Refugees Undergoing Suffering in South Africa, Catholic Bishop Says, Calls for Compassion

Bishop Peter Holiday of South Africa's Kroonstad Diocese. Credit: Kroonstad Diocese

The inhumane treatment of refugees and migrants in South Africa is a cause for concern for a Catholic Bishop in the country who is calling for compassion toward those who have fled from various forms of instability in their respective home countries.

In his message on the World Day of Migrants and Refugees (WDMR), which was celebrated Sunday, September 26, Bishop Peter Holiday described the situation of refugees especially women and children in South Africa as “painful and sad.”

“The number of refugee families and individuals, women, men and children in the world and our own country South Africa is a very painful and sad situation,” Bishop Holiday says in his pastoral letter.

He adds, “Brothers and Sisters are having to flee from their country of birth in fear of being killed or from dire injustices of one kind or another. Many do not even make it to the country they are fleeing to for a better life for themselves and families.”

The Catholic Bishop of South Africa’s Kroonstad Diocese says the country that has offered refuge to many is, unfortunately, not giving the refugees a conducive environment to rebuild their respective lives.


South Africa, he says, is a home where a better life is not always a reality in the way refugees are treated.

“We are exposed to the plight of refugees through TV and the media,” the South African Bishop says, and adds, “It is often painful to watch how brothers and sisters can treat one another when God who created us in his love, image and likeness calls us to love one another as he has loved us.”

“On this Refugee Sunday, I ask you all to pray for Refugees in the Sunday Celebration of the Holy Mass. Also, in your personal prayer time. Let us all have a heart of compassion to reach out and help our most needy Refugee brothers and sisters that live in South Africa and in our Parish Communities,” Bishop Holiday says in his pastoral letter. 

He notes that Pope Francis, who he says has a great compassion for Refugees and Migrants, had called for prayers for the many refugees in the world.

“The Pope does so by reminding us of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph who were refugees and had to flee into Egypt to protect the child Jesus when he was born as King Herod sought to kill him,” Bishop Holiday says.

More in Africa

The World Day of Migrants and Refugees has been described as an opportunity to express concern for many different vulnerable people on the move. It is also an occasion to pray for the challenges and increase awareness about the opportunities that migration offers.

In his message for the 107th World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2021, Pope Francis calls on the Church to reach out to the vulnerable people, including refugees and migrants, who inhabit the peripheries.

“In our day, the Church is called to go out into the streets of every existential periphery in order to heal wounds and to seek out the straying, without prejudice or fear, without proselytizing, but ready to widen her tent to embrace everyone,” Pope Francis says.

He adds, “Among those dwelling in those existential peripheries, we find many migrants and refugees, displaced persons and victims of trafficking, to whom the Lord wants his love to be manifested and his salvation preached.”

The Holy Father calls for commitment in caring for all, regardless of people’s countries of origin.


“Ours must be a personal and collective commitment that cares for all our brothers and sisters who continue to suffer, even as we work towards a more sustainable, balanced and inclusive development,” Pope Francis says. 

He further calls for “a commitment that makes no distinction between natives and foreigners, between residents and guests, since it is a matter of a treasure we hold in common, from whose care and benefits no one should be excluded.”

Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.