Waiting and serving in hope: a Christmas reflection
19 December 2014

A mother and her child in a refugee camp Maban, South Sudan wait for peace to return to South Sudan (Luca Fabris/Entreculturas).
With the coming of Christmas, our wait will be over and God will be with us; but for most of the forcibly displaced whom we serve their waiting continues in many ways.
Nairobi, 19 December 2014 – In preparation for the birth of Jesus, Deogratias M Rwezaura SJ, JRS Eastern Africa Director, reflects on the meaning of the Advent season, a season of waiting, for the displaced persons served by the Jesuit Refugee Service throughout Eastern Africa.

During Advent we wait in joyful expectation of the birth of Jesus among us.  Christmas therefore comes as a joyful culmination of a waiting period.   We have every reason to celebrate, rejoice and be grateful for the trust God has put in us by becoming one of us, allowing us to grow in the image and likeness of God.  With the coming of Christmas, our wait will be over and God will be with us; but for most of the forcibly displaced whom we serve their waiting continues in many ways.

Many recognise the presence of God in their lives and in this sense Christmas remains a continuous celebration, yet they still await a better tomorrow. 

In South Sudan, parents wait for food to be delivered on time so  they and their children can be nourished; in Uganda, students wait patiently for graduation day so they can use their new skills to enhance their livelihood; in Kakuma refugee camp, a few fortunate refugees wait years before being  resettled to  another country; in Nairobi and other cities, asylum seekers wait months, if not years, to be granted  protection; in Darfur, displaced persons wait to return home; and in Ethiopia, Somalis wait for peace to reign in their homeland so they can return in safety and dignity. No matter how humanly tragic the situation, God continues to wait with them.

For some, these waiting periods have culminated in jubilant graduations with degrees, diplomas, or other certificates; other refugees have been fully integrated into local communities as was the case for thousands of Burundians in Tanzania; some have moved on and resettled in other countries; and even more have been able to  pursue entrepreneurial ventures after being trained in marketable skills. 

The spirit of God reigns supreme, especially for those living in exile.  Waiting can indeed be celebrated in joy.

The difference we make in the lives of the forcibly displaced need not be necessarily quantified because as Mother Teresa said, "Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time, and always start with the person nearest to you."  Thank you to all who enable us to do precisely that for our neighbours in need waiting for a better future.

MERRY CHRISTMAS

Sincerely,

Deogratias M Rwezaura SJ, JRS Eastern Africa Director