Workshops on Migration in Southern Africa Addressing Plight of Migrants: Official

Fr. Rampe Hlobo who serves in the Migrants and Refugees Office of the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference (SACBC). Credit: Fr. Rampe Hlobo/Facebook

Ongoing workshops on migration in Southern Africa are addressing the plight of migrants and refugees in the African region, seeking “a coordinated and effective response” to the challenges people of the move face, a Catholic Priest has said.

In an interview with ACI Africa, Fr. Rampe Hlobo who serves in the Migrants and Refugees Office of the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference (SACBC) said the workshops are being implemented in Catholic Dioceses of member countries in implementation of the January 2019 Plenary Assembly.

During the 2019 Plenary, Catholic Bishops in the SACBC members nations of Botswana, Eswatini, and South Africa decided that “the Church needs to respond effectively in a coordinated way to the plight of migrants and refugees.”

SACBC members called for the establishment of offices for Migrants and Refugees at the Diocesan and Parish levels to cater for the pastoral, social and spiritual care of the people on the move.  

In the Tuesday, June 21 interview, Fr. Hlobo said, “The workshops on migration are basically to capacitate those people that have been given this responsibility by the local Church to establish pastoral care for migrants and refugees, and to have a coordinated and effective response of the Church towards the challenges and the plight of those who have been forcibly displaced, refugees and migrants.”


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.”

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“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.