Catholic Bishop in Botswana Highlights Ministry Toward Migrants, Refugees in His Diocese

Bishop Anthony Pascal Rebello of Botswana’s Francistown Diocese. Credit: Francistown Diocese /Facebook

The Catholic Bishop of Francistown Diocese in Botswana has highlighted the ministry toward migrants and refugees in his Episcopal See where members of the Clergy and women Religious offer “spiritual, emotional and physical needs”.

In an interview with ACI Africa, Bishop Anthony Pascal Rebello  also spoke about the countries of origin migrants and refugees under his pastoral care, saying, “Majority of the people in those camps hail from Burundi, Angola, Zimbabwe and Uganda.”

“This diocese is a welcoming diocese; the Sisters and the Priests are welcoming, and they have been visiting the detention center and the refugee center,” the Local Ordinary of Botswana’s Francistown Diocese told ACI Africa June 24, and added, “I personally have visited both the centers and they are in my heart.”

Bishop Rebello highlighted the kind of apostolate at the detention and refugee centers, including undocumented people on the move detained at Dukwi Refugee Camp. He said, “The Church is doing a lot of work in assisting the migrants and refugees. We see to their spiritual, emotional and physical needs. We are also working towards offering spiritual help.”

The member of the Society of the Divine Word (SVD) made reference to the four verbs that Pope Francis has used in relation to refugees and migrants, namely, welcoming, accompanying, promoting, and integrating them in communities.


He said in reference to migrants and refugees, “We want them just as Pope Francis says, to be included, to be integrated into the community.”

“Pope Francis 2022 message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees is to build the future with the migrants, with the refugees. They are not invading the country, they are bringing many talents, knowledge, skills, and hope,” the 72-year-old Bishop who has been at the helm of Francistown Diocese since September 2021 said told ACI Africa. 

He regretted the fact that the rights of migrants and refugees are violated in Botswana, including the right to formal education.

“The country is asking for the undocumented migrants and refugees to go back to their country. Many of them are deported, and now we have a detention center with many children who don’t have access to education, they don’t go to school,” Bishop Rebello bemoaned. 

The Kenyan-born Catholic Bishop said the human rights of migrants and refugees in the Southern African nation “are being violated, because all children have the right to go to school”.

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He went on to caution against “discrimination and xenophobic sentiments towards migrants and refugees”, saying, “We should pay attention to our language; we should not call others with bad names that can exclude them.”

“As Catholics, as Christians, inclusion should be our motu, to treat each other as brothers and sisters. We should be welcoming,” the SVD member told ACI Africa during the June 24 interview.

He recalled the beginning of his passion for the apostolate toward migrants and refugees, saying, “When I was a Seminarian, I did my internship in one Refugee Camp in Bangladesh. That was my first experience, and it was touching to see many families who were there not because they wanted to, but because they had to flee their homeland.”

The Catholic Bishop who was ordained a Priest in India in May 1977 acknowledged with appreciation the initiative the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) has undertaken to conduct workshops on migrants and refugees in the three member countries of Botswana, Eswatini, and South Africa. 

Making reference to the June 19-22 workshop in his Episcopal See, Bishop Rebello said, “The workshop was an eyeopener, and it cleared many issues concerning the Church’s role with regards to matters concerning people on the move.”


He emphasized the need for migrants and refugees to access documentation, a process, he said, that requires stakeholder collaboration.

Based on the input during the workshop on migrants and refugees in Francistown Diocese, Bishop Rebello said that members of the Clergy and women Religious in the Diocese are seeking legal advice on how to assist migrants and refugees “without infringing the laws of the country”.

“We are trying to do all our best to help them,” he told ACI Africa in reference to refugees and migrants.

He added, “We are also planning to involve lawyers and other qualified Catholics so that we look at how we can best help them because the government has got its constitution and must see how we can work hand in hand with the government to help both migrants and refugees.”

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.