“Life for a refugee is an endless
safari to an unknown destination," says Juvenalis Niboye, an experienced
catechist from Burundi who worked with me in Lukole Refugee Camp in western
Tanzania. Together with other catechists and pastoral workers, we formed Small
Christian Communities and organized liturgies in our camp where 100,000
Burundians have found refuge.
Endless waiting, uncertainty and
a feeling that God has abandoned them are terrible burdens that refugees,
whether from Kosovo or Burundi, carry with them. Our instructions and liturgies
are all designed to show how the God of endless mercy loves them and does not
forget them. They learn that Jesus himself was a refugee when the wrath of
Herod forced the Holy Family to flee to Africa. Refugees cherish this
message of hope and proclaim it to others. In one year we baptized 400 adults
who had asked to be received into the Catholic Church.
I have been tremendously impressed by Juvenalis Niboye and the other refugees.
They are marginalized people, written off by the rest of the world, but they
have not given up. Their life is hard, they are the poorest of the poor, but
they maintain their dignity.