removes obstacles that hinder humans from welcoming those in need.

Vatican English Africa Service – Vatican City.

Archbishop Tlhagale, the Liaison Bishop for Migrants and Refugees at the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC), observed that the movement of people across the world posed a pastoral challenge to the Church. He drew attention to the importance of prayer in any response to the migrants and refugee situation.

A love that is not selective

During his homily at a Mass that he celebrated for the diocesan coordinators, Archbishop Tlhagale urged prayer so that “God removes the obstacles that hinder us from receiving others. “Let us pray that God Almighty will give us the strength of will to do good to migrants and refugees … when we celebrate Advent, we hope that Christ will find us eager to welcome him. So, we pray that we too should be eager to welcome visitors, to welcome migrants and refugees in our community,” said the Johannesburg prelate. 

He added, “We need to pray to God that he be generous in increasing our love. A love that is not selective. A love that accepts another human being. Now that’s a tall order, easier said than done,” he observed. Lastly, the Archbishop said there was the need, “To pray that God removes obstacles that hinder us from receiving others, so to be able to accept those in need and who simply ask to be recognised as persons.” 

Don’t wait for someone else to do something

The two-day workshop on the Pastoral Care for Migrants and Refugees also saw a presentation by Fr. Eduardo Gabriel, a Scalabrini priest from the Scalabrini Institute for Human Mobility in Africa (SIHMA). In his presentation, Fr Gabriel noted that “sometimes we wait for someone else to do something for migrants and refugees instead of us being the ones to do something.” He emphasised the importance of listening to migrants and refugees. “To be able to help them with your hands, listen to them first,” he said. 

Parish contact persons for migrants and refugees 

Sally Gandar, Head of Advocacy and Legal Advisor at the Scalabrini Centre in Cape Town, spoke on the theme, “Understanding Migration in South Africa and the Legal Framework of Migration in South Africa.”

In part, the workshop was organised in response to the 2019 resolution of the Southern African Bishops, who called on parishes to appoint contact persons for migrants and refugees in their communities. Further, the workshop aimed to facilitate for the ongoing formation and training of those who commit themselves to the ministry of migrants and refugees.