The workshops also serve to promote “integration of people on the move into the host community”, the Social Apostolate and Migration Delegate for the Southern African Province of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) added.
“The Church wants to respond positively to the plight of migrants and refugees. Thanks to these workshops people get a clear picture of the situation, of what the Church wants to do and how it wants to respond to the plight of people on the move”, Fr. Hlobo explained.
He said that there have been at least six workshops this year, in Catholic Dioceses across Eswatini, Botswana and in parts of South Africa and that they have already created a positive impact.
The ongoing workshops, Fr. Hlobo told ACI Africa, are creating “a lot of positive reaction … people go back to their respective Parishes with zeal for the mission because they feel empowered, and they know that the Church is there to support them and wants them to carry out this mission, which is not just a service, but a mission of the Church, a mission of Jesus Christ.”
He regretted the fact that South Africa has become an “undesirable destination” for people on the move, adding, “Many academics have written about this, that South Africa is becoming more and more hostile and undesirable destination for refugees and migrants.”
“We are trying to change the narrative. We're trying to change attitudes and the Church is leading that, by creating these offices for pastoral care for migrants and refugees in each and every Diocese,” the Jesuit Priest told ACI Africa June 21.
Fr. Hlobo went on to laud the work of the immediate former Liaison Bishop for Migrants and Refugees, Archbishop Buti Joseph Tlhagale for encouraging Dioceses to establish migrants and refugees offices at Parish level to assist people on the move across the three SACBC countries.
He said, “Archbishop Buti is very strong on having the local Church on the ground being able to respond to those challenges effectively, ensuring that parishes in each Diocese should be able to respond to challenges on the ground”
“That may lead to change of attitude and hopefully in the long run we could have a situation where more and more South Africans are becoming open and beginning to welcome and understand the urgent need of safety and protection for migrants and refugees and the forcibly displaced,” said the member of the SACBC Migrants and Refugees Coordinating team.
Sheila Pires is a veteran radio and television Mozambican journalist based in South Africa. She studied communications at the University of South Africa. She is passionate about writing on the works of the Church through Catholic journalism.
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